Taking part in an auction

  • Age group:
    Students ages 10 to 11
  • When:
    Any time
  • Time required:
    5 hours 15 minutes

Areas of learning: None

Financial and skills

  • Understanding the principle of supply and demand
  • Determining the cost of goods and services

Activity summary

Students examine and appreciate famous works of art. They learn about the law of supply and demand and the types of auctions. Students take part in an auction of famous paintings and then discover their actual value. Finally, they express their opinions of the pieces and discuss the prices.

Teachers can go a step further by encouraging students to act as painters and create works in the styles of well-known artists. They then proceed to auction off their works to raise money for a school activity.


Table of disciplinary and non-disciplinary competencies

Disciplinary competencies taught

Disciplines Competency Learning progression
Visual arts Appreciate works of art
  • Justify one's point of view based on observations.
  • Write a variety of texts
  • Communicate orally
  • Use all writing techniques taught thus far.
  • Progressively organize one's thoughts during spontaneous expression and know how to string ideas together.
  • Participate in discussions according to the formula and intervene wisely.
Mathematics Reason using math concepts and processes
  • Determine numerical equivalencies using the relationship between operations.
  • Use natural numbers under $1,000,000.

Non-disciplinary competencies

  • Exercising critical thinking skills (evaluation portion)
  • Communicating properly


Students become familiar with works of art and learn about the law of supply and demand and the auction process.

Task 1 objective

At the end of this step, students will have had the opportunity to become familiar with works of art and to explain their opinions of pieces.


  • Time required
    45 minutes
  1. Explore the students' knowledge of the art world.
  2. Examine works of art.
  3. Ask the students to express aloud their opinions of the pieces shown.
  4. Speak to the students about their opinions and compare opinions of the same piece.

Teacher's notes

  • Ask the students whether they have ever visited a gallery and whether they can name the pieces and artists they know.
  • Here are 3 possible ways to examine art:
    • Visit an art museum
    • Visit a virtual exhibition (go to the Œuvres d'art website (in French only))
    • Classroom activity using art reproductions
  • When a piece is presented, ask the students to describe what they see (technique, colours, shapes, lines, etc.). Ask the students to say what they like or dislike about the work (colours, subject, style, etc.). This step will help them appreciate art by themselves later on.
  • Visual arts training programs in Quebec and Ontario can help with vocabulary and aspects that should be appreciated.

Task 2 objective

At the end of this task, students will be acquainted with 1 of the foundations of the economic system: the principle of supply and demand.


  1. Hand out the Supply and Demand sheet to the students.
  2. Read the introduction with them and ask 2 question: Do you think the first florist will always be able to sell the flowers at a high price? Why? Read the explanation with the students.
  3. Read the exercise with the students and ask them to answer the question.
  4. Ask the students to give examples of product prices that are set according to supply and demand.
  5. Watch the video that explains the principle of supply and demand to reinforce their knowledge.

Teacher's notes

  • Examples of products subject to the law of supply and demand: vegetables (the harder it is to get them, the more expensive the price), and clothing at the beginning and end of the season (less demand at the end of the season).
  • See the scenario answers for further explanations.

Task 3 objective

At the end of this task, students will be familiar with the basic procedure for auctions.


  • Time required
    45 minutes
  1. Ask the students what they know about auctions.
  2. Tell the students that are different types of auctions. Focus on the most common 2—sealed-bid auctions and open ascending price auctions, in which the item goes to the highest bidder.
  3. Draw a connection between auctions and the supply and demand principle: the more an object is desired, the more it sells for.

Teacher's notes

  • Sealed-bid auction: Each bidder writes down the price they want to pay for an item and places it in an envelope that is then sealed. At the end of the auction, the envelopes are opened, and the item is given the highest bidder. (Note: this procedure is used for tendering.)
  • Open ascending price auction: The auctioneer sets a starting price. People who are interested in the object take turns placing higher bids in keeping with the minimum outbid amount (e.g., the next bid must be at least $10 higher than the previous one). When there are no more bids, the item goes to the last bidder. It's easy to find clips of this type of auction online to show students. These auctions are widely used for livestock, art and antique sales. The film The Red Violin is a good example.
    Watch a video of an art auction.


Students purchase paintings at an auction and comply with quantity and budget constraints.

All the documents you need to carry out this activity are in the right-hand column under Useful links.

Task 1: Take part in an auction

Task 1 objective

At the end of this task, students will be able to make bids on works of art based on their budgets by participating in a classroom auction.


  1. Form teams of 4 students using the sociogram. Determine each student's budget and minimum numbers of paintings they must purchase.
  2. Distribute the Auctioning sheet and a number to each team.
  3. Present the famous works of art suggested on the sheet using the interactive whiteboard or a projector.
  4. Hold an open ascending price auction.
  5. When the auction is finished, review the students' experience.
  6. Display a list of the most expensive pieces sold at auction. Ask the students to estimate the prices of these paintings. Then show the prices paid at auction.
  7. Take note of the students' reactions to the prices.

Teacher's notes

  • Images of famous works of art are available online. Simply type keywords related to the title or the artist in a search engine to find them.
  • To proceed with the auction: For each painting, randomly set a starting price between $1,000 and $5,000. Tell the students that the minimum amount for overbids is $500. Set constraints such as a budget of $10,000 for each team and a minimum of 2 paintings that must be bought. The painting goes to the team that made the highest bid. Next to the name of the sold painting, record the number of the winning team and the price paid, or print the works and give a copy to the winning team with the price paid written on the back. Repeat these steps until all the paintings have been sold.
  • If conflicts arise at any time during the auction, you can temporarily halt the auction and perform an activity that tests 8 conflict resolution strategies. See page 6 of the cooperative learning guide to learn more.
  • Suggested questions for students: Did you adhere to the constraints? Was it easy to buy with a limited budget? Did you enjoy taking part in the auction? Were you able to purchase all the works you wanted? Why or why not? Do you really like the paintings you ended up buying?
  • Explain to the students that artists often become famous after their death. They were not rich when they lived and did not receive the money paid for their paintings. A good example is Vincent Van Gogh, whose work was “known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still… By the mid-20th century Van Gogh was seen as one of the greatest and most recognizable painters in history.”1
  • To continue the activity, show the students the movie Vincent and Me in which the sketch of a young girl from Quebec is purchased for a high price because it is sold as an unknown work by Van Gogh.

1. Source: Vincent van Gogh, Wikipedia.[Back]


Students give their opinions of works of art.

Task 1: Give your opinion

Task 1 objective

At the end of this task, you will be able to assess the students' ability to give their opinions of works of art.


  1. Have the students write a 1-page text stating their opinion of 1 work of art.
  2. Give them time to write their texts using the Appreciating Works of Art sheet.
  3. Collect the copies and correct them. This exercise can also be used to assess their writing.

Teacher's notes

  • Answering 1 or 2 of these suggested questions can help students write their texts about the paintings used for the auction:
    • Which work of art was your favourite and why (art appreciation criteria)?
    • Which work of art do you like the least? Why?
    • What do you think of the prices paid for some of the art?
    • What do you think of the fact that artists rarely become famous while they are alive?


Students organize an art exhibition and hold an auction.

  • Time required
    Varies depending on the project


  1. Have students create paintings in the style of the artist of their choice or an assigned artist.
  2. Organize an exhibition of their work. Invite other students from the school and their parents.
  3. Ask parents to take part in a fundraising auction of the students' work.

Teacher's notes

In this case, the students must learn (during visual arts classes) some of the techniques the artists used.