Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Not Just Ninja Turtles

World History and the Renaissance

Chelsee Wilson | Published: November 4th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course World History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Donatello are key figures in the realms of both history and art, but some students might recognize their names only from a particular popular cartoon series. This lesson focuses on the iconic art of the Renaissance and allows students to investigate and analyze the historical influences behind it.

Essential Question(s)

What can art tell us about history? How does art reflect history?



Students participate in a Four Corners activity related to four artistic works from the Renaissance.


Students analyze the works from the Four Corners activity using the It’s OPTIC-al learning strategy.


Students watch a short video related to the Renaissance and develop a list of themes or characteristics.


Students create an Anchor Chart for one of the key Renaissance artists.


Students participate in a Gallery Walk to view their peers' Anchor Charts.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Four Corners Signs (attached)

  • It's OPTIC-al Graphic Organizer (attached)

  • Tape

  • Pens and pencils

  • Paper

  • Markers/crayons

  • Poster paper

  • Sticky notes


As soon as students enter the classroom, show them slides 4-7 without telling them the names of the paintings or the artists. Show them the images only.

Display slide 8. Introduce students to the Four Corners strategy. Point out the images hanging around the room and direct students to move to the image they feel most drawn to.

When students have formed groups around the images they like most, display slide 9. Ask students to discuss why they chose that piece of artwork. Give students 3-5 minutes to discuss with others in their group.

Display slide 10, and ask each group to elect a spokesperson. Give each spokesperson time to explain their group's reasoning to the class.


Once groups have shared out their reasoning, display slides 11-14 one-by-one and reveal the title and artist for each image.

Ask students to remain in their groups as you hand out the attached It's OPTIC-al Graphic Organizer. Introduce students to the It's OPTIC-Al analysis strategy.

Display slide 15. Give groups time to discuss and fill out the OPTIC-al Graphic Organizer as they look at and analyze their selected image. Students will use the strategy to analyze the image in five ways:

  • Observations: What do you notice or observe in this piece of art?

  • Parts: What are the parts of this artwork? What are the details?

  • Title: What does the title tell you about the artwork? How does it relate to what you see?

  • Interrelationships: How do the parts of the painting work together to convey the artist’s message?

  • Conclusion: What does this artwork convey? What can you tell from the artwork (time period, artist, etc.)?

After groups have had time to fill out their graphic organizers, ask each group’s spokesperson to share their group's analysis with the class.


Display slide 16. Invite students to watch a video over the Renaissance, annotating their OPTIC-al Graphic Organizers as they do so. Ask them to look for common themes of the Renaissance period and any information they deem necessary. Have students consider the question on the slide: How do you think the Renaissance is reflected in the art you have viewed today?

Once students are ready to begin this process, move to slide 17. Show students John Green's Crash Course video about the Renaissance.

If students struggle, ask them to consider what the characteristics of the Renaissance are.

Ask students to share what they think are the biggest takeaways from the video.

Next, ask students to share the information from the video that they think relates most to the artwork they viewed earlier. Did anything inform or reconstruct their understanding of the art that they looked at?


Display slide 18. Break the large groups into smaller groups of 3-4. Invite each group, using their OPTIC-al graphic organizers, information from the video, and the identified characteristics, to use poster paper to create an Anchor Chart about the Renaissance artist whose work they investigated in the Explore activity. Each Anchor Chart should include:

  • The name of the artist.

  • Graphics (pictures or drawings of the artist or their most famous pieces of art).

  • Common themes employed by the artist.

  • How the art reflects the Renaissance period.

While groups are creating their Anchor Charts, they may choose to research more specific information about their artist and the Renaissance. Encourage students to use their textbooks or online resources, such as Google Arts & Culture, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Smarthistory, Web Gallery of Art, or even museum websites such The Louvre or The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Display slide 19. As groups finish their Anchor Charts, have them hang them around the room.

Invite groups to participate in a Gallery Walk to view the work of their classmates. Give each group a pad of sticky notes.

Have each group elect a spokesperson to stand near their Anchor Chart and explain their presentation to visiting classmates. Other group members should rotate to each chart around the room, listen to the presentation, ask questions, and leave feedback on sticky notes.

The OPTIC-al graphic organizer and Anchor Chart can both be used as evaluations for this lesson.