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If You Could Talk to the Animals

For Grades 3–6

Table of Contents

Featured Work
Discussion Prior to Showing Students the Work of Art
Student Activities
Additional Suggested Activities
Related Resources
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Work

Franz Marc
(German, 1880–1916)
Die Wölfe (Balkankrieg) [The Wolves (Balkan War)], 1913
Oil on canvas
27 7/8 x 55 inches (70.8 x 139.7 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Charles Clifton, James G. Forsyth, and Charles W. Goodyear Funds, 1951
Background Information for Educators


  • Students will look at a work of art and make observations
  • Students will classify their observations into categories
  • Students will draw conclusions about the artist’s intention from their observations and categorizations
  • Students will support their characterizations using their personal knowledge of the behavior of those animals from experience or in stories that feature animals (this objective is related to the Activity Sheet)
  • Students will create works of art that use their characterizations of animals to teach a lesson
  • Using what they have learned, students will select a fictional or historical story of their choice that has human protagonists and create an illustration of a scene from that story with animal protagonists (see Additional Suggested Activities #2 and #4)
  • Students will create and compare narratives inspired by their own drawings of different kinds of lines (see Additional Suggested Activity #3)


Pencil and paper


  • Ask the students to think of stories with animals as the main characters. Examples might include Charlotte’s Web, Winnie the Pooh, The Lion King, and any of Aesop’s Fables.
  • Discuss with the class how animals are often used to represent aspects of human nature and teach us lessons about our own behavior.
  • Discuss the relationship between animals and sports teams. Names such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions or Tigers, and Toronto Raptors all imply strength and speed. What would your students think of a football team called the Buffalo Bunnies? Or a basketball team named the Tennessee Turtles?


Now show your students Franz Marc’s painting.

Ask your students to look carefully at the images. Do not tell them anything about the artwork. Have students:

  • Write down everything they notice about the painting
  • Share their observations with the class. Write them down where everyone can see them.
  • Classify the observations into categories: observations about color, shape or lines; observations about objects included in the work; feelings it inspires; and interpretations of what is happening. If an idea does not fit exactly into one of these categories, put it down in another category and after all the ideas have been shared, you might want to create another category.
  • Analyze and discuss the data and try to come up with conclusions about what the artist’s intention might have been with this artwork.

Based on the information provided in this lesson plan for educators, discuss how the students’ conclusions are similar or different from the artist’s intention and why. Please note: Students’ ideas about the meaning of the painting should be considered valid even though different from Marc’s original intention.

  • Hand out a copy of the student activity sheet included in this lesson plan to each student and have them complete the activity. Discuss their decisions.
  • Instruct the students to write and illustrate their own short story where animals teach us a lesson.
  • As a conclusion to the lesson, ask each student to do a fun homework assignment. Have them ask each member of their family which kind of animal they would like to be and why. Each student should write down the responses to share with the class the next day.

Additional Suggested Activities

  1. Read some of Aesop's Fables and try to guess the morals.
  2. Choose a story with human protagonists. Discuss some of the characters’ personalities, and which animals would best represent them. Illustrate a scene from the new story using animals as the main characters.
  3. Create a composition using only diagonal and horizontal lines. Then draw one using only curved lines. Compare the two compositions and write a story about each one. Display the two drawings and read one of the stories. Can then guess which drawing inspired the writing?
  4. Choose an event in history and illustrate it using the most appropriate type of animal, as well as colors and lines suited to the mood. (This does not have to be a negative historical event!) Give your reasons for your choice of color, line, and animals.


Activity Sheet (PDF)


  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • New York State Learning Standard for Math, Science, and Technology 4
  • New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies 1, 2, 5 (if using historical texts in Additional Suggested Activities #2 and #4)
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Core Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (if using historical texts in Additional Suggested Activities #2 and #4), 9, 10, 11 (New York only)
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 1, 3, 4, 7, 8 (if using historical texts in Additional Suggested Activities #2 and #4), 9, 10, 11 (plus 5 and 6 if drafts and presentations are created) 


  • Audio for Younger Students

  • Audio for High School Students

  • Audio Description