Posted 24/2/10

“Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent” is how Vincent Van Gogh referred to his 1890 Portrait of Dr Gachet. This activity exploits the fact that Van Gogh actually painted two easily-distinguishable versions of Dr Gachet. It addresses language that may be used for picture descriptions (present continuous, present simple, there is/are) as well as question forms.
  • Language level: Elementary; Pre-intermediate (A2)
  • Learner type: Young learners; Teens; Adults; CLIL
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Activity: Dictation; Making questions
  • Topic: Art
  • Language: Present simple; Present continuous; Question forms
  • Materials: Images
Spot the difference pdf [downloaded 6189 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Show your learners the first portrait of Dr Gachet. Ask them if they can identify the artist and find out what they know about him.
  2. Tell students a bit about the painting.
    * Van Gogh painted it in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, 17 miles from Paris.
    * It is one of the last paintings he did in his life.
    * Dr Paul Gachet was a French physician who treated the artist during his last weeks.
    * Van Gogh described the portrait as “Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent”.
    * It is housed in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris
  3. Remove the picture from your students’ view and tell them that you are going to carry out an observation test. Tell them that you are going to dictate a number of statements about the painting. Some of these statements are true and some of them are false. During the dictation, if a student thinks that a statement is true, he or she should write it exactly as you say it. If on the other hand the student thinks that it is false, he or she should amend it accordingly. Demonstrate with the following example:
  4. Sentences for dictation:
    * Dr Gachet is wearing a green hat.
    * He is resting his head on his right hand.
    * He is looking directly at us.
    * He has blue eyes and a moustache.
    * You can see three buttons on his coat.
    * The table is bright red.
    * There are two yellow books on the table.
    * There is a flower in Dr Gachet’s left hand.
    * He looks unhappy (subjective of course and open to argument)

  5. Once all statements have been dictated, allow everyone to share and compare their answers. Offer corrections wherever necessary.
  6. Your students will want to see the painting again in order to find out how well they did. You are now going to play a trick on them: Rather than show them the image that they have already seen, show them the second version.
  7. If nobody notices the discrepancy, tell your students that they have all failed the true observation test and ask if anyone can tell you why. Once it has been established that you switched pictures, your students will want to see the original version. Tell them that although you are not going to show it to them, you are willing to answer any questions about it. Have your students pre-prepare the questions that they are going to ask about the original version of the painting.
    * Is Dr Gachet wearing a green hat?
    * Does he have blue eyes and a moustache?
    * Is there a flower in his left hand?
    * How many buttons can you see on his coat?
  8. Note that for this step, your students will have to convert all of their statements into questions. Elicit or demonstrate how this is done with one or two examples before allowing your students to do the rest on their own or in pairs. Example questions:

  9. Answer your students’ questions but only if they have been constructed correctly.
  10. Let students see both versions, and decide which one they prefer. This can give rise to discussion while they identify differences in mood, colour, etc between the two versions. Alternatively, the two versions could be used to explore comparative adjectives.

Posted 24/2/10

23 Responses to Spot the Difference

  1. nika says:

    Thank you Jamie. Your material is really useful, and clever. I am going to use this lesson in a few hours with a student of mine who loves art. I teach via Skype and your material is really great.
    Thanks, really thank you. Nika.

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Nika
    I’d be really interested to hear how you get on and how you adapt the activity for online teaching. Online teaching is something that I am starting to do myself and one day I may include an “online box” for each lesson plan on this site to give ideas for adapting the activities to that context.
    Thanks for the comment
    Jamie :-)

  3. Nika says:

    Hallo, Jamie.
    Sorry for replying so late!
    Basically what I did (and I do) is using the opportunities that Skype offers with the “shared screen” option. I also use IDroo, a great tool because it allows me to invite more than one student. I followed your guidelines for leading the lesson, and thanks to the shared screen she could see my monitor. So I showed her the first portrait page, then via Skype dictated her the questions. [I use Wordpad, too, to enlarge the document to all-screen size, and when we have to work just on text. But IDroo merges into Skype perfectly, and it’s much more interactive. Also, works well, with more students.] I had previously prepared a Wordpad document with the questions written down, so I showed them to her and she corrected her dictation. Then I asked her which statement was true and which one was false. I skipped the conversion of statements into questions, on the contrary I wanted to focus on her trying to describe the painting, but I showed her the pdf with the second portrait. While she was telling me her sentences I simultaneously typed in the Wordpad doc what she was saying in a separate window (Skype allows you to share the whole or just one part of the screen). Then , together, we revised what she had said and by highlighting her mistakes I encouraged her to correct them, and she spotted all of them. I can send you the file to show you what I did) She was very active, you need to create a great interaction, because the student is far away. In the end, she was very happy with the lesson. I would like to tell you so much more, Jamie. If you’d like you can write me at my e-mail address and I can tell you my very brief experience (I am not a “regular” teacher) :) Thank you so much for you reply, Jamie!!! I have been following you since the beginning and also joined your webinar some months ago….. Hope to meet you some day . Nika. Sorry for my bad English…I am Italian.

