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Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Always been intrigued by Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile? Wondering about The Last Summer? This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. This lesson will cover his work as an artist. Sculpt a horse, use watercolors to paint a bird, practice drawing using perspective, and more! These lessons are geared toward 3rd-4th grade level children and their siblings. They were created by another creative teacher for our weekly homeschool co-op which meets each week for 2 1/2 hours. We have 16 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your family, classroom, after-school camp, or co-op!

Lesson Plan on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist

1. Pray. Read from Proverbs 4:1, 4:20, & 7:24. Discuss how Leonardo da Vinci was particularly attentive in his artwork and how we should also be attentive in all we do.

2. Watch the NEST Family video on Leonardo da Vinci. (Approx. 30 min.) It also includes Michelangelo.

Watch a clip from Nest Family Animated Hero Classics Story of Leonardo da Vinci

Our Favorite Children's Book on Leonardo Da Vinci

Perspective in Art

leonardo-da-vinci-unit-study

Perspective in the Mona Lisa

3. Show a picture of Mona Lisa and compare it with another portrait from that time period. Discuss how Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first artists of his time who drew perspective into his art. Give a brief overview of and demonstration about how to show perspective in drawing. You can use the explanation from kinderart.com.

YOU WILL NEED: paper & pencils or other writing utensils

Sculpture: Leonardo's Horse

"Leonardo's Horse" by Jean Fritz & a horse sculpture created by a 5 year old

"Leonardo's Horse" by Jean Fritz & a horse sculpture created by a 5 year old

4. Read Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz. Explain that da Vinci loved horses and loved to draw animals and would watch them for weeks to understand how they were put together and how they moved. After looking at photographs of horses, mold a horse out of play-doh or clay. The challenging part is making one that can stand up.

YOU WILL NEED: play-doh or clay for each child and the book Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz

Studying & Sketching: Leonardo's Birds

Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of birds next to a watercolor painting of a cardinal done by a 7 year old - Leonard's bird sketches came from http://www.wikipaintings.org/ .

Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of birds next to a watercolor painting of a cardinal done by a 7 year old - Leonard's bird sketches came from http://www.wikipaintings.org/ .

5. Briefly discuss different types of mediums used for painting pictures (watercolor, acrylic, oil). Show examples (and let children feel the textures) if possible. Also mention how Leonardo da Vinci also loved to study birds. Let children use watercolors to paint birds. They can either use blank paper or printed out coloring pages. Alternatively, they can sketch pictures of birds or birds they see outside the window.

YOU WILL NEED: coloring pages of various birds (optional), paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, newspaper to cover the table, bowls for water, & examples of various mediums for painting (optional)

6. Five minute review of what you learned.

  • Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp is told from the perspective of the Mona Lisa and describes the painting and also the events surrounding when the painting was stolen. We read a few picture books about the theft of the Mona Lisa. While we enjoyed them all, this was our favorite version.
  • Da Vinci (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia is a wonderful children's biography on Leonardo da Vinci. It does a great job of summarizing his life in a child-friendly manner and includes pieces of his artwork along with humorous illustrations, which my children love.
  • Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz is a wonderful picture book telling the true story of Leonardo da Vinci's attempts at sculpting an enormous horse for the Duke of Milan. His sculpture is never completed until hundreds of years later in the 1970's when Charles Dent and others casts the horse for a museum in Michigan and for Milan. My boys (ages 4 and 8) enjoyed this!
  • The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci (Stories from History) by Susie Hodge was the absolute favorite of both my boys (ages 5 and 8) because it's written in a graphic (comic book) style. It is also packed with historical information.
  • Fly, Kite, Fly!: A Story of Leonardo and a Bird Catcher by John Winch fun picture book tells how a bird-catching boy inspires Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley is a longer picture book but is very enjoyable to read and has wonderful illustrations.
  • We also enjoyed reading Katie and the Mona Lisa by James Mayhew, Mona Lisa Smiles: Art History Disguised as Fun by Kristin J. Draeger, Leonardo da Vinci by Ibi Lepscky, The Mona Lisa Caper by Rick Jacobson, The Stolen Smile by J. Patrick Lewis, and Mona Lisa: The Secret Smile by Letizia Galli.
  • Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne is a short chapter book (144 pp.) that my 8 year old son enjoyed reading on his own. It is part of the Magic Tree House series, and in this book the twins travel back in time to meet Leonardo da Vinci.

Need More Activity Ideas?

