I Hear What You’re Saying

Lesson Plan


Students will practice sharing a personal thought or idea by listening and speaking to each other.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 45 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • discuss ¿Being Home? and the inspiration behind it;
  • share a word that is important to them through writing and speaking;
  • learn techniques to listen and speak thoughtfully to another student; and
  • represent their thoughts about a word by creating a visual representation.


  1. Show the image of ¿Being Home? and the video ¿Being Home? Installation at DAM by Rupprecht Matthies 2011, also located in the "Teaching Resources" section of the ¿Being Home? object page.
  2. Ask students to discuss how this installation allowed people to share a personal thought or idea by listening and speaking to each other.
  3. Pose the following questions to students to help them identify a word that has personal meaning to them.
    • What surprises you about school?
    • What did you leave behind from last year or the summer?
    • What word stays in your mind from your home?
    • Is there a word that describes a wish you have for this year?
  1. Using their answers to the questions, students will choose a word that has personal meaning to them and draw that word in bubble letters on white paper or in a journal. Instruct them to use markers to fill in the word with images that connect with the meaning of the word.
  2. Model steps for effective speaking and listening. Explain that the listener's job is to:
    • Listen while keeping their eyes and body parts still
    • Paraphrase back to the speaker what was said
    • Ask a question that clarifies something the speaker said

    The speaker’s job is to:

    • Speak clearly and with appropriate emotion
    • Listen to the paraphrasing statement
    • Respond to the listener's question and offer clarification
  1. Ask students to pair up and share their words with each other using the techniques you modeled. Walk around the classroom and observe the students as they interact. This can be repeated again with different pairs of students.



CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Research and Reasoning
    • Writing and Composition
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

¿Being Home?

¿Being Home?


Rupprecht Matthies

Who Made It?

Rupprecht Matthies was born in 1959 in Hamburg, Germany, where he lives and works today. His university studies in sociology continue to inform his installations and works of public art, which are often created in collaboration with various community groups and individuals. Matthies often turns language, text, and words gathered from his creative exchanges with his collaborators into sculptures, paintings, and installations. In turn, the words that fuel the creation of his art also spark conversations and exchanges among viewers of his artwork.

What Inspired It?

Matthies often looks to community groups for inspiration, often involving many other individuals in the creation and execution of his work. Matthies encourages participants to lend their own creativity to his process, and feels that the more individuals contribute, the richer his final product will be.

To make ¿Being Home?, Rupprecht Matthies held workshops with newly arrived refugees from around the world, asking them to share the stories of their experiences resettling in Denver.

He asked them:

  1. What surprised you about the United States?
  2. What did you leave behind?
  3. What English word stays in your thoughts?
  4. Is there a word in your own language that you miss?

In response to these questions, Matthies’ collaborators shared personal histories, stories, and anecdotes of a range of human experiences. Through conversation and discussions, Matthies and his collaborators distilled these rich stories into single words. A farmer from Bhutan who is having a difficult time finding work in Denver chose the word “cardamom,” the crop he used to grow in Bhutan. A child from Tanzania who had come to love American food chose the word “hamburger.” A young man from Iraq who missed swimming in the river near his former home submitted the word “river” in Arabic. Hundreds of words were submitted, each telling part of a larger story of loss, hope, past and future.

From these discussions, Matthies gathered words in many languages: Karenni, Nepali, Swahili, Amharic and many others. In turn, he carved these words in wood, Plexiglas, and foam. Finally, he incorporated each word sculpture into his installation, which he began to see as a ‘landscape of words.’ Words carved in styrofoam float near the ceiling of his installation as word clouds; smaller words carved in Plexiglas and hung as mobiles created a sky of words; tall words carved in wood and installed in a cluster became a grove of word trees.


Juxtaposition of Words
Juxtaposition of Words

Often two words hung near one another will suddenly combine to evoke a new concept. As one walks around the installation, new meanings emerge.

Multiple Materials
Multiple Materials

Matthies used wood, Plexiglas, Styrofoam, and soft foam covered in fabric to create all of the words in the installation. Matthies invited many volunteers to cover the soft-foam words in fabric. He felt that the more creative minds were involved in the process, the richer the final product would be.

Paper Words
Paper Words

Visitors to the space can cut their own word out of construction paper and add it to Matthies’ installation.

Multiple Languages
Multiple Languages

Matthies asked refugees new to Denver who were from all over the world to contribute words. You’ll find words in Arabic, Karenni, Nepali, English, French, and Spanish, among others.


Matthies purposefully chose multiple bright colors for his installation which gives the space a warm, inviting feel.


A glossary of words was created so that visitors can find the English translation of any particular word in the installation. “Translation” labels were added to the soft pillows as well.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.