An Introduction to Viewpoints—Interpretation & Movement



Students will demonstrate their ability to interpret a work of art by participating in a group discussion. Students will demonstrate their ability to respond physically to a work of art by participating in a simple devising activity.



  • TH:Cn10.1.I.a. Investigate how cultural perspectives, community ideas and personal beliefs impact a drama/theatre work.

  • TH:Re8.1.I.c. Justify personal aesthetics, preferences, and beliefs.

  • TH:Cr3.1.I.a. Practice a devised drama/theatre work using theatrical staging conventions.




Step 1: Display Dali’s painting and pass out the Analysis sheets. Ask students to take 1-2 minutes individually to look closely at the artwork. What do they notice? After two minutes, invite them to turn to their partner and talk about their observations, as well as to fill out the observation part of the T chart on the Analysis sheet. Explain that observations are what you experience with your senses (see, hear, etc.) They are not interpreting.  


After paired discussions, begin a whole class discussion about the painting. First ask for the observations that they made with their partners. Then ask the following questions. If they need help with these questions, make your own observations (ideas of observations are bulleted below the questions).

  • What parts of this painting stand out to you?
  • The swans are reflecting elephants
  • There is a man in the background facing away from the animals
  • There is an unidentifiable creature in the bottom corner
  • What do you notice about the use of color in the painting?
    • Vivid shades of orange, blue, and green
    • Dull shades of brown and gray
  • What is interesting about shapes and lines in the painting?
    • Rough cliffs v. still lake
    • Curved lines in necks, trunks, trees, clouds, and lake’s edge
    • Straight lines in trees, man’s back, elephants’ legs, and cliff tops
  • Where is the focus in this painting? What draws your eye to the focus?
    • Border between the cliffs and lake frames the swans and elephants


Step 2: Now we’re going to use our observations to make interpretations about the painting. Rather than just talking about what we see in the painting, we’re going to bring out the meaning of what the painting symbolizes or represents. Take a few minutes with your partner to decide on possible Interpretations one could have based on the observations that were made. Tell them to just write the major themes that they interpret in a few words, instead of paragraphs of explanations. (You may need to remind them what a theme is. Ask if anyone knows. Explain that a theme is an abstract concept like greed, love, etc. and not something tangible or concrete like clown or road trip.)


After a few minutes bring the class together and ask the pairs to share some of their interpretations and themes that they wrote down. Use the questions below to help start and guide conversation if needed.

  • What do you think the swans and elephants represent?
  • Wisdom
  • Beauty
  • Strength
  • What do you think the man or the creature symbolize?
    • Disagreeing with the reflection of wisdom in beauty
    • Trying to fit unsuccessfully
    • Falsehood
  • What might be the meaning of this painting?


Throughout the analysis discussion, write the themes (students’ ideas about the meaning of the painting) on the whiteboard. For instance:

  • Trying to fit in
  • Rejection
  • Reflection
  • Things as they really are


Step 3: Ask the students, “From this list of themes, which interests you the most?” As a class, come to a consensus on which of the themes to explore further. Now that we have talked about different perspectives around a work of art, let’s see how differing perspectives contribute to making theatre.


“What experience have you had with [theme] in your life before?” Help all students get on the same page about what the theme means. For example, list synonyms of the theme as a class or talk about common occurrences of that theme in their lives or popular culture.


Invite the students to work in pairs. Explain these directions: Partner A will be given three minutes to tell a story to Partner B about the theme word. We encourage you to tell a story from your own life, but if the only one you can think of is a story you heard, you can tell that one as well. After three minutes, Partner A and Partner B switch roles. Encourage the students to use the whole three minutes without going too long or too short. They should go back and add new details if they finish early.


Ask the students if they have any questions before beginning. Give them a minute to silently think about their story before starting the activity. As students are telling, give them notifications when they have two minutes, one minute, and ten seconds left.


Step 4: Next, coach the students to choose physical gestures, movements, or expressions to retell their partner’s story without words. Students perform individually and silently, in silo spaces around the classroom. The whole class works at the same time, without any audience.



  • Identify the main character from the story. Sit or stand in a posture that expresses that character.
  • Move around the space as that character. How do they carry themselves? What pace do they move at? Do they walk in brisk lines or slow curves?
  • What is the beginning of your story? Choose a physical position that represents the beginning of this story. Take ten seconds to explore options, and then freeze in the position once you have found it.
  • Do the same for the story’s climax or most pivotal point.
  • Do the same for the story’s ending.
  • Practice these three positions in succession. What motions do you need to create to get from pose to the next?
  • Now see if you can move between the story images using the posture or way that the main character might move.
  • Add two more images to the story. You decide where in your story needs additional movement. Practice moving between these five images in succession. Practice moving as your character might.
  • Choose a gesture that adds meaning to this story. Practice it. Repeat it in different ways. Find a place for it in your movement story. You may repeat it three times quickly in succession, or spread the repetition out throughout your story, slowly.


Step 5: Discuss and reflect.

  • What were some of the different ways that [the theme] was explored? Why do we have multiple perspectives about [the theme]?
  • How are your views about the painting or [the theme] shaped by your personal experiences? How might the painting or [the theme] mean something else to another viewer?
  • How was it to try to physically retell someone else’s story? How did that challenge your perspective?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of exploring [the theme] physically (without words)?
  • If you were to revise this performance, what might you do differently?


Step 6 (only if we have extra time to fill): Have students perform their physical retellings for each other in small groups of about 6 students. Tell the students that they will learn more about creating physical theatre choices using the viewpoints. Tomorrow’s lesson will introduce the four viewpoints of time.


Step 7: Exit Card


Hand out index cards to the class or have them take out a piece of paper and answer the following questions:


  1. How comfortable are you with creating physical movement based on a theme? (Have them choose from: Awkward, slightly comfortable, comfortable, confident.)
  2. Briefly justify your answer to the above question.


Before they leave class, they must turn this exit card in.

Teacher note: before doing other things or moving on to the lesson plan for the next class, take a moment to write down an evaluation of the student’s physical performance. Answer the following questions

  1. Did you see the beginning understandings of any of the viewpoints? If so, which ones?
  2. Where their images and movements more literal or abstract?
  3. Did any students stand out in any way? Why?



Students will receive 6 participation points if they are actively engaged during the devising activity and participate in the art analysis discussion, either with a partner or the whole class. The analysis sheet and exit card are worth 2 point each. Proficiency will be 8/10 points.


Grading Procedures: Give student feedback on the themes they wrote down, but do not dock any points if the work is poor. This is only an assessment what they already know. If any concerns were written down on the exit cards, make sure to address that at the beginning of the next class.