Lapbook for "Leonardo's Horse" offers free lapbook pages and activity ideas for Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz.

Art with Mati and Dada - Leonardo Da Vinci for Kids

Leonardo DaVinci Perfected Word's Largest Horse Statue

How to find the true face of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci - Illustrating History (Gives a great overview of his entire life's work)

Making and testing out models of Leonardo da Vinci's ornithopter from Lesson 3: Leonardo da Vinci: The Inventor

Making and testing out models of Leonardo da Vinci's ornithopter from Lesson 3: Leonardo da Vinci: The Inventor

Recreate and test out some of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, begin an observation notebook, apply his art techniques as you study his art work, and more in this exciting 3 week study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor!

  • Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist - Always been intrigued by Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile? Wondering about The Last Summer? This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. This lesson will cover his work as an artist. Sculpt a horse, use watercolors to paint a bird, practice drawing using perspective, and more!
  • Leonardo da Vinci: The Scientist - Did you know the artist who painted Mona Lisa was also an impressive scientist? This is part 2 of a 3 part hands-on unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. This lesson will cover his work as a scientist. Build a working hydrometer and hygrometer, begin a nature journal, write notes in a secret code, and more!
  • Leonardo da Vinci: The Inventor - An army tank? A parachute? A machine gun? A bicycle? All these and more were developed by the creative genius, Leonardo da Vinci, in the late 15th century! This is part 3 of a 3 part hands-on unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. Join us as we recreate and test out Leonardo da Vinci's inventions including the ornithopter, parachute, and trebuchet!
  • Leonardo da Vinci Presentations, Meal, & Field Trip - This is the culminating project following a 3 part unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. Children will present on Leonardo da Vinci's works of art and inventions and then will enjoy an Italian meal together. Also included are the field trips we attended while studying this unit.
  • Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources.

© 2012 Shannon

If you could own one of Leonardo's paintings, which one would you get and why? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback fro

Shannon (author) from Florida on September 05, 2013:

@ViolaSuSi: That would be amazing to see!

ViolaSuSi on September 05, 2013:

We had a trip to his native home and town - Vinci.

Shannon (author) from Florida on April 09, 2013:

@siobhanryan: Thank you!

siobhanryan on April 09, 2013:

Enjoyed this lens

Shannon (author) from Florida on January 26, 2013:

@TeacherSerenia: That would be amazing to own!

TeacherSerenia on January 26, 2013:

I made a lens called Leonardo's Notebooks. If I had a choice, I would rather one of the pages from his original notebooks - a page with diagrams on it.

msseiboi on July 12, 2012:

Mona Lisa.. i want to keep smiling...

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 02, 2012:

@bilafond lm: Thank you for dropping by!

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 02, 2012:

@rewards4life info: Thank you for dropping by!

rewards4life info on July 02, 2012:

Very interesting lens. Leonardo Da Vinci was an amazing artist his work still inspires and the mystery that surrounds his pieces is so engrossing. I could not pick a favourite all of his art is beautiful he was so talented.

bilafond lm on July 02, 2012:

What great works these master artists have left for us. Great lens and thank you very much

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 01, 2012:

@Fcuk Hub: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 01, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 01, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you so much for all the sweet comments! Much appreciated!

anonymous on July 01, 2012:

Just stopping back because I forgot to mention that I featured this excellence on Masterpiece, this is just plain cool!

anonymous on July 01, 2012:

I love how you prepare everyone in your intro for experiences that they won't want to miss, talk about stirring up kid's interest in a lesson plan and bringing it home! Congratulations on front page honors and thank you so very much for that special thing I see you did for me!

Fcuk Hub on July 01, 2012:

All Vinci's art is great :) So as this lens.

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 30, 2012:

@Close2Art LM: Thank you so much for dropping by & for the blessing. He definitely was a genius!

Close2Art LM on June 30, 2012:

He was a genius and one of the smartest people ever, his art was only part of his great contribution, great lens about his artwork, BLESSED

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 29, 2012:

@UKGhostwriter: Very funny!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 29, 2012:

@SoSimplyStephanie: :)

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 29, 2012:

@blessedmomto7: Great! He was an amazing person! Be sure to look at the last lens I posted on Leonardo da Vinci (presentations, meal, & field trip) where I posted our favorite free on-line lessons and lapbooks on Leonardo da Vinci.

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 29, 2012:

@KimGiancaterino: Thank you! That's neat that you know the illustrator for one of the books!

blessedmomto7 on June 29, 2012:

I am so thrilled I found your lens! We are studying him this coming year in our homeschool, so I am bookmarking this lens to come back to it!

