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Van Gogh's
Family Tree


Subject:Language Arts
Grade:3-5, 6-8

Brief Description
Students interpret clues referring to a word's sound and definition to learn new vocabulary words.


Students practice spelling while learning the meanings of new vocabulary words.


spelling, vocabulary

Materials Needed

  • pencils and paper
  • a dictionary (optional)

Lesson Plan

Introduce students to the life and art of Vincent van Gogh. You might read a biography from the school library, or you might share one of the following resources:

After sharing the life and work of van Gogh, it's time to have some fun with his name. This language activity will challenge students to think critically to figure out the name of each of van Gogh's fictional relatives described by a clue you will provide. For example, if you share the clue
  • The cousin from Illinois, students might respond Chica Gogh [Chicago];
  • The Mexican cousin, students might respond Amy go [amigo]...

When students have the idea, supply the the following list of clues. You might write them on the board, a sheet of chart paper, a transparency, or a work sheet. You might allow students to work in pairs to complete this activity that is sure to challenge them!

  • Vincent van Gogh's dizzy aunt
  • The brother who ate prunes
  • The brother who worked at a convenience store
  • The brother who bleached his clothes white
  • His magician uncle
  • The nephew who drove a stage coach
  • The ballroom-dancing aunt
  • The bird-lover uncle
  • His nephew psychoanalyst
  • The fruit-loving cousin
  • An aunt who taught positive thinking
  • The little bouncy nephew
  • A sister who loved disco
  • His niece who travels the country in a van

Following are the van Gogh relatives for each of the clues above:

  • His dizzy aunt: Verti Gogh
  • The brother who ate prunes: Gotta Gogh
  • The brother who worked at a convenience store: Stopn Gogh
  • The brother who bleached his clothes white: Hue Gogh
  • His magician uncle: Wherediddy Gogh
  • The nephew who drove a stage coach: Wellsfar Gogh
  • The ballroom-dancing aunt: Tan Gogh
  • The bird-lover uncle: Flamin Gogh
  • His nephew psychoanalyst: E Gogh
  • The fruit-loving cousin: Man Gogh
  • An aunt who taught positive thinking: Wayto Gogh
  • The little bouncy nephew: Poe Gogh
  • A sister who loved disco: Go Gogh
  • His niece who travels the country in a van: Winnie Bay Gogh

Evaluate students on their answers.

National Standards

Language Arts:

Originally published 01/22/2001
Last updated 05/26/2009