Learn All Year Long
ReadWriteThink has a variety of resources for out-of-school use. Visit our Parent & Afterschool Resources section to learn more.
A Trip to the Museum: From Picture to Story
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Activity Time||One to two hours|
- A picture that tells a story (see Online Art Resources)
- Getting Ready to Write Chart
- Qualities of Good Storytelling Handout
- Pens, pencils, paper or a computer with word processing software
- Internet connection (optional)
- Timeline tool (optional)
- In preparation for a trip to a museum (optional) introduce the activity and look online with children or teens to find a picture that tells a story with people and a clear situation.
- If you are planning a visit to a museum or gallery, go to the museum's Web site to see which pieces the museum has in online galleries to find an image and prepare for the trip.
- If you are unable to pair this activity with a trip to a real museum (or if your local museum doesn't have an online gallery), see this selection of Online Art Resources.
- If you are unable to access the Internet, most libraries have collections of prints in the fine arts section. Your local librarian should be able to direct you to appropriate resources.
- After they find a picture, ask children and teens to tell you why they chose that image for this activity. For example, you may ask if they were attracted to the people in the scene or the location of the event, or if they were struck by artistic choices, such as color, perspective, or techniques. Have children and teens explain what they like about the image, which will allow them to describe naturally many of the image's features and details.
- Continue this descriptive process by asking children and teens to start putting their responses into categories. Print the Getting Ready to Write Chart and ask children and teens to list words or phrases in the categories of People, Time and Place, Events, and Important Words.
- Encourage children and teens to list as many words or phrases as possible at this point. Remind them that the words and images can, but do not have to, go together. Assure them that it is fine if one part of the picture causes them to feel one way and another part causes a very different response. They are not making choices yet; encourage as much observation and imagination as possible by asking questions such as "What else do you see?" or "How else could you describe that person or object?" Other questions that would encourage creative observation include: "What emotion(s) are the people expressing? Why do you think that?" and "Which objects tell you when and where this picture is taking place?" and so forth.
- Help children and teens decide a point of view for their writing process. Choose one of the people (or animals or objects) from the image and ask children and teens to imagine the person's (or animal's or object's) thoughts and feelings, the story that led up to the picture, and what might happen to him or her (or it) after the picture. Encourage them to go beyond describing the picture to create an original story about the event in the image.
- Before children and teens start writing, print and discuss the Qualities of Good Storytelling Handout. Look at books the children and teens are reading or have recently read and look for examples of each of the qualities to discuss.
- Remind children and teens to keep these qualities in mind as they write their story. If desired, they can use the Timeline tool to help them organize the order of events in their story.
- If possible, print the image and display both the picture and the newly-created story in a prominent place.
- Look through family albums and use a photograph for inspiration of a fictional or real-life story associated with the image.
- Go on a scavenger hunt in your home to find images that can inspire stories. Framed art, picture books, photographs from the newspaper, even catalogs and advertisements can inspire a story.
- If you are working with two or more children or teens, have them decide on a picture together, but have them brainstorm and write their stories on their own. After they share, have them discuss how their stories were similar and different.
- If you are visiting a museum or gallery, consider doing this activity on site. Being able to see the painting, picture, or photograph up close will provide a different experience from working with a reproduction online.
Forms of writing, such as poems, stories, and plays, that express the writer’s thoughts and feelings through imagination.
Discussion is a natural way for children and teens to express or explain what they already know or what they are learning. When possible, let children and teens lead the direction of a discussion. Ask questions that lead to an extended response (“What do you think about…?” or “Why do you think…?”) rather than questions that might result in a yes or no or a simple answer.
Point of view
The angle from which an author tells a story using characters, events, and ideas. Stories can be told from an omniscient point of view, where the person telling the story sees and knows everything, or from a limited point of view, where the reader only sees, hears, or knows what a certain narrator does. Some stories use different points of view at different points in the story.