Lesson: Things People Wear

  • Grades: K–5
  • Subjects: English Language Arts, Social Studies

Students will observe and discuss multiple photographs and/or paintings and identify what people are wearing and in what medium the people’s images were captured. Students will use adjectives to describe what they see and will compare some of these images to their own lives.


  • Students will explain their own ideas and understanding in discussion and in writing.
  • Students will be able to identify an art medium and use adjectives.

Vocabulary: medium, material, photograph, adjective


Photo of two people on a bed looking over various unwrapped gifts
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Man, and woman, possibly Margaret Bullard holding radio, seated on bed in bedroom, possibly in Bullard home at 2801 Bedford Avenue 1956, black-and-white: Kodak safety film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund © Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive
  1. Find a painting or photograph with multiple people. E.g. Children in Leningrad (1958) by Duane Michals, a Charles “Teenie” Harris photo from his 2801 Bedford Avenue series, Portrait of a Boy (1890) by John Singer Sargent, or Hutchinson, Kansas (1976) by Garry Winogrand. Begin by asking students to name some of the clothing they are wearing. Introduce new vocabulary or point out uses of adjectives as appropriate. You could also have students fill out something similar to the later activity: My favorite thing(s) to wear is/are my [adjective] [clothing]. Now refer to the painting or photograph and ask students to describe the clothes that the people are wearing. Next ask, “What do you think their relationship is? What do you see that makes you say that?” Point to the clothing in the image as students respond. Ask students follow-up questions such as:

    • Do you like his/her/their [clothing item]? What do you like about it? Why?
    • Do you wear [clothing item]? Why or why not?
    • Do people today wear [clothing item]? Why or why not?

  2. Next, introduce the art vocabulary word medium. Medium can refer to both to the type of art (e.g. painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing) as well as the materials an artwork is made from (e.g. pencil, ink, pastels, painting, watercolor, acrylic, oil, film, mixed media, collage). Material can also refer to the clothes that folks are wearing in the piece being observed.

    As a handout, have students complete the following to identify clothing worn by each of the figures in the works of art:

    He/she/they are wearing a(n) [adjective][clothing item] in the [medium].

    *Have multiples of these prompts on the handout. Students can circle “He/she/they” as it corresponds to the piece. You could also leave space for students to draw each character if desired or have the piece you are analyzing photocopied onto the page.

    Ask volunteers to share some of their responses from the handout you created. Discuss how the clothing styles depicted in the different images have changed over time (e.g. the clothing in the painting is from an earlier time period than the clothing in the photograph).