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Weatherbeaten by Winslow Homer (1894)

Winslow Homer
Weatherbeaten, 1894

Ocean Experiences

Language Arts Lesson

Students will be able to:

  • Describe and interpret Winslow Homer’s Weatherbeaten.
  • Express their ideas, observations, and memories inspired by Weatherbeaten orally and in writing.
  • Use descriptive vocabulary in speaking and writing.
  • Work collaboratively to create a role-play that imagines how different people would react to Weatherbeaten and the meaning they find in it.


Teacher Reflection 1

Introduction to Weatherbeaten (two or three 45-minute classes)

  • Display the image of Weatherbeaten for the class. Using the Looking to Learn essay, provide the students with information about Homer’s life and career. Explain that he spent the last 27 years of his life living in Prouts Neck, Maine (have the students locate Prouts Neck on a map) and that this coastal location allowed him to carefully study the ocean, which became his most important subject matter.
  • As a class, begin a discussion about Weatherbeaten. Have the students be specific about what they see in the painting that helps them answer these questions.
    • What do you see?
    • What is happening in this picture?
    • What time of day is it?
    • What season is it?
    • What is the weather like?
    • Why are there no people present?
    • How does the work make them feel?

Teacher Reflection 2

  • Divide the students into small groups and have them brainstorm a list of adjectives that describe Weatherbeaten and Winslow Homer. These word lists will be helpful for them as they continue to write and reflect on the painting.
  • Once the students have discussed the work, ask them to write in their journals. Students will write three different reflections:
    • Have them choose two questions to answer from the Weatherbeaten Questions sheet
    • Have them describe their own experiences with the ocean. If they have not been to the ocean, ask them to imagine what they think it would be like to be in Weatherbeaten. Have them explore their personal memories and feelings as well as reflecting on the class discussion and what they have learned about Homer.
    • Ask them to consider why they think Homer painted Weatherbeaten.
  • Have students select one of their reflective writing pieces about Weatherbeaten and refine it into a more polished and complete piece of writing. When students have completed their final work, divide the class into pairs, and use the Peer review—Writing scoring guide to have them discuss and assess each other’s work.

Teacher Reflection 3

Role-play local and tourist reactions to Weatherbeaten (two or three 45-minute classes)

  • Explain to the students that they will be participating in a role-playing game. Working in pairs or small groups, students will imagine how local Maine residents, fishermen who work the seas, and tourists feel about the ocean and the view in Weatherbeaten.
  • Have one student imagine being a fisherman or fisherwoman who lives on Prouts Neck and fishes in this ocean to make a living. Have the other student imagine being a tourist from another state who is visiting the coast of Maine and who is seeing the ocean for the first time.

Teacher Reflection 4

  • It is interesting for the students to note that Homer had a great respect and admiration for the local Maine fishermen and women who worked in the harsh ocean conditions to support themselves. He did not, however, have this same interest and admiration in the tourists who came to visit the coast in the summertime.
  • Read The Summerfolk by Doris Burn, a story about tensions between local residents and tourists in a town.
  • Give the students time to think about this painting from the new perspective of the person they are pretending to be, writing some ideas in their journals. When the teams feel ready, set the scene. They are a fisherman and a tourist standing on the rocks at Prouts Neck, in the scene portrayed in Weatherbeaten. The fisherman and the tourist are having a discussion about this scene, describing for each other what they see and feel.
    • Students should consider the differences and similarities, the fisherman sees the ocean every day, but this is the tourist’s first time at the ocean. The fisherman has to work in the often-harsh weather conditions to make a living, but the tourist is just visiting for a short while.
    • How would each person feel about going out in a boat into this scene?
    • How does each person feel about the ocean? Here there may be some similarities about appreciating the power and beauty of nature.
    • Encourage students to have a dialogue and ask each other questions about what they see and how they feel about it.
  • Once students have completed their role-playing, invite a few pairs to come up and recreate their discussions for the class. As a class, explore how they felt about the work personally and how that changed as they pretended to be the fisherman and/or the tourist.
  • To extend the activity, you can have the students write a short story from the viewpoint of the fisherman or the tourist who is describing and interpreting what they see in Weatherbeaten.

Teacher Reflection 5

Field trip to see Weatherbeaten

  • Seeing the original work of art is crucial to really understand and appreciate the work. If you are able, schedule a field trip to the Portland Museum of Art to see Weatherbeaten in the PMA’s Winslow Homer Gallery.
  • Back in the classroom, use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the reproduction to the original work.


  • Student journals
  • Props for role-play

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