Posted 6/5/12

This is an adaptation of an activity from my book Images. Munch’s Scream became topical in May 2012 when it was sold in auction for $120 million. This puts it in the list of most expensive paintings ever sold. The activity makes use of an entry from Munch’s diary in 1892 (see below). The descriptive passage describes a recurring vision that is said to be the inspiration for the iconic image.
  • Language level: Intermediate; Upper Intermediate (B1; B2)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Activity: Illustrating a text; Text reconstruction
  • Topic: CLIL (Art); Auctions
  • Language: Past simple; Past continuous
The Scream pdf [downloaded 5746 times]

Lesson outline

  1. Show students the image below and ask the following questions:
    • Who do you think these people are?
    • Where do you think they are?
    • Who do you think they are talking to?
  2. (Click on image to enlarge)

  3. Tell students that you are going to show them a text which has a connection with the picture. Put students into pairs or small groups and give out copies of the text which is included in the PDF download.
  4. I was walking along a path with two friends. The sun was setting. Suddenly the sky turned blood red. I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence. There was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city. My friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
  5. Ask students to work together to do the following:
    • Share and pool knowledge of any unknown words or language.
    • Consider where the text came from.
    • Consider what the connection between the text and the image is.
  6. Note: It is possible that some students will know the connection between the text and the image. This is why they are discussing their ideas in pairs or small groups and not with the whole class. You can circulate and find out if any group knows or has worked out the answer. If this is the case, congratulate them and then ask them to keep it secret from the rest of the class.
  7. Ask students to read the text again and pay close attention to the images that form in their heads as they do so. Tell students that before you tell them where the text came from, you want them to capture these images on paper.
  8. Give out blank paper and coloured pencils. Ask students to illustrate the text in any way that they see it.
  9. Put the drawings up on the walls and turn the classroom into a gallery. Let students compare their artwork.
  10. Find out if anyone has any more ideas about where the text came from before showing them the second image.
  11. (Click on image to enlarge)

  12. Ask students what is happening in the picture (answer = an auction). Ask them to guess what is being auctioned (i.e. what is behind the blob).
  13. Show students the third picture.  They will see that the item on sale at the auction is Munch’s Scream.
  14. (Click on image to enlarge)

    Establish that the people in the first picture are taking telephone bids. Also establish that the text comes from an 1892 diary entry from the artist. It describes a recurring vision that was said to haunt him. It was the inspiration for The Scream, his most famous painting. On 2nd May 2012, a version of the painting was sold by auction for $120 million. This put it in the list of most expensive paintings ever sold.
  15. Find out what students know about the artist and the painting. You could ask them to go online and find out about any of the following:
  • The artist and his life (here)
  • The different versions of the painting and comparisons of them (here)
  • The theft of The Scream in 2004 (here and here)
  • The sale of the painting on the 2nd May 2012 (here)
  • Other works in the list of most expensive paintings ever sold (here)

Note that another piece of art that finds itself on the list of most expensive paintings ever sold is the subject of another Lessonstream activity.

Language study follow up 1

Ask students to examine the text carefully and answer the following questions:

  • How many past simple structures can you identify in the text?
  • How many past continuous structures can you identify in the text?

Let students compare their answers before feedback.

Past simple:

  • The sky turned blood red (1)
  • I paused, feeling exhausted and leaned on the fence (2 & 3)
  • My friends walked on (4)
  • I stood there (5) trembling with anxiety
  • I sensed an infinite scream (6) passing through nature
  • Also, you may want to include: There was blood and tongues of fire above the fjord and the city (7)
Past continuous:

  • I was walking along a path with two friends (1)
  • The sun was setting (2)
Potential confusion:

Draw students’ attention to the following structures which are not to be mistaken for past continuous:

  • I paused, feeling exhausted
  • I stood there trembling with anxiety
  • I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature

language study follow up 2

Tell students that you are going to give them a memory test. Give them two or three minutes to read and memorise as much as possible about the text. Tell them to pay attention to order of ideas, key words, grammar, number of sentences, etc.

While they are doing this, write the following on the board:

  • Walk (past continuous)
  • Set (past continuous)
  • Turn (past simple)
  • Pause (past simple)
  • Lean (past simple)
  • There was …
  • Walk (past simple)
  • Stand (past simple)
  • Sense (past simple)

When time is up, ask students to put away their texts and rewrite them from memory. They should attempt to reconstruct the text as accurately as possible. They should make use of the prompts that you have written on the board as they do this. Finally, ask students to compare their work before letting them check it with the original text.

Image credits

Images were taken from Wikipedia (here) and stills from this video clip at the

Posted 6/5/12

18 Responses to The Scream

  1. Faye Karamani says:

    Once again you make the difference, Jamie!

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Faye :)

  3. paraskevopouloumaria says:

    well done Jamie for your lesson plan..despite the fact that the title is ‘scream’ the students will be speechless with the specific that the summmer is near, the students will enjoy the idea of painting and drawing!

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Ha ha – make them speechless with a scream!
    Good luck Maria and thank
    Jamie :)

  5. Joff says:

    I’ve been using this lesson from your book. It’s great to have the additional exercises

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Joff :)

  7. Shilpa Dholakia says:

    A great lesson, never got bored reading it, I’m sure the kids/adults would have enjoyed it.

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Shilpa.
    Jamie :)

  9. sheridan says:

    Genius. Amazing concept(s). Going to trash my lesson plan and try it out. Thanks.

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Well thank you very much Sheridan! Let me know how it goes …
    Jamie :)

  11. Alexnadra says:

    Thanks for the lesson, it is a first-rate one!!!

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Alexandra
    Jamie :)

  13. MONICA BARRERA says:

    Hello Jamie,
    One question: If this was a CLT lesson, which skill would you focus on?
    I have to say your lesson plans never cease to amaze me. Thanks for sharing. Best regards!

  14. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Monnah

    The most communicative part of the activity would be the step where students hypothesize about the connection between the text and the image. This takes a student-to-teacher question format.

    We often restrict such activities by saying that we can only answer yes or know (i.e. we will only work with closed questions). I don’t like that because it prevents some good questions from arising. Tell your students that they can ask you anything. You then deal with the questions at your own discretion. A lot of language can arise during these types of activity.

    Hope that is helpful
    Jamie :)

  15. Jean Sciberras says:

    Thank you Jamie. This fits in nicely with my English through Art. I might use parts of it. It’ll also give me an opportunity to mention your great website to the conference participants.

  16. Jamie Keddie says:

    Yes – adapt away Jean. That’s what it’s all about. Good luck and thanks for your comment.
    Jamie :)

  17. Stephan says:

    I’M an art specialist who has used “The Scream” umteen times with my students for them to interpret Art (Strand:Communicating and Interpreting).Your approach has got me excited as I see an avenue here to support my ESL students.
    As a parody we are at present working on “What’s making the Scream scream?” /”The Scream’s Fears/Nightmares”. Rich learning has emerged, from social, cultural and emotional contexts. Someone made it personal,as she was so aware of her body image. Her “Scream” had fears about fast foods! cheers.