Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: K-3

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades K-3, students use BrainPOP Jr. resources to explore Vincent Van Gogh’s portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, and still life paintings. Students will analyze Van Gogh’s artistic techniques and how they changed over time. They will then create an original self-portrait using a process similar to the one Van Gogh often used.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore Vincent Van Gogh's portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, and still life paintings.
  2. Analyze Van Gogh's artistic techniques and how they changed over time.
  3. Create an original self-portrait using a process similar to the one Van Gogh often used.


  • Projector and computer with internet access
  • Art materials for students to use in creating their self-portraits
  • Student photographs and/or small mirrors


sketch; technique; self-portrait; still life painting; landscape painting


Find several examples (either from books or the internet) of Vincent Van Gogh's self-portraits that you would like students to analyze and explore. You should also review the movie and prepare the materials students will use to create self-portraits. If possible, provide materials for them to sketch first and then paint.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Project the Word Wall for the class to see. Are there any terms they are already familiar with? What does the term "subject" mean in art? Use the word in a sentence and challenge students to create a definition.
  2. Show the Vincent Van Gogh movie to the class and tell them to listen for four different subjects that Van Gogh is famous for depicting. If desired, play the movie through a second time, having students signal when they hear a type of artistic subject, and pause to record their ideas. Ask students to revisit their definition of "subject" using information learned in the movie.
  3. Project the Sequence Game and have students share the correct order for important events in Van Gogh's life.
  4. Show students several self-portraits by Van Gogh and have the class analyze them. How did he convey a feeling or mood in his self-portraits? What details help the paintings communicate a feeling?
  5. Have students create their own self-portraits and challenge them to evoke a mood or emotion through their art. You may want children to bring in photographs of themselves or small mirrors to help them in the project. Encourage students to draw a sketch of themselves and then use the sketch to paint, just as Van Gogh often did.
  6. After all self-portraits are complete, create a "class photo" by gathering the self-portraits together. See if students can determine which mood or emotion each self-portrait was intended to portray, and discuss the techniques children used to express themselves.

Extension Activities:

Use the Talk About It feature to have students compare and contrast one of Van Gogh's self-portraits and one of his still life paintings. Then have students complete the Activity to create different types of subjects that Van Gogh is known for depicting: still life, landscape, portrait, and self-portrait. On the back of their papers, encourage students to reflect on which subject is their favorite to draw/paint and why.