Writing a Masterpiece
When it comes to teaching writing in elementary grades, experience
is everything. It often
demonstrates the difference between
eager, confident writers and those
frightened to put a pencil to paper.
Students who have never taken a
real vacation or never received a
special gift understandably balk at
classroom writing prompts which
typically center around these types
As a teacher, I can only offer limited opportunities so I use artwork
as a vehicle to
subjects, setting, and
mood, creating a platform from which even the
most timid writers are willing to
dive. This frees them to focus on
discovering their voices, creating
descriptions, weaving plots, and
Viewing Art Is the Experience. Art
takes away the pressure for students
with few experiences, because viewing art is an experience in itself.
Despite different backgrounds and
viewpoints, a group of people that
collectively views a work of art
shares a unique bond. Everyone
begins writing on equal ground.
Students Learn More. As students
create stories, they also connect
with important works of art. A student who has written a diary entry
for the Mona Lisa has studied it,
Art provides students with details, and
ready-made subjects, setting, considered
and mood, creating a platform what may be
from which even the most timid the woman’s
writers are willing to dive. mind to cause
smile. The student hasn’t just
viewed art—he or she has experi-
Why Art and Writing?
What makes art such a powerful
catalyst for strong writing?
Every Picture Tells a Story. They
say a picture is worth a thousand
words. Every picture—whether a
landscape, still life, or portrait—it
carries some type of question to be
answered. Discovering that hidden
story provides a natural springboard
Everyone Sees Art Differently. No
two people will find the same story
in a work of art. This means no
more nights reading a set of cookie-cutter stories that are as boring to
read as they were to write. Prepare
for sets of unique, creative stories
that showcase the distinctive voice
of the writer.
Because art takes
on varied forms,
allows students to
As they view a
may give voice
to the subject by
writing a monologue, dialogue, or
as The Old Hunting Ground (
Whit-tredge) or The Storm (Innes) inspire
legends. Others, such as Sierra
Nevada (Bierstadt) or The Andes of
Ecuador (Church) are adventurous.
Stories set in these paintings take
on the character of the painting.
Still-life paintings provide great
lessons for painting with words—
descriptive exercises with rich adjectives, or Haiku poetry.
Many libraries stock artwork in
their visual arts collections, allowing you to change your offerings
constantly at no cost. Inexpensive
prints are also available online.
Using art as a vehicle for writing
is easy, inexpensive, and meaningful. It will not guarantee perfect
results, but it may inspire the written voice of a previously reluctant
writer. In the world of teaching, that
truly is a masterpiece.
Matthew Sink is a fourth grade teacher
at Brier Creek Elementary School in
Lexington, North Carolina.
Students make connections between
visual arts and other disciplines.