Activity And Project

A Trip to the Museum: From Picture to Story

6 - 8
Activity Time
One to two hours
  • Preview
  • |
  • Get Started
  • |
  • Comments

Activity Description

Visit a museum or art gallery (either online or in person) with children and teens, helping them find inspiration for a story based on a piece of art that they particularly enjoy or relate to.  Simply find a picture that tells or suggests a story.  Then encourage children and teens to make a list of words and ideas about the image before writing a creative story that explains what is happening in the image...and beyond.

Why This Is Helpful

Observing, describing, and creating are all important skills, in and out of school. Children and teens can strengthen these literacy skills by using their already existing visual skills to launch into a creative writing activity.  With their imagination stimulated by a visual image, they can be prompted either to create simpler stories that explore what is happening in the picture or to work more creatively by imagining what happens before or after the moment shown in the image.

This activity was modified from the lesson "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words: From Image to Detailed Narrative."

What You Need

Here's What To Do

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. If possible, print the image and display both the picture and the newly-created story in a prominent place.

More Ideas To Try

  • 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.
K-12 Teacher
I have not used this resource yet, but am psyched to get the school year started with It! Thanks readwritethink for another awesome lesson.
K-12 Teacher
I have not used this resource yet, but am psyched to get the school year started with It! Thanks readwritethink for another awesome lesson.
K-12 Teacher
I have not used this resource yet, but am psyched to get the school year started with It! Thanks readwritethink for another awesome lesson.

Add new comment