Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling? lesson plan

Who is she and why is she smiling? Delve into this art question as students paint their interpretation of the Mona Lisa.

  • 1.

    Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most well know paintings in the world. It has also been the source of many interpretations as to who is in the portrait and what the mysterious smile on her face represents. The painting has been stolen and recovered, admired and debated. Encourage a discussion with the class. What are their interpretations of this art icon? Think of serious or whimsical; classical or modern responses. Be creative.

  • 2.

    Ask each student to come up with their own reason for the famous smile. What happened before the portrait? Where was she headed after it was complete?

  • 3.

    Use a colored pencil to sketch the Mona Lisa on a piece of construction paper. Add props in her hands and add details in the background to help illustrate why the mysterious smile is there.

  • 4.

    Paint the portrait with Crayola® Washable Kid’s Paints. Use a variety of techniques to create the masterpiece. Vary the painted lines width by pressing down harder during the middle of a brush stroke to create a "thick and thin" effect. Try a hard-edge style of painting by using a flat watercolor brush loaded with paint to create even strokes and to build up an even bead (thick edge) around the color. To keep colors from blending, allow an area to dry before applying wet paint to adjacent areas.


  • Students locate resources about the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Students analyze the research data and create interpretations surrounding the content of the painting.
  • Students employ a variety of painting techniques to reproduce the Mona Lisa with variations to reflect their interpretations.


  • Add a story to your painting. Write a journal entry as if you are the Mona Lisa on the day the painting was made. Describe what happened that led up to the sitting for the painting and where you were headed when it was complete.
  • Read books about Leonardo da Vinci. He was much more than a painter! Find out more about this Renaissance man.
  • The Mona Lisa is currently housed in the Louvre in Paris, France. What other famous works art are housed there? Take a virtual tour of this museum.