17 Locations and Landscapes: Travel in the Museum

Chantelle Warner

Red Road in Arizona, Burhan Dogançay (1965) © Estate of Burhan Dogançay




description ⧫ adjectives ⧫ travel ⧫ landscapes ⧫ geography


This multi-day lesson builds on a familiar thematic unit in many language-culture curricula–travel–curricula, by inviting students to imagine travel  artistic renderings of spaces and places and by engaging them with a related genre, the travel guide (Reiseführer). On day 1, students are introduced to the genre of travel guide and more specifically to the individual blurbs contained within, which highlight a particular place one might want to visit, in this case focussing on art museums, mural collections, statue gardens, or other places featuring artworks that convey something about the identity of the location, its history, or its inhabitants. They are then asked to analyze and reflect on the linguistic and visual design choices that make up these texts, based on models provided to them. This expanded set of resources then supports them in the final task on day three.

On Day 2 students will go to a local museum or artistic locale, featuring place-based works of art. For example, the sample lesson was originally developed for students in Tucson and on the second day students visited the University of Arizona Museum of Art. In some semesters, students were able to view an exhibit of relevance to the lesson, such as The Myth and the Mirror. In other semesters, students chose from regular works of the collection, which included depictions of Arizona’s and Germany’s landscapes. In small groups, students select one artwork to focus on, before completing a series of tasks that invite them to first imagine the depicted landscape as a place they might visit and then to describe the place to an imagined reader, emphasizing the feelings it evokes in them. Although the lesson uses Arizona and Tucson as examples, the lesson could easily be modified to work in a different location.

Finally, on Day 3, students draw from the repertoire of meaning making resources they have gathered over the first two days of the lesson to design a travel guide blurb for the place they have visited, which highlights the work of art they chose. Through this final task, students are put in the role of authors and cultural mediators, who have to consider what aspects of local spaces might be interesting and worthwhile.

Learning objectives:

  • Can read short, coherent travel brochures and write independently.
  • Can recognize and compare the geographical and climatic differences between Germany and Arizona (or a different location);
  • Can summarize relevant information of a location, e.g., scenery, climate, tourist attractions;
  • Can, with the aid of functional texts and visual arts, reflect on typical travel destinations and their cultural implications.

DAY 1: Read and analyze the travel guide 

Conceptualizing Travel Guides

This first set of activities is designed to (re-)familiarize learners with the genre of travel guide, by asking them to reflect on the function and typical content of these texts. The questions that follow can be discussed first in small groups and then as a whole class. Among the typical answers that students have for the last question, travel guides, travel web sites, and travel blogs often come up, which provides a segue into the genre focus. The sample texts then offer two models: a video blog travel guide and a travel web site.   

Our current topic is “Travel.” Think for a moment…

  • Where do people travel to, for example on a trip? Which local places do people typically visit when in a new country or new city?
  • What is the most important information that one needs to plan a trip?
  • Where can one find this information?

Experiencing Travel Guides

We will now watch a video from the YouTube channel of the travelers (possibly show this Website https://www.thetravellers.world/story/). These are Cengiz and Thomas, two friends that love to travel. In their videos, they introduce the cities they visit in about 5 minutes. In 2018 they were in Los Angeles.

Brainstorm: What do you expect from the Travelguide-Video about Los Angeles? What stands out about this destination?

Now watch the video. As you watch the video, fill in the table below with the appropriate information.

Students will likely complete the table individually, while viewing the film.They can then be given time to compare answers with a partner first or the class can move to a whole class discussion. By comparing what they noticed, the students can collaboratively piece together what they heard and in so doing begin to create a list of words that might serve them in the creation of their own travel guide blurbs. This should thus be treated less as a comprehension task and more as an active viewing activity.

First viewing Second viewing 
What do you see? Which locations, persons, activities, etc., do you see in the pictures? Which words do Cengiz and Thomas use to describe these locations, people, persons, activities? Make a list.










In the video, Thomas and Cengiz visit the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. Have you been to these places before?

Analyzing Travel Guides

We will now read an online travel guide listing of the Getty Center and the Getty Villa.

If this kind of visual analysis activity is new to your students, it can be helpful to analyze this site as part of a guided whole-class activity. If your students are more familiar with this and/or you have a larger class, students can discuss these questions first in groups. As before, the main goal is not comprehension; instead students are being guided to analyze this particular example, such that they can further their conceptualization of the genre. 

Link: https://usareisetipps.com/getty-center-getty-villa/

Look at the websites and answer the questions.

  • How is the layout of the website?
  • Which colors are dominant? Are there other symbols or visual elements?
  • What do you look at first? Which elements attract you?
  • What role does the picture have? What do you see in the pictures? What is represented?
  • What role does the language have? What is the sentence structure? Short or long sentences? Are there adjectives? Which persons, things or places are mentioned? How are they described? Which information is mentioned? Gather this information in the table.
Thing/Person/Place Adjectives Information





  • What do you still want to know? Which information is missing?

The final activity for the first day could be done as a homework assignment OR, if time allows, in class with partners. The purpose of this activity is to zoom in on one element found in travel guides, while also engaging students in a descriptive activity that allows them to use some of the language they have encountered during this unit.

