Creative Communication Frames: Discovering Similarities between Writing and Art
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Modest Petrovitch Moussorgsky (1839-1881) wrote, "Art is a means of communicating with people, not an end in itself." In this lesson, students explore art as communication by first viewing and discussing a painting from various perspectives, and analyzing the painting's purpose, audience, form and function. During a real or virtual trip to an art gallery, students use a graphic organizer to record detailed observations about paintings they see, viewed from multiple perspectives. After discussing their observations, they identify a corresponding literary term for each of the terms used to analyze the art form. They then use an online tool to compare how the process of writing is similar to the process of creating art. Finally, they use their ideas to write a compare and contrast essay.
Though these activities were designed to compare writing with Impressionism, they could be adapted to any art form.
Comparison and Contrast Guide: This online tool outlines the characteristics of the genre and provides direct instruction on the methods of organizing, gathering ideas, and writing comparison and contrast essays.
Compare & Contrast Map: This interactive graphic organizer enables students to organize and outline their ideas for different kinds of comparison essays.
Observation Guide: This handout prompts students to record detailed observations of an Impressionist painting.
From Theory to Practice
In her article describing a class project student poetry inspired by art, Honor Moorman describes her motivation: she had "become increasingly aware of the similarities between the visual and the verbal arts. William Blake said that poetry and art are "ways to converse with paradise" (Farrell 6). In the Phaedrus, Plato observes that when paintings and poems are put together, they "seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent" (qtd. in Foster and Prevallet xv). Indeed, both poetry and art speak to our imaginations through the power of images. Georgia Heard calls language "the poet's paint" (65), and many other writers and artists have commented on the parallels between these two modes of expression." (46-47) This lesson capitalizes on the natural connection between language and art, asking students to compare expression through language to expression through art.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 10. Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
- Provide choices of non-print media for student viewing (field trip to local gallery, or prepare a classroom "gallery" of prints).
- Preview URLs for art resources and virtual tours.
- Prepare student handouts-a guide for viewing and comparison.
- demonstrate proficiency in using the writing process.
- make connections between prior knowledge and new information using prewriting strategies.
- write in response to a self-selected example of nonprint media, demonstrating an awareness of purpose, audience, voice, and style.
- note relevant information using listening and visual literacy.
- synthesize information in order to produce a piece of writing that demonstrates an understanding of comparison, analogy, and metaphor.
- use a variety of technology and multi-media resources.
- Display a print from one of the Impressionists (Monet, Renoir, Manet)—The painting could be selected from one of the virtual galleries found in the Resources section.
- In a large group brainstorming session, note and record details of what the students see at a distance. Select several students to study the painting closely, making verbal observations that are recorded.
- Repeat with several others viewing up close. Again in large group, discuss differences noted when painting is viewed closely. Discussion becomes more specific as students use the handout to record specific details.
- Discuss different perspectives from distant and close viewing.
- Now shift the discussion to identifying ways in which writing a scene or description is similar to painting:
Author's Word Choice Artist's Brushstrokes, Color, and Medium Selected Author's Point of View Artist's Perspective Author's Purpose Artist's Purpose Author's Main Idea Artist's Subject Author's Setting-time, place Artist's period, time, place
- Use the Comparison and Contrast Guide to introduce basic characteristics and strategies for comparing items.
- List words writers use to help readers understand similarities and differences when two concepts are being compared. Small groups can develop word lists then combine into whole class working word bank. (Examples: compare, contrast, metaphor, analogy, alike, similar to). Work bank should be entered in students' journals for future reference, or transcribed to the computer and printed out.
- The class may be viewing a virtual museum or on a field trip to a local gallery.
- Ask students to use the "close, distant, close again" to examine pieces of art, and record their observations based on the terms identified in the previous session.
- After individuals or partners complete their viewing and analysis, meet as a whole group for debriefing, sharing what was observed.
- Discuss the art in general terms of analogy and metaphor. Seek examples of specific paintings and how they demonstrate communication of an idea or feelings. Develop a literary term for each of the terms used to analyze the art form.
Time painting was done __________________(setting)
Brushstrokes _______________ (words,genre,style)
Lines ______________________ (style, form)
Colors______________________ (word choice, style)
Shadings ___________________ (inferences)
Shadows ____________________ (inferences,opinion)
Perspective _________________(point of view, bias)
Focal Point _________________(point of view)
Background __________________ (setting)
Subject of painting _____________ (main idea)
- Discuss this as a prewriting framework. Talk through, verbally model, how these ideas can shape a discussion of art as a means of communication, comparing the similarities between writing and painting-both the artist and the author are portraying an idea, images, a story, and/or an opinion.
- The students will use this framework to express their thoughts about ways in which the process of writing is similar to the process of creating art, using the transitional, comparative vocabulary developed for the class word bank.
- Introduce the Compare & Contrast Map, and demonstrate how students can use the online graphic map to organize their ideas.
- Using examples from the nonprint media they have studied, and perhaps examples from literature, ask students to write a compare and contrast essay. Allow time for them to revise, edit, and type their essays.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Impressionism was inspired by the music of Modest Petrovitch Moussorgsky who translated Russian literature into musical genres. Understanding of the similarities between the creative processes of composition—writing, art, and music—could be assessed through extended synthesis, after listening to Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Maurice Ravel's 1922 orchestration). Student responses could be noted through contributions to a large group discussion or reflective journal entries (written or drawn).
The students' written responses to the painting (or other art form) can be assessed with a rubric based on:
- their use of transitional and comparative words (e.g. alike, similar to, close to, both, also, not only, therefore, consequently, next, in fact, still, besides, finally, furthermore, consequently).
- their inclusion of literary terms applied to the non-print media (see previewing and prewriting handouts).
- evidence of careful editing and proofreading.
Students could be given the option to demonstate their understanding by creating an original art form—computer generated, mixed media, musical piece or mix, etc.—accompanied by a written piece that could be used as a gallery print release about a "newly recognized artist". The written piece would address the artist's perspective/point of view; choice of media; purpose; focual point/main idea; and technique. These pieces could develop into a classroom or school exhibit—a form of publication.