WHO IS THAT MAN AND WHY DOES HE HAVE AN APPLE ON HIS FACE?
Shared by María Esteban:
Work of art: The Son of Man, by Rene Magritte
I would use this activity to work with modals of deduction and speculation but also with the topic of “expressing opinion” and it is possible to review how to ask questions as well.
First, I’d show the painting to all the students and I’d start by asking them to list or brainstorm what they can see in the painting; in other words, to describe the painting. And I’d guide them to pay attention to details (colours, shapes, sizes...), and this way we would be reviewing some basic vocabulary.
Then, I would focus attention on the most striking element of the painting, which is the green apple covering the man’s face, and I’d do so by asking questions such as:
- “what do you think is covering his face?” and
-“in your opinion, why is there an apple covering his face?”
before getting any answers, I’d write on the board or show students different phrases they could use to express opinion and I’d ask them to make use of these expressions when answering the questions (it seems to me that... / I believe that... / etc.).
Afterwards, and trying to move more specifically towards the use of modals of speculation, I’d ask students to think of a question they would ask the artist if they had the opportunity, for example:
-“why did you paint a man and not a woman?” or maybe the most obvious,
-“why is the man covering his face?” (and this way we will be reviewing and reinforcing how to ask questions in English).
After compiling all the questions created, I’d ask students to answer them, each student answering another student’s question.
However, I’d tell them that, since they are not the person who painted this work of art, they should speculate about it using the different modals (must / may / might / could / can’t) and other expressions (maybe / perhaps).
This way, students will be practising with different ways of speculating and deducing in English and also they will develop creativity when thinking about possible answers to the questions.
They may need help with expressing speculation and deduction in the past, but with some guided examples such as:
-“the artist may have painted...” or
-“the man in the painting could have covered his face because...”, they could try to put this language into practice.
If you see that students like the activity and are engaged to it, it is possible to expand it with different versions of this famous painting (some depicted below).
Finally, as the culmination of the activity, it could be interesting to ask students to take a selfie, but with a personal object covering their faces, and bring it to class or send it to the teacher via email.
A few days after this session, students could practise speculation again but in this case, not with a famous work of art as it is “The Son of Man” by Magritte but with each student’s photograph. After doing so, each student should explain the reason why they had chosen that particular object to cover their faces.
I think it is an interesting way to practise language and to get to know our students a bit more.