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December 4, 2015

The Art of Short Story Writing

By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

     

    Writing is the painting of the voice –Voltaire

    The covers of my students’ writing notebooks are emblazoned with this quote. While crafting short stories, I encourage students to not only paint with their words, but to also step inside famous works of art to awaken characters, settings, and situations for their own stories. Here’s a creative writing idea that truly highlights the art of creative writing. 

    This lesson was inspired by the new Archibald Motley exhibition currently on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. As I strolled through the gallery on a recent Saturday afternoon, the multiple stories told on canvas by this twentieth-century Modernist made an impression on me. I could not stop wondering about the captivating individuals depicted in the paintings. I wondered about their identities, their lives, and their hopes and dreams. I conjured countless stories that afternoon in my mind to accompany the various paintings in the gallery. I knew then this would be a great way to spark short story ideas with my students. 

    Artful Resources

    First, I thought about the different works of art I would share with my students to inspire their short stories. From paintings to photography, there are so many different options you may consider using for this lesson. A number of museums even have extensive online collections that provide wonderful access to these different options.  Alycia Zimmerman recently shared several ideas for art resources to use in the classroom in a fantastic blog post on using art analysis to teach reading

    For this lesson, I chose paintings with compelling subjects and distinct settings by Motley and Edward Hopper in order to provide a basic frame, or structure, for the students’ stories. I encourage you, however, to experiment with different styles of art with your students. Realism works well, but don’t be afraid to explore more abstract types of art. 

    Since it’s always good advice to look before you leap, careful analysis of the art is an essential next step to help stimulate the students’ story writing creativity. 

    See-Think-Wonder Analysis

    We use a see-think-wonder thinking routine to guide our analysis of the art. The students first list low-inference observations of the details in the painting. I remind the students that no observation is too small at this point in the process because the smallest detail in the painting may eventually become a critical element in their short story. 

         

    Students then use their observations to make inferences and draw conclusions about the individuals, objects, and setting of the painting. These thoughts are the building blocks of the short stories, and they are especially helpful for students who otherwise struggle to generate writing ideas. The energy in the classroom at this point in the lesson is palpable because so many different stories begin to take shape. Students excitedly share their thoughts as they construct the identities of characters while creating stories to explain the scene of the painting.

    Finally, students wonder about the painting. I encourage students to wonder about the subjects in the painting by considering questions they would ask them. This is an important step and skill for young creative writers because it puts them in dialogue with characters they create. I also guide students to wonder about aspects beyond the frame of the painting. This can be a difficult concept for some students, and it requires a good amount of modeling. For example, Hopper includes a door in the background of Nighthawks. I wonder aloud to the students about where the door leads and who or what might be beyond the door. This usually elicits a flood of other wonderings about the painting. 

    After analyzing the painting, students have the ideas and tools needed to bring their art-inspired short stories to life!

    Structuring the Plot

    Plot diagrams and graphic organizers are effective strategies to use while guiding students through the short story writing process. Here are two ready to use story-structuring resources from Scholastic: Graphic Organizer Plot Diagram and Spectacular Story

    Additional Ideas

    For additional ideas to link writing with art, I would also recommend the book Awesome Art Projects That Spark Super Writing by Jan Wiezorek. The book is full of art projects, student writing samples, and links to art and writing resources. Individual lessons from the book are even available as Printables

    As a reminder to all those lovers of art and writing out there, the deadline to submit work to the 2016 Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards is approaching. The deadline in most regions is mid-December, so continue to send in pieces that celebrate the extraordinary creativity of young artists and writers!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Also, as readers of the Top Teaching blog, I invite you to special savings from The Scholastic Store. Just use the promo code in the coupon below.

     

     

    Writing is the painting of the voice –Voltaire

    The covers of my students’ writing notebooks are emblazoned with this quote. While crafting short stories, I encourage students to not only paint with their words, but to also step inside famous works of art to awaken characters, settings, and situations for their own stories. Here’s a creative writing idea that truly highlights the art of creative writing. 

    This lesson was inspired by the new Archibald Motley exhibition currently on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. As I strolled through the gallery on a recent Saturday afternoon, the multiple stories told on canvas by this twentieth-century Modernist made an impression on me. I could not stop wondering about the captivating individuals depicted in the paintings. I wondered about their identities, their lives, and their hopes and dreams. I conjured countless stories that afternoon in my mind to accompany the various paintings in the gallery. I knew then this would be a great way to spark short story ideas with my students. 

    Artful Resources

    First, I thought about the different works of art I would share with my students to inspire their short stories. From paintings to photography, there are so many different options you may consider using for this lesson. A number of museums even have extensive online collections that provide wonderful access to these different options.  Alycia Zimmerman recently shared several ideas for art resources to use in the classroom in a fantastic blog post on using art analysis to teach reading

    For this lesson, I chose paintings with compelling subjects and distinct settings by Motley and Edward Hopper in order to provide a basic frame, or structure, for the students’ stories. I encourage you, however, to experiment with different styles of art with your students. Realism works well, but don’t be afraid to explore more abstract types of art. 

    Since it’s always good advice to look before you leap, careful analysis of the art is an essential next step to help stimulate the students’ story writing creativity. 

    See-Think-Wonder Analysis

    We use a see-think-wonder thinking routine to guide our analysis of the art. The students first list low-inference observations of the details in the painting. I remind the students that no observation is too small at this point in the process because the smallest detail in the painting may eventually become a critical element in their short story. 

         

    Students then use their observations to make inferences and draw conclusions about the individuals, objects, and setting of the painting. These thoughts are the building blocks of the short stories, and they are especially helpful for students who otherwise struggle to generate writing ideas. The energy in the classroom at this point in the lesson is palpable because so many different stories begin to take shape. Students excitedly share their thoughts as they construct the identities of characters while creating stories to explain the scene of the painting.

    Finally, students wonder about the painting. I encourage students to wonder about the subjects in the painting by considering questions they would ask them. This is an important step and skill for young creative writers because it puts them in dialogue with characters they create. I also guide students to wonder about aspects beyond the frame of the painting. This can be a difficult concept for some students, and it requires a good amount of modeling. For example, Hopper includes a door in the background of Nighthawks. I wonder aloud to the students about where the door leads and who or what might be beyond the door. This usually elicits a flood of other wonderings about the painting. 

    After analyzing the painting, students have the ideas and tools needed to bring their art-inspired short stories to life!

    Structuring the Plot

    Plot diagrams and graphic organizers are effective strategies to use while guiding students through the short story writing process. Here are two ready to use story-structuring resources from Scholastic: Graphic Organizer Plot Diagram and Spectacular Story

    Additional Ideas

    For additional ideas to link writing with art, I would also recommend the book Awesome Art Projects That Spark Super Writing by Jan Wiezorek. The book is full of art projects, student writing samples, and links to art and writing resources. Individual lessons from the book are even available as Printables

    As a reminder to all those lovers of art and writing out there, the deadline to submit work to the 2016 Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards is approaching. The deadline in most regions is mid-December, so continue to send in pieces that celebrate the extraordinary creativity of young artists and writers!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Also, as readers of the Top Teaching blog, I invite you to special savings from The Scholastic Store. Just use the promo code in the coupon below.

     

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