Ben Shahn Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about artist Ben Shahn with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson that gives a biography of Shahn and explains his style and technique. Guide students with analyses of his works, then apply learning to an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • provide a biography of artist Ben Shahn
  • describe and analyze Ben Shahn's work


1 hour for the lesson plus time for application


Key Vocabulary

  • Ben Shahn
  • Lithograph
  • Lithographer
  • Social Realism
  • Gouache
  • Fresco

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Warm Up and Preparation

  • Divide students into small groups and have them brainstorm social issues facing immigrants, the working class or the poor.
  • After five or ten minutes, allow student groups to share their answers and discuss:
    • What issues are these groups facing today?
    • What is being done to support or elevate the plight of these groups?
    • How can artists contribute help and aide to these groups?
  • Give each group an image of a piece by Ben Shahn in which he tackled social issues.
  • Instruct groups to discuss the content, attempting to identify Shahn's purpose, audience and message.
  • Tell students these pieces are by artist Ben Shahn. Have groups share their image and summarize their conversations and allow students to share prior experiences and understandings.

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