Lesson Plans MMoCA Collects

Joseph Raffael: Describing a Lizard

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Joseph Raffael, Lizard, 1971, oil on canvas.
Sample image
Sample image

Developed by Jeanell Dailey, Taylor Prairie Elementary School, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin

Summary of Activity

Identify adjectives and adverbs to describe the way the lizard looks and moves. Write and illustrate a cinquain about the lizard from Raffael's piece.

Learning Objectives

Participate in a classroom discussion about lizards based on student observations of the painting by Joseph Raffael and student background knowledge.

Identify describing words about how the lizard looks, feels, sounds, and moves.

Write a cinquain about a lizard. Create a painting to illustrate the cinquain.


Tell students that we're going to begin learning about using more describing words in our writing. We're going to do this by focusing in on describing words for a lizard. Show students the reproduction of Lizard by Joseph Raffael. Provide information about the work and the artist. Facilitate a discussion about what the students know about lizards and what they observe from the painting. Tell students that they are going to learn more about lizards and will be writing a special kind of poem called a cinquain, about a lizard. Tell them they'll also be illustrating their poem using paint and Q-tips.


  1. After the class discussion, brainstorm a list of describing words about lizards. Record the ideas on the three charts: 1) how it looks, sounds, feels; 2) how it moves; 3) other names for lizards. Read the book Amazing Lizards, then add more describing words to the categories.
  2. Hand out Post-its and tell students they're going to use these to write down any "juicy" describing words they hear in the next story. Tell them they'll need to decide if the juicy word could describe the lizard in Raffael's piece or not. Read Toad. When finished, ask the students what words they wrote down, adding them to the three categories on the chart paper.
  3. Introduce cinquains and read samples. Give students paper in the cinquain format. Explain the format:
    1. The first line is one word naming the lizard. They may choose one of the names from the "other names" chart.
    2. The second line is two describing words telling how it looks, feels, or sounds. They may choose words from the "looks, feels, sounds" chart.
    3. The third line is three describing words telling how it moves or acts. They may choose words from the "moves" chart.
    4. The fourth line is a four-word sentence about the lizard.
    5. The fifth line is a different word naming the lizard. They may choose one of the names from the "other names" chart.
  4. After students have finished choosing the words for their cinquains, they may each paint a picture of the lizard using Q-tips to paint. They should use dots to create the pictures. Tell them this is called stippling.


Amazing Lizards! by Fay Robinson
Toad by Ruth Brown
Chart paper (3 pieces) labeled "looks, feels, sounds," "moves," and "other names"
A Post-it for each student
Paper in the cinquain format
Tempera paint
Construction pape

Academic Standards

This lesson addresses the following Wisconsin Model Academic Standards:

English Language ArtsA.4.4 Read to acquire information.

B.4.1 Create or produce writing to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

B.4.2 Plan, revise, edit, and publish clear and effective writing.

B.4.3 Understand the function of various forms, structures, and punctuation marks of standard American English and use them appropriately in communications.

C.4.1 Orally communicate information, opinions, and ideas effectively to different audiences for a variety of purposes.

C.4.2 Listen to and comprehend oral communications. 

C.4.3 Participate effectively in discussion. 

ScienceF.4.4 Using the science themes, develop explanations for the connections among living and nonliving things in various environments. 

Fine ArtsA.4.1 Develop a basic mental storehouse of images.

A.4.2 Learn basic vocabulary related to their study of art.

C.4.5 Look at nature and works of art as visual resources.

C.4.7 Develop basic skills to produce quality art.

C.4.8 Explore the natural characteristics of materials and their possibilities and limitations.

E.4.1 Communicate basic ideas by producing studio art forms such as drawing, painting, prints, sculpture, jewelry, fiber, and ceramics.

H.4.1 Study the patterns and color in nature.

Primary, grades 1-2

Art, language arts, science