This activity is suitable for students aged 6-14, you can download a free, printable PDF version here.

Project an image of a painting from our collection onto the whiteboard or print it out. Choose one that includes plenty of detail.

Working with a group or the whole class, each student in turn spots a different detail – a hat, a girl, a horse. Older students could add adjectives or further detail to their observations – a blue hat, a horse jumping over a fence, a man carrying a red flag. Can everyone in the group spot something different?

Try turning it into a game. Choose six students. The first student looks carefully at the painting and says “I looked at the painting and I saw…” they then give an example such as a flag, a ship, a hat. The next student does the same, choosing a different detail from the painting and adding it to the example from the first student: “I looked at the painting and I saw…a flag and a horse”. The remaining students take their turns, each choosing a different detail and adding it to the list, in order, until the final student who must recite the five previous choices in the right order and then add their own.

Challenge older students to introduce detail to their choices, encouraging them to look more carefully and making the list more difficult to remember: “a red, white and blue flag; a horse jumping a fence; a sad little girl…”

How many students can they include before a detail in the list is forgotten?

Will you let the rest of the class help them remember..?

This activity is a good way of introducing a new topic or theme.

Students’ observations and descriptions can be used as the basis of a class, group or individual poem.

Investigate the painting further using questions from our Using objects, artworks and other sources to find out about the past guide, and asking questions about the students’ observations: “why do you think there is a red, white and blue flag..?, what might have made the girl look sad..?” etc.

Try this activity with:

The launch of the SS Great Britain

The blessings of peace or the curse of the Corn Law

View of New Lanark

HM Bark Endeavour