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Bring a Painting To Life

These plans were developed by CAP (Curriculum Arts Project) at symphonyspace and are reproduced here with their permission.

For Teachers | For Students


In this lesson, students will write and perform monologues and dialogues based on the painting “The Last Moments of John Brown”. These dramatic writing exercises will give students an opportunity to explore and express a variety of opinions about this historical figure, his philosophy, and his actions.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School students and older

TIME ALLOTMENT: 2–4 periods

SUBJECT MATTER: American History, John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, Abolition, Art analysis


Social Studies: I - 1, 2, 3
English Language Arts: I, II
Arts: I, II, III, IV

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to:

  • Investigate, analyze, and discuss a historical painting, using visual evidence to support interpretations and assumptions about the characters in the painting and their historical period.
  • Study a historical event from a number of different narrative perspectives.
  • Create a dramatic character and write a monologue from his/her viewpoint.
  • Work collaboratively with a partner to develop a dialogue between two historical characters, using a standard theatrical writing format including stage directions.
  • Perform and discuss an original scene revolving around the John Brown thematic.

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