Lesson Plans

Back to lesson plans archive
February 18, 2013

Romare Bearden: Piecing together a viewpoint – Lesson Plan

By Ravonda B. Oden


Arts & Culture

Estimated Time

Four 50-minute sessions

Grade Level



Students will discuss ways artists express points of view in their creations, analyze the artistic elements and principals that contributed to the mood of artistic work, demonstrate the process of creating a mixed-media collage that expresses a current social concern and conveys a mood, and use technology as a media resource.

Social Studies:
Students will reflect and discuss social themes that were prevalent during the Harlem Renaissance period and compare and contrast to social themes today.


Romare Bearden, United States, (1911-1988) collage artist, painter

Romare Bearden was an African-American who is internationally recognized for his lifelong work as a collage artist. His work told many captivating and inspiring stories to draw attention to social realism and to celebrate the African-American experience. During the 1960’s he becharmed a type of art we call collage. Collage comes from the French word coller, “to gum or stick something together.” His work was created by gluing fragments of paper, fabric, scraps, photographs, drawings, and images in magazines and newspapers to a flat surface. In addition, he used watercolors, oil paints, and inks to make his collages. He enjoyed many art forms and styles including African, Asian and European art.

Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He moved to Harlem in New York City when he was a young child and grew up there in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance (1919-1929), was a period in American cultural history when Black artists felt a need to contribute their African heritage and pride in a positive way to the visual, performing and literary arts. Harlem became the center of this artistic rebirth period during the 1920’s when Romare Bearden was a young artist. Many visits were made to the Bearden household by family friend and poet, Langston Hughes, and musicians, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. From the1940’s through the 1980’s, Romare Bearden became a presence in American art. He has had many successful exhibitions at premier art galleries throughout the United States.

Romare Bearden captured many wonderful images from his childhood memories and images of the people and places throughout his life. His work is rich with narrative details about black community life-public and private. It is apparent that Romare Bearden had an amazing ability to unify the mixed media of his work through experimentation to communicate universal themes with profound artistic value.


  • Session #1 – Display one color print for the entire class or handout several laminated color copies of the same print to small groups of students.
  • Session #2 – Preview URL for art resource of Romare Bearden’s digital prints (click on Children’s Guide), or prepare a “classroom gallery” of color prints to be displayed at a central location in the classroom.
  • Session #3 – Compare, contrast and sketch a personal idea or point of view.
  • Session #4 – Create a final mixed-media collage in the style of Romare Bearden that states your opinion about a social concern or life in your community that also expresses a mood.
Session One: Look and Reflect
  1. Display one color print of Romare Bearden’s artwork from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Web site.
  2. Have a whole class brainstorming session. Ask: “Describe what you notice or see in the work of art” Record details of their observations.
  3. Select individual students to study the color print closely, and record their verbal observations.
  4. Repeat with several other students.
  5. Have students list specific visual details that gives clues about the neighborhood, the people, and the artist life.
  6. Small groups or individual students discuss and read aloud their list of visual details from looking closely at the artwork. Discuss their findings.(For example, “people standing closely together”; “musical instruments”; “facial expressions”; “clothing is not fancy”; “country house”; “position of the figures”; “city buildings”; smoke stacks”; “pets”; “flat shapes”; “bright colors”; different sizes.”)
  7. Explain how there are different visual details or clues about ones viewpoint or perspective that each student sees. Explain that artists also have points of view or perspectives that are communicated throughout their artwork.
  8. Distribute and review background information on Romare Bearden with the students. (Printer-friendly PDF)
  9. After they have read the background information, ask them to address the following activity questions:
  10. Explain what the details from your list reveal about the artists concern, joys and interests and Black life in Harlem in the 1920’s – 1940’s.(For example, “the artist must have live in an overcrowded neighborhood”; “Blacks migrated north from the south”; “the artist enjoyed playing and listening to live band music”; “the artist portrays his african heritage”; “pride and struggle is seen easily on the faces of the people”; “some people are wearing plain or fancy clothing”; “the artist liked living and visiting the city and the country”).
  11. How does the art work appeal to your senses?(For example, “hearing sounds of voices or music”; “smelling perfume or cologne on the women and men”; “seeing dim skies created by”; “smelling smoke from a chimney”; “hearing cars, trucks and noise coming from outside”; “sounds of insects in the country scene”; “warmth from family”; “feelings of comfort and safety within a home.”)
  12. Explain that writers use words, musicians use sound, actors use physical expressions, dancers use body movement, and visual artists use visual clues or imagery to communicate an important message about their thoughts and emotions.
  13. Distribute the Element of Art and Principals of Design handout for students to make comparisons to how these elements were used in a selected work. (This is handout #1)
  14. The class will discuss and write how the visual elements of art and principals of design were used to aid Romare Bearden in creating a collage. Share selected items of students writing with the class.
Session Two: Virtual Museum Gallery Visit
  1. Preview digital resources for the art resource of digital prints (click on Online NewsHour slide show or National Gallery’s Children’s Guide), or prepare a “classroom gallery” of color prints listed under digital nprints.The class will visit the school’s technology lab or local library to view the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The Art of Romare Bearden digital images are found in the Children’s Guide. Students can also choose featured works in the exhibition link. Students will use handout #1 to write observations of visual clues and details that they see.NOTE: Have students bring in a sketch of their neighborhood, a childhood memory or a scene from a personal experience that reflects a social concern they might have. Bring to session four.
Session Three: Art Production Part I
  1. Hand out artwork rubric that shows the criteria for creating a mixed media collage that expresses a view point and creates a mood.