Choose a picture from the website or another picture from the Getty Center or the Getty Villa from the internet. Imagine you are working for the website USA Travel-Tips and it is your job to write the captions for the images i.e., the image captions. Write a short caption of 2-3 sentences. What do you want transmitted to the reader about this place? How do you do that?

After students complete their captions, these can be shared with the class and other students can respond to the texts of their classmates. 

Do you find the caption helpful? Compelling? Do you want to see and learn more about this place?

DAY 2: In the Museum

Conceptualizing Local Geographies 

The opening activities here were designed as a review from the first day, but could be adapted as part of that same lesson or as an activity to take place before the first day of this module. In addition to a vocabulary review, the brainstorm pushes students to think about what geographical elements are associated with different places. Although this is a descriptive activity, it also asks them to reflect on how people who do not live there might conceptualize the place that they live and how they in turn conceptualize Germany.  

Thought-Exchange-Discussion: What distinguishes a place? Brainstorm and fill in the table.

Which landscapes and geographical features are typical for Germany?

Which adjectives does one use to describe this place?

Which landscapes and geographical features are typical for Arizona?

Which adjectives does one use to describe this place?









Compare your answers with the answers of your classmates.

Analyzing Conceptualizations of Local Geographies 

The participants are now divided into groups of two. Group A takes Germany and Group B takes Arizona.

Look at the appropriate website. Which sceneries and geographical features do you find in the text? Which adjectives do you find in the text? Make a list. Compare the words from the website and your list of associations. Which similarities do you see? What are the differences? Which version is positive/negative/compelling/boring/etc. for most people?

Germany: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/de/leben-in-deutschland/deutschland-kennenlernen/reiseland-deutschland

USA (Arizona): https://www.usatipps.de/bundesstaaten/suedwesten/arizona/

Group A: Germany (German Federal Government)  Group B: Arizona (USA Tips)

Who is the website for? Who profits from the website and how?

Experiencing Images of Landscapes in Works of Art

The next activities were designed for the gallery, but these could be adapted to a virtual art exhibit. Students first select a work that speaks to them and imagine themselves within the image. The intention is that students move beyond the purely concrete, distanced style of description often seen in textbooks and towards more detailed, multisensory descriptions (compare “I am…”), as they consider the artworks as aesthetic objects. Originally this was done in small groups to expedite the image response to the design of the travel guide entry; however, this can be done individually, by adding an additional step where groups are formed and each group must select from the different images selected by the members. 

Look at the pictures in the exhibition and choose your favorite picture. Imagine you are standing in the landscape/city in the picture. Reflect on the following questions:

  • What do you smell?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you feel? How cold/warm is it?
  • What do you see? What is in front of you, behind you, next to you, to your left, to your right?
  • Which other people are there? What do they look like? What are they doing?

Use the table for your notes.


My picture ________________________________ (Title/Artist)

What I see  What I hear What I smell 




Find a partner from another group and verbally describe what you feel, see, smell etc. in your picture.

Together with your group, write a brief description of the picture (without the title and artist). Try to express the emotions and feelings.

Exchange the descriptions with another group. Try to find the picture that fits that description. What effect does the picture have on you? Do you think the description is accurate?

DAY 3: Your Travel Guide 

The final day is devoted to getting students ready to create their own travel guide entries. Each of the activities builds towards the kinds of design choices students will need to make for this final redesign task. This includes the initial warm-up activity, which asks them to reflect on the museum, while also gathering resources to describe it in their texts. Students can even be prompted to take pictures of videos on the previous day OR they can return to do this as needed. Do make sure that you clarify the rules the museum has around photography and video-taping beforehand. The art museum can also easily be replaced by other locations, as needed. An advantage of asking students to write about a place they have just experienced is that they have the opportunity to engage in a more embodied, less abstract form of description – as is often included in more personal travel guides. 

Reflection on the Gallery Visit

How was it in the Museum yesterday? What does the Art Museum look like? How does it smell? What does one hear in the museum?

Designing a Travel Guide Entry

In class we have seen and analyzed examples from online travel guides – a video and a website.

Imagine you are working for an online travel guide and your team has the task of writing an entry about the Art Museum (length: ~ 300 words). Your travel guide entry should include 2-4 pictures. One of the pictures must be artwork from the museum (the one you already described in class). Integrate the pictures with the text and create a layout.

Reflect on the following questions:

  • Which pictures do you use and why? Which role do the pictures play?
  • Do the pictures have captions? How are the pictures related to the language?
  • Which other design elements are you using for your entry?

In your text, answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think it would be interesting for German tourists in Tucson to visit the museum?
  • Which important information do they need? What should they know about the museum?
  • Why is this artwork special? Why do German guests definitely want to see? E.g., What is the atmosphere? Emotions, etc.? Which aspects of Arizona are represented?

If time allows, students can share their entries with the class on or after the due date. The class as a whole can be prompted to compare and contrast the various versions, drawing from the kinds of questions already asked in these lessons, and even to vote on the best entry in the role of an editorial board.


Share This Book