Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Why Is She Smiling?

Cathy Burgess
Bay District Schools


This lesson provides students with the understanding of the historical period of the Renaissance, and the great scientist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, including his famous painting of the Mona Lisa.


The student makes a plan before writing the first draft.

The student knows significant aspects of the lives and accomplishments of selected scientists and inventors in the historical period since the Renaissance.


-Picture of Leonardo da Vinci
-Picture of his drawings for the toilet, flying machine
-Picture of Mona Lisa
-Blank Portrait page from- Really Good Stuff - or plain white paper
-Glue stick
-Construction paper 11x14
-Suggested books on Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa:
- Hart & Hellerd, [Famous Children Leonardo da Vinci], 1994, Barron Educational Series, ISBN: 0812018281
- Mayhem, [Katie and the Mona Lisa], 1995, Orchard Books, ISBN: 053130177X


1. Gather books and pictures
2. Run off copies of the portrait page
3. Make sure writing paper and pencils are readily available
4. Get construction paper and glue stick


Day 1
1. Introduce this lesson by showing a picture of Leonardo da Vinci. Ask if anyone knows who he is. Tell them he was a scientist, inventor, and artist. Show his drawing of the flying machine, toilet and discuss that he did not invent them, but rather he had these ideas about 500 years ago long before we had the technology to produce them. Leonardo was very talented. Talented means the natural ability to do many things easily. He lived during the period of time called the Renaissance. Renaissance means a time of rebirth when a great amount of change happened in Europe. Read and discuss [Famous Children Leonardo da Vinci]. This book talks about the Mona Lisa and why she is so famous, so lead into a discussion on that.

2. Now that the children know who he is, read [Katie and the Mona Lisa] by Mayhem. This is a cute story about Katie who convinces the Mona Lisa to come out of the portrait and leaves the reader wondering why she is

3. Next, give the children their writing assignment. They are to answer the question: Why Is She Smiling? Share the rubric with the students.

a. Make a web that includes the title Why Is She Smiling? in the center of the circle with five lines around it (on a separate piece of paper) that has:
b. A beginning sentence
c. 3 details or more
d. an ending sentence

After the plan is made, the students are ready to write it in paragraph form or the first draft. We call it a sloppy copy. The final completed page with no mistakes is called the neat sheet.

Day 2
1. Review Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance, and the Mona Lisa from Day 1. Discuss who and what they are. Go back over the rubric for Why Is She Smiling? for students who have not finished. Assess where individual students are.

2. When the students have completed the writing assignment, they are to draw a portrait of themselves smiling. First draw it in pencil, then add color.

3. Attach the writing assignment Why Is She Smiling? and the self portraits to an 11 x 14 piece of construction paper so that they are side by side. Then display them in the room.


A formative assessment will be done by the teacher during Day 1 activities, 1&2 during the discussion on the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Mona Lisa to make sure all students have an understanding of who and what they are and their importance. Also a formative assessment on the review for day 2 will be done.

A summative assessment will be done on the writing assignment Why Is She Smiling?
Use the rubric found in the Associated File.


One extension to this lesson would be to cover map skills on Italy and Europe.

Web Links

Web supplement for Why Is She Smiling?
Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Web supplement for Why Is She Smiling?
Welcome to Exploring Leonardo

Web supplement for Why Is She Smiling?
Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Web supplement for Why Is She Smiling?
Renaissance Man

Attached Files

A rubric.     File Extension: pdf

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