Introduce the idea that some artists create scenes that are imaginary, but seem very real. Look at a genre painting (a scene from everyday life) together. What helps you understand the people in the image? (Body position, clothing, jewelry, and other attributes, facial expression, etc.)
Students select one person or character in the scene and to pretend that he/she were that person. Put yourself in that character’s head and imagine what he or she was thinking or saying. Each student receives a small clipboard with a pencil and ½ sheet of paper with a thought bubble on one side and a conversation bubble on the other. Participants write a thought or statement that this character might make on the sheet on the appropriate side. Tell students to be prepared to explain what they saw in the work of art that supported this thought or statement.
After everyone’s finished, students share their ideas with a partner; ask for volunteers to share their thought or statement. If it’s not clear what he relationship between the figure and the thought or statement is, ask the student what in the work suggested that to him/her. Before going on to another figure in the painting, ask for other thoughts or statements that people recorded for this figure. Acknowledge similarities and differences between the ideas being presented, and how facial expressions, body position, etc. can be interpreted in different ways.