Exquisite Corpse Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

While your students may not know it as an exquisite corpse, the fact is that your students can actually use the techniques of this surrealist approach to create impressive works of art and poetry.

Lesson Objectives

After completing this lesson, your students will be able to complete the following:

  • Describe what an exquisite corpse is
  • Create exquisite corpses in art and poetry
  • Analyze what the role of the exquisite corpse is with respect to surrealism


60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)


Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.


Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)


  • Copies of surrealist art work
  • Paper and art supplies

Key Vocabulary

  • Surrealism
  • Exquisite Corpse

Instructions and Activities

  • Start the lesson by asking students if they ever played Telephone as a child. How did the message change over time?
  • Discuss this for a few seconds and introduce the topic of Exquisite Corpse, distributing copies of the lesson Exquisite Corpse in Surrealist Drawing & Poetry. Read the lesson, pausing after each section for the following points of understanding and activities:
    • Surrealism - Have students name examples of surrealist painters that they have studied. If they haven't studied any, show them the images of surrealist work.
    • The Exquisite Corpse - Remind students that corpse has a double meaning in French. Not only does it mean dead body, but it also means body.
    • Creating Poetry - Divide your class into groups of 4 students. Give each a template of parts of speech for a poem. (Examples include adjective-noun-verb-prepositional phrase; adverb-noun-verb-adverb; Adjective-noun-verb-adjective-noun, as well as the ones mentioned in the lesson). Give them 10 minutes to write their own poetry.
    • Creating Art - Fold a piece of paper into quarters. Let each member of the group draw something in a quarter, with only the previous person's quarter visible.
  • Pause after the lesson summary answering any questions and ensure understanding.


  • What makes an exquisite corpse a useful tool for engaging the subconscious?
  • How did the scientific circumstances of 20th century Europe encourage the use of the exquisite corpse in art and literature?


  • Research examples of exquisite corpses in art and literature.
  • Examine how the same principles of an exquisite corpse might be used in psychology?

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