Lesson Plan: Horses and Haiku: Art and Writing Roped Into One Lesson G6

Written By: Jen Nelson
Grade Level: Grade 6

Time Allotment

Five 60 Minute Class Periods


In this lesson, students will learn about Walter Piehl Jr.'s art. Students will paint a painting in Piehl’s style and create a Haiku poem that compliments the painting.

Subject Matter

Visual Arts, Language Arts

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will learn about North Dakota artist Walter Piehl Jr.
  2. Students will learn about Abstract Expressionism.
  3. Students will learn to use paint in a nontraditional way.
  4. Students will learn how to write a haiku poem that incorporates the ideas expressed in their paintings.

Media Components - Video/Web

  • Prairie Mosaic is a program that showcases regional artists, writers and histories. There are several themes to choose from. All episodes are streamed from the website via You Tube. The episode chosen is a great showcase of the artist Walter Piehl. In this clip he explains why he paints the way he does and it shows him working on one of his paintings.

  • Video clip – Artist Walter Piehl, Jr.

  • http://www.ndstudies.org/media/prairie_artists_walter_piehl

  • Video clip – Cowboy Poet Shadd Piehl

  • http://www.prairiepublic.org/television/prairie‐public‐on‐demand/prairie-mosiac/prairie‐mosaic‐102 (19:25 ‐ 26:04)

  • Documentary – Walter Piehl: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (26:46)

  • http://www.prairiepublic.org/television/prairie‐public‐on‐demand/walterpiehl/

  • The Plains Art Museum has online educational materials created using objects from the permanent collection. There are learning posters of several artists and art cases that feature American Indian themes.

  • http://plainsart.org/learn/files/2010/01/learning_poster_piehl.pdf


  • Large 24x36 sheet of white paper
  • Sketch paper
  • Tempera paint
  • Oil Pastels
  • Paint Brushes
  • Water Containers
  • Paper Plates
  • Newspapers
  • Teacher Preparation

  • Become familiar with Walter Piehl Jr's artwork.
  • Request the free learning poster from the Plains Art Museum.
  • Cue up the Prairie Mosaic video. Preview the sections on Walter Piehl Jr. (1:00 ‐ 7:05) and Shadd Piehl (19:25 ‐ 26:04).
  • Introductory Activities

    1. Explain the style of art called Abstract Expressionism. State “The art may look messy, but if you take a minute looking into the lines and shapes you will begin to notice something familiar. The shapes may resemble a person, a building, or a landscape.
    2. State “You will be learning about a cowboy artist from Minot, North Dakota who paints wildly colorful paintings. You will create your own painting in the style of this artist. Then you will write a haiku poem to complement the painting.”
    3. Introduce the artist Walter Piehl Jr. using the learning poster from the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. Piehl is a great artist to use for this project because:
      • He is a regional artist.
      • In the Prairie Public Broadbcasting (PPB) video clip he talks about how he, as an artist, was influenced by his experiences growing up.
      • There is a Walter Piehl learning poster with the Plains Art Museum.
      • There is a video clip by PPB that shows Piehl working on his paintings.
      • There may by an example of Piehl’s art in a nearby community.
    4. Ask “What do you see in Piehl’s painting? What do you notice about the brush strokes and the color? How does Piehl use the elements of art in his paintings? What kinds of line do you see? What kinds of shapes do you see?”
    5. Show the PPB video on Walter Piehl Jr. Pause the video to talk about how Piehl decides to paint horses and rodeo themes.

    Learning Activities

    Lesson One: Drawing and Painting
    1. Teach the students how to draw a horse standing up straight. Direct the students to practice sketching a standing horse.
    2. Teach the students how to draw a horse in motion. Direct the students to practice sketching horses in motion. Students should have at least three sketches before working on a big sheet of paper. Tell the students “Do not worry about the details. When you begin painting you will lose the details.”
    3. Direct the students to sketch a horse on a piece of large white paper. The roll paper for bulletin boards works well for this part of the lesson.
    4. Direct the students to outline the sketch with black paint. After the black paint is dry direct the students to start adding oil pastels using lots of color.
    5. Direct the students to complete the painting with tempera paint. State “Use a bold brush stroke and splatter. Decide when to stop before too much paint has been added to the picture.”
    Lesson Two – Writing Haiku
    1. Watch the Prairie Public video of cowboy poet Shadd Piehl and his band to get students thinking about horses, rodeos and living the life of a rancher.
    2. Provide examples of Haiku poetry for the students to listen to and discuss.
    3. Ask “What would it be like to be a cowboy/cowgirl on a bucking bronco? What would it feel like to be up in the air or under a horse’s feet?”
    4. Direct the students to follow a writing process while creating a Haiku poem.