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Stolen Mona Lisa found

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By Teresa Saunders — Educational Consultant and Writer

Downloadable poster offering a fictional newspaper report on the recovery, in December 1913, of the famous Mona Lisa, stolen from the Louvre in Paris.


Background information

This poster is a fictional newspaper report on the recovery, in December 1913, of the famous Mona Lisa, stolen from the Louvre in Paris two years earlier. The text is best used with children who understand that newspaper stories relate to current affairs and who can recognise the main layout features and their purpose.

Shared teaching and learning

Before reading

  • What do the children know about Leonardo da Vinci? What else did he do apart from painting? (Inventor, mathematician, devised ‘mirror writing’.)
  • Hide the text and just show the Mona Lisa portrait. Discuss her facial expression. Is it hard to interpret her mood? Why?
  • Draw attention to the date. Work out how long ago this theft/recovery took place (almost 100 years ago; 400 years after da Vinci finished the painting).
  • Explain that the Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world. There is even a romantic popular song about the sitter (sung by Nat King Cole).

Shared reading

  • Display the poster and discuss its layout features: attention-grabbing headline; sub-headings to encourage readers to read on; a date, to put the report in context; its authorship ‘our Paris correspondent’ to add to authenticity/reliability. Explain how the media has correspondents in most world capitals.
  • Help with pronunciation of the French/Italian names, writing them phonetically – eg, Puh-ROOG-ee-ah Vin-CHEN-tzo.
  • Define unfamiliar words by relating them to more familiar, related words – eg, celebrated (celebrity) – famous; theft (thief) – robbery.

Listen… Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa (by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston) at

In 1950 the song was used in the movie Captain Carey, USA and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.


...more about the Mona Lisa in On-screen resource 1, where it features as an exhibit in the Dream Museum.


  • Read only the headline, subtitle and first sentence. Discuss how much of the story’s details these few words cover. All the most important facts are there.
  • After reading the poster, ask individuals to sum up the content and purpose of each paragraph.
    1. Describes events in sequence relating to the painting’s recovery.
    2. Provides background information that led to events in 1913, explaining its original disappearance.
    3. Bulks up the details about the thief, explaining how/why he acted as he did.
  • Discuss the art dealer’s response to being offered the portrait. How would they respond if invited to buy something they knew to be stolen? Would it make a difference if it were world-famous? Was he right to go to the police? If he had bought it, what then?
  • Underline emotive adjectives and descriptive phrases – eg, enigmatic, highly-prized (avoiding repetition of ‘valuable’), baffled, astonished.
  • Scan the text for informal or slang phrases and establish the meaning of a ‘tip-off’, ‘the coast (being) clear’, ‘pulling (something) off’. Discuss why this style of language befits a newspaper story. Will readers relate more readily to the story?
  • Highlight and define ‘immigrant’ and ‘employee’. Which words have similar roots but opposite meanings?
  • Point out how the figure (in Italian lire) can be read as ‘half a million’. Establish that ‘24 hours’ is ‘a day and a night’.

Group and independent activities

  • Create a glossary of difficult words, eg, enigmatic, alias, exhibit, scandal, international, suspicion, possession.
  • List words used for the Mona Lisa: its title, painting, masterpiece, exhibit.
  • Use the activity sheet below to create your own alias names and news story headlines.
  • Think of something world-famous that would be difficult to steal and even harder to sell. Improvise a conversation with a partner where they try to make a profit from their theft. Where would they meet? How would they feel?
  • Research da Vinci. What other drawings and paintings made him famous? (Eg, The Last Supper.)

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 2 through to Year 5, and to identify links with Year 3 and 4 Literacy Planning Units.


  • Watch some of the scenario conversations. Think up attention-grabbing headlines for their stories.
  • Role play Geri and/or Peruggia being interviewed by a press reporter for a contemporary TV news report.