KimGiancaterino on June 29, 2012:

So happy to see "Who Stole the Mona Lisa?" on your book list. It was illustrated by Jill McElmurry, who is the sister of our dear friend Jennifer. I've seen the Mona Lisa in person, and hope to get back again someday.

Stephanie from DeFuniak Springs on June 29, 2012:

I have always found Mona Lisa to be a little scary looking. I could never hang her on my wall cause I would always feeling like she was watching me!

UKGhostwriter on June 29, 2012:

Great lens. I ought be be called DaVinci because I never finish anything ...

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@LabKittyDesign: Thank you for sharing the fun fact! Yes, Leonardo was well known for not finishing projects. I think benefactors sometimes ran out of money and wars definitely didn't help either.

LabKittyDesign on June 28, 2012:

Fun da Vinci fact: never finished a sculpture. Not a one. So the Duke of Milan should have expected there'd be trouble with his horse...

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@alex89 lm: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@pheonix76: Thank you!

pheonix76 from WNY on June 28, 2012:

This is a great way to teach children about such a wonderful artist! Thanks for sharing, informative, and well-organized lens. :)

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on June 28, 2012:

I think I'd have to choose the self portrait because I feel I'd get to know the man, the artist. The Last Supper comes a close second. Shh, don't tell anyone, but I don't really like the Mona Lisa.

alex89 lm on June 28, 2012:

I love Da Vinci, although I prefer his studies/sketches to his paintings. Great lens!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@sheezie77: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@leonasharon: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 28, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you!

anonymous on June 28, 2012:

da Vinci is one of my favorite artists. Great lens!

leonasharon on June 28, 2012:

Good tribute. And I really hope U see the real monalisa real soon

sheezie77 on June 28, 2012:

Great lens, well done! Squidlike

pawpaw911 on June 27, 2012:

He was such an interesting man. If I had to pick one painting, it would be Mona Liza.

anonymous on June 27, 2012:

Mona Lisa although I like all the others too. She is something from the past but could be a Woman of today as well. The intrigue of that half smile what was she thinking in that very moment.xxx

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 26, 2012:

@comoguide lm: That would be incredible to see!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 26, 2012:

@JohnGreenstone: Those will be covered in Leonardo da Vinci: The Inventor, which I should have posted soon.

Michey LM on June 26, 2012:

Hard to answer as I like all of them, but Mona Lisa is so beautiful, I also like the self portrait, and the last supper.

JohnGreenstone on June 26, 2012:

I love his paintings, but I prefer his sketches of his flying and war machines.

comoguide lm on June 26, 2012:

I saw the original last supper in Milan! Yay!

Celticep from North Wales, UK on June 26, 2012:

Virgin of the Rocks (Louvre Version) because I prefer the colours and lighting in this one,

mysweetjane lm on June 26, 2012:

great lens the Mona Lisa is my fave (wonder if it really was Leonardo dressed up?)

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 25, 2012:

@nicks44: Thank you!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 25, 2012:

The Annunciation would be my favourite. I love good news.

nicks44 on June 25, 2012:

I recon I would have the last supper ... Probably due to all the controversy surrounding it :) Also well done putting the info together, very useful and well built, congrats!

ryokomayuka from USA on June 25, 2012:

I'm not sure but I do love art and think it would be great to see it in person.

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 25, 2012:

@EmergencyPrepar: It sounds like an amazing painting with a fascinating story.

intermarks on June 25, 2012:

I can never imagine if I could own one of Leonardo's painting, because it is impossible. But If I can choose, I would love to own the Mona Lisa

EmergencyPrepar on June 24, 2012:

I love Mona Lisa. The painting is mesmerizing. I can sit and look at it for such a long time and not get tired of it. I have a painting done in 1800s of my great aunt who died at age 3...the painting was done of her before she died of cholera(her brother died 2 weeks after of the same)...anyway...the way she is looking at the painter makes you feel she is looking at you. I can look at it forever.

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 24, 2012:

@alina nicoleta92: Thank you so much for stopping by!

misssunshine on June 24, 2012:

Last supper!

weheartjunk on June 24, 2012:

Mona Lisa. It would fit in my kitchen.

anonymous on June 24, 2012:

I like his self portrate - just because.

alina nicoleta92 on June 24, 2012:

Love your lens and DaVinci especially. :)