Thursday, January 21, 2016

DIY Art History: Ancient Mosaics

We recently taught a 6-lesson elective on "DIY Art History" to a mixed age classroom (6-13). Each post on this blog describes one lesson.

DIY Art History: Ancient Mosaics Lesson Plan We jumped from cave painting to the mosaics of antiquity. They're interesting because they were used both as paintings and functionally, like welcome mats. The ancient mosaics are also handy because they often preserved better than paintings, so they give us a better understanding of what paintings were like then.

After discussing a variety of mosaics with the kids, they put together their own mosaics by gluing "tesserae" onto tiles, while one group worked on a "Beware of the Dog" paper mosaic:

Here's the presentation, lesson plan, supplies, and additional resources:



Lesson Plan

  • (20 min) Talking
    • Intro: Alexander Mosaic -
      • Q: What is this?
      • Zoom in, its a mosaic!
      • Q: Have any of you seen mosaics? Where?
    • Where do you see mosaics?
      • Q: Where do you see mosaics?
      • (Then click to show)
    • How are mosaics made?
    • Tesserae
      • Q: What could you use as tiles?
      • (Then click to show)
    • Early mosaics
      • Q: Do you remember how long ago cave paintings started? (30-40K years ago) How long ago did mosaics start? (Started ~4000 years ago)
    • Phoenicians
      • Used mosaics for floors like this one
      • Q: what do you think this is of? (Tanit, which is a Punic goddess)
    • Greek: Ancient mythology
      • They really took it to an art form!
      • Q: what do you think this is of? (Two Greek gods called Ocean and Tethys)
    • Greek: Cat mosaic
      • Greeks made a new technique that was paint-like
    • Roman: Beware of the dog
      • Q: Why do you think people made these mosaics?
      • Q: Where do you think that we found these mosaics? (Outside their houses)
    • Roman: Alexander Mosaic
      • Q: What do you think is happening? (Alexander (left) and Darius (right), in the Battle of Issus.)
      • Q: Do you know what happened in Pompeii? Why do you think we found multiple mosaics there?
    • Roman: Geometric floors
      • Q: What do you call a repeated pattern? It’s a tesselation!
      • Less important rooms got patterns.
    • Roman: Mosaic of food mosaic (5th century)
      • Q: Why do you think they made this mosaic?
      • Point: The images of many mosaics play with their position It changes when we show them in museums! Nicer if we can leave the mosaics where they were.
  • (5 min)  DIY Setup
  • (40 min) DIY time!
  • (10 min) Clean-up time


We got most of our supplies from the local SCRAP store in SF, but I've included Amazon links to similar items for convenience.

Additional resources

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