    • Your artwork must include sketches that plan the composition / placement and size of the subjects / objects.
    • Your artwork must include the components itemized in 1, in addition to a wide range of material in your mixed media collage.
    • Your artwork must include the components itemized in 1 and 2, in addition to expressing a particular mood, view point, through the selection of materials, colors, textures and shapes.
    • Complete a written reflection about your art experience? * (Highest score is a 4.)
  2. The class will discuss images that are found in their community or communities around the world.
    (For example, Activate students prior knowledge)
  3. Topic Question? How does Romare Bearden’s artwork compare or contrast to life in your neighborhood? (For example, “What things have remained the same and what has changed?”; “increased population”; “growing ethnic communities”; “home life”; “unemployment”; “poverty”; “better wages”; “families and home life”; “increase in building constructions, business industry, politics and government”; “housing issues”; “education”;”equal rights”; “freedom of speech”).
  4. Distribute sketch paper for students to have a visual brainstorm of ideas.
    • Make associations: Sketch a basic idea that reflects your point of view about a particular memory or social concern. (Help students make associations to what they will be doing.)
    • How will you emphasize your point of view or mood of your work? (Decide what you want the viewer to focus on) (For example, subjects, colors, textures, shapes, etc.)
    • What composition will best show your idea? (Help students to visualize what they will be doing with their ideas and the materials.)
    • Finalize your sketch idea and begin copying onto the final poster board.
Session Four: Art Production Part II:

Create, Reflect and Share

NOTE: Set up classroom for easy access to materials. Place picture files on several groups of tables for students to share.

  1. Review topic question in session #3. Guide students through making associations, visualizations, and to transition into using the selected materials that will best match the mood and view point they want to create.
  2. Use final sketch for collage
  3. As students work on their collages, remind them about the colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and composition of the materials they selected that will aid them in creating a mood.
  4. Cut your shapes from the material you select.
  5. Experiment with different arrangements of your cut shapes. Find the most effective shapes.
  6. Glue shapes and images in place on final poster board.
  7. Add details with markers, drawing pencils. (Watercolor paint is optional).
  8. Reflect: What mood your artwork expresses? What view point or perspective does it express? How did your arrangement or composition help show this?
  9. Write a final art reflection about your experience.
  10. Ask students to rate their work according to the art assessment rubric hand out #2.
  11. Display the completed artworks.
  12. Have students discuss the viewpoints expressed in each artwork.Is it a negative or positive view? Does this view exist today or only in the past? What clues did the student artist use to support different opinions / perspectives?

13. Teacher compare student self-assessments with your their assessment of the work.

Extension Activities

Extension Activity I

Silent Voices Now Being Heard Literary Connection: Write a monologue, dialogue, or script for the characters represented in a work that parallels a social, cultural or political theme. Elicit classmates to help present your work to the class. Goal: To develop students’ ability present and defend a point of view based on an artist work.

Extension Activity II

Putting Together Pieces of History History Connection: Research and create a time line of historical events that have shaped the themes in Romare Bearden’s work during the Harlem Renaissance.Write and present a report that explains how world events may have influenced Romare Bearden’s point of view. Goal: To make students aware of historical world events that have shaped communities and social concerns around the world.

  • Tags:

  • The Materials You Need

    Tooltip of materials


    Tooltip of standarts

    Relevant National Standards:
      Correlation to National Visual Arts Standards
    • 1-Content Standard: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
    • 2-Content Standard: Using knowledge of structures and functions
    • 3-Content Standard: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas
    • 4-Content Standard: Understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
    • 5-Content Standard: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristic and merits of their work and the work of others

    Related Stories

    Tooltip of related stories

    More Articles

    Tooltip of more video block

    RSS Content

    Tooltip of RSS content 3