Description: This proposal is organized around the theme of war and peace through the use of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, a 3D video of the painting by Lena Gieseke, a German-born artist and Raul Servais’ ground-breaking anti-militarist fable Chromophobia. The thinking routines used are Looking: Ten Times Two, See-Think-Wonder, Beginning-Middle-End and Colour-Symbol-Image.
Level: Intermediate+

Learners: All ages
Theme: war/peace
Language: war/peace related vocabulary, narrative tenses, might+infinitive, might have+past participle, present tense for dynamic narrative
Skills: Observing and describing, speaking, watching a short film, creative expression, making connections, developing metaphoric thinking
Materials: a short video, a short film, quotes slides, visual prompts

Step 1                                                                                                                                          Show your students Picasso’s Guernica. Give the name of the artist and the title of the painting. Ask them to look at the painting for 30 seconds and make a list of 10 words or phrases about any aspect of what they see. Allow 5 minutes for the students to write down their list and then have them share their words or phrases with the rest of the class. Then repeat the activity. You can use a circle map to make the brainstorming visible. You can have a look at some pictures of practice here.

Step 2
Tell your students to look more carefully at the painting and ask them what they See-Think-Wonder about it (What do you see? What are your thoughts? What does it make you wonder?). This can be done individually, in pairs or in groups depending on the multitude of ideas you want to generate. Allow 10 minutes and get feedback. Keep a visible record of students’ observations, interpretations and wonderings.

You can have a look at some pictures of practice here.

Step 3                                                                                                                                           Ask your students to classify what they can see in the painting in 3 groups: humans, animals objects. Then, ask them: What colours do you see? What shapes do you see?

Step 4                                                                                                                                           Tell your students that they are going to watch a 3D video of the painting that will take them inside the work of art. Ask them to make a note of any additional things that they find interesting or important. Show the video. Then, allow 5 minutes for the students to complete their notes and get feedback.


Step 5                                                                                                                                           Ask your students: how does the painting make you feel?

Step 6                                                                                                                                   
Introduce briefly the historical facts behind the painting: in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Nazi Germany supported its fascist ally Francisco Franco and bombed Guernica, the ancient capital of the Basque region in northern Spain. The town was utterly devastated by the aerial bombings and served for the Nazis as a blueprint for terror bombings of civilian populations. Picasso created Guernica to show the true horrors of war for innocent civilians.

Step 7                                                                                                                                         
Show the quotes and let your students guess whether they refer to war or peace.

Step 8                                                                                                                                             
Show them the visual prompts and ask them to identify whether they symbolize war or peace. Ask them: What makes you say that? to encourage justifications for their responses.

You can have a look at some extracts from my 6th grade primary students’ learning journals here.

Step 9                                                                                                                                         
Show students the picture below.


Organize them in groups and ask them to choose one of the 3 questions: 1. If this picture is the beginning of a story, what might happen next? 2. If this picture is the middle of a story, what might have happened before? What might happen next? 3. If this picture is the end of a story, what might the story be?

Ask them to write at least 5 sentences about the question they have chosen using might+infinitive or might have+past participle. Allow 10 minutes for the groups to write their sentences and get feedback.
You can have a look at how students responded to this routine, here.

Step 10

Tell your students that this picture is from a short film called “Chromophobia”. Explain that Chromophobia means “fear of colour”. Tell students that after watching they will have to write a short narrative of what happens in the film. Show the film.


Step 11
In the same groups ask students to write a short narrative using Simple Present. Allow 20 minutes and get feedback.

Step 12
Ask your students to work individually, in pairs or in groups. Then, let them decide what they wish to represent: war or peace. Tell them to select a colour that they feel represents the core ideas they have identified in the themes of war/peace. Have them explain and justify their choices in writing. Then, ask them to select a symbol that they feel represents the core ideas they have identified. They should explain and justify their choices in writing. Finally, ask them to select an image that they feel represents the core ideas they have identified (students need not worry about their drawing; they can complete a simple sketch).

Ask them to explore creatively their ideas and choices and share them with the rest of the class. You can have a look at some pictures of practice here. A few things about Raul Servais’ Chromophobia:



I hope you find this proposal worth experimenting with.
This entry was posted in Lesson Proposals, War/Peace. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to War/Peace

  1. Ann says:

    Hi Chrysa;
    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on Saturday’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.



  2. Thanks so much Ann,

    This is both a lovely surprise, and a great honour!



  3. Leda B says:

    well done Chryssa!!!
    what an inspiring teacher you must be!!! Keep up the good work.


  4. Thanks for your kind words Lena!

    I don't know if I am an inspiring teacher, but I feel nice when I see students develop their critical thinking skills, and creativity alongside their English language skills.


  5. Pingback: Looking 10×2: Pushing beyond the obvious | Art Least

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