Author: Louise Jonatowski, PS 91 Queens


Lesson Preview Students will trace the continuous thread of art from the 17th to the 20th century by comparing and contrasting the painter Rembrandt with the writer Tolkien.

Standards New York State Standards for the Arts

Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art
Students will respond critically to a variety of works
in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works
and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought

 New York City English Language Arts

 Grades Upper Elementary and Intermediate School Levels

 Subjects Socials Studies, Science, Language Arts

 Materials art reproductions, copies of poems, drawing paper, pastels, and other drawing supplies



1. Display posters, postcards, or books featuring Rembrandt’sElephant, A Lion Resting, Lion Devouring Bird, and other sketches of wild animals. Display them over a period of days so that students become familiar with them. Present poetry that connects Rembrandt’s sketches of wild animals from the colors and various shapes to the vivid imagery. Make copies of the poems for students. Post copies near the art on display.


2. Once the students have had time to think about the poems and paintings, lead a group discussion. Review Rembrandt’s life in 1637, concentrating what has happened to Rembrandt and what will happen. Review 17th century Netherlands’ Golden Age.The Netherlands was the shipping capital of the world. Among other riches, sailing ships brought back wild animals. Focus on the pictures first and ask questions that will help students feel comfortable discussing the art.

Did Rembrandt sketch them in their natural habitat?

Did public zoos exist in 17th century Netherlands?

Where would Rembrandt have seen such creatures?

Were such creatures commonly seen?

Why do you think Rembrandt sketched these animals?





3. Focus on Elephant. Identify the medium and details about the elephant. Introduce the selected poetry, Oliphaunt. Read the poem aloud and proceed to ask the students questions leading to the mood of the poem. How does the author feel about the elephant? Branch out into discussing J.R Tolkien’s (1892- 1973) life in England.

What did Rembrandt and Tolkien have in common? Discuss such topics as love of the exotic, fascination with the elephant. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Rembrandt and Tolkien.

Extensions Using comparisons and contrasts, have students write a narrative account in keeping with each century and evoking emotions of the day when each artist encountered an elephant for the first time.


After researching the natural habitat of the elephant, students sketch their own elephant in its nature environment using pastels.

Using the above illustration as inspiration write haiku poetry a Japanese form of poetry. Fris review syllabication. Then have each student use the following form to write a poem:

First line- 5 syllables

Second line- 7 syllables

Third line- 5 syllables

Lesson Plan Index