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Bad English? Where? I didn’t see any :)
    Thank you very much for taking the time to write. This is really valuable. It also makes me think how useful it would be to see online teachers screen cast their lesson plans. I’ll be starting with some online classes in the Autumn. Let’s see how it goes. I might be getting in touch for advice.
    Thanks again
    Jame :-)

  5. Nicolás says:

    Hi Jamie

    Do you care if I present your idea as an activity for a CLIL course I am going to give as a tutor? The students have to visit your web-page for downloading the examples.

    I hope you do not mind :-)


  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Yes Nico
    Please do that. Make use of the site in any way you like. That’s what it is all about. And adapt the activity in way that you feel works for you. Good luck! Will be interested to hear about the results.
    Jamie :-)

  7. Max says:

    Hi Jamie, I’ve used this lesson a few times with adult classes, it works really well. It’s good fun and teaches some great language and it’s always really funny when the students realise you’ve played a trick on them! I’m a massive fan of all the lessons on this website. Thanks a lot!

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks for your comment Max
    Really glad you enjoyed the site. And happy to hear that you enjoy playing tricks on your students. It’s the way forward!
    Jamie :-)

  9. Alicja says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your work. Your lessons are excellent. I’ve used them several times already and I have to tell you that your work saves lots of my time! Thank you :-).


  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Alicja
    Really appreciate your comment. It’s really good to hear that teachers are making good use of the site.
    Jamie :-)

  11. Pingback: by Jamie Keddie » The Scream

  12. Alexandra says:

    Thank you so much for the lesson idea, Jamie!

    I’ve just done this today. My students passed the observation test. They immediately noticed there was a different picture. What surprised them most was that both pictures are real (no Photoshop was used).

    As a follow-up students got different pictures (one per pair) and made sentences about their paintings. Then they showed their picture for 30sec and read their statements for the rest of the class to decide if the sentences are T or F.

    We had some hot discussions during the lesson. Students enjoyed working with the paintings.

    The timeless lesson plan you gave, Jamie! Thank you!


  13. Jamie Keddie says:

    Yes – the unpredictability!
    Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas Alexandra. I really appreciate your nice comment!
    Jamie :)

  14. Annamaria Palombo says:

    I have been using your lessons, ever since I attended your seminar at the Language Show in London,way back in 2009. This particular one I’ve used several times with my adults. They really enjoy it and it works really well. Thank you for your great work….

  15. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Annamaria.
    The Language Show in 2009 seems like such a long time ago.
    Thank you for your nice comment
    Jamie :)

  16. Karolina says:

    This is one of the best lesson plans I’ve seen lately. Thank you for it! Karolina

  17. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Karolina
    You are very nice for saying so!
    Jamie :)

  18. Jorge says:

    Jamie, you make me think Im on the right path. This class on Van Gogh’s painting comes to me right when I was trying to do s/thing for my classes with the same painting. I was just wandering around the web looking for something different and here I am! Thanks a million for your classes, your generosity and your free motivation and support for all of us, teachers!

  19. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Jorge. I’m very happy that you found me!
    Thanks for your nice comment and good luck with the activity.
    Jamie :)

  20. Pia Wimmer-Furian says:

    Hi Jamie,
    It is so much fun watching the students how quickly they find out that they have been tricked! This is an English and Art lecture at the same time. It works brilliantly. Thank you Jamie!

  21. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Pia
    Lovely to see you here.
    I am glad to hear that you tricked your students successfully. That is one of the reasons we teach, no?
    I am hoping to come back to Austria in December. Hope to see you you then.
    Jamie :)

  22. Ingrid says:

    Hi Jamie, once again you hit the nail on the head with this lesson, I wanted to practice present continuous and revise question formation at the same time. They enjoyed the lesson immensely and some of them even wrote the dictation sentences in negative and positive for the extra challenge. The question forms were a challenge for them but by the end of the lesson were doing it correctly. I loved their reaction when I told them they had to remember what was in the first painting (they noticed right away it was different), so funny! Also, your timing is spot on, I had about 37 minutes and I cut out 2 sentences and it was perfect. Thank you so much for all your inspirational work and keep it up… what would we do without you!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Ingrid
      Sounds like you’re doing a good job. I can’t take credit for that! Thanks for the nice message
      Jamie :)