Some of the goals I work on the most with my older elementary and middle school students are describing, comparing, contrasting, and inferring. Once we get past the basic, concrete items, it can be difficult to come up with novel and interesting ways to target this in therapy, though!
One approach I have found sucess with is to use famous artwork to describe, compare, and contrast. Many of my students aren’t familiar with a lot of famous artwork, and it’s a great way to engage some of my more artistic students, as well as sneak in some history, geography, and science!
The first thing we have to do is review some of the important terms. Some art terms such as subject, portrait, and still life can be a bit confusing, so I came up with this reference sheet shown below.
I’ve attached this Terms to Know When Describing Art for SLPs (CLICK HERE) for you to use as well! This sheet also includes some things to consider when looking at a piece of art, such as looking at the clues in the background to help us consider the location, or how the piece of art makes you feel.
After we review the terms, I start by googling a famous piece, and either bringing it up on my iPad or printing out a copy. Some good choices include the Mona Lisa, The Scream, Starry Night, Girl with a Pearl Earring, American Gothic, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, The Flower Carrier, Monet’s Water Lillies, A Portrait of Dora Maar, and A Sunday Afternoon at the Island of La Grande Jatte. Sometimes we will research together to find out details about a famous piece (such as the date of creation), and sometimes (especially for my younger students) I will look up this information ahead of time.
Then, we talk about the painting, using the sheet above, and I (or the students) will jot down notes. It’s so fascinating to see what students pick up on when they look at art – some of my students are able to use their inferencing skills to make connections that I would never had seen!
Once we have analyzed one piece of art, we’ll move to a second one, then compare and contrast. It would be easy to use this to work on articulation and fluency enhancing strategies at sentence and conversation level, as well as grammar if you turned your descriptions into a written paragraph. We also work on sequencing by putting the pieces we’ve discussed in order along a timeline, which helps students visualize the passage of time.