Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pictures and words

There’s a reason why they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ve found that using visual art is a great way to launch a conversation, inspire writing, and teach analytical thinking. 

Find a photograph or painting with a lot going on in the way of action and/or facial expressions. National Geographic has tons of great photos to download and print, or just to look at. Art books are nice (you can get them at the library) if you want something bigger.

Here are some pieces that I like:
Bruegel the Elder: The Dutch Proverbs

I ended up sticking with Western art simply because that’s what I’ve been able to find the most of. There are plenty of very cool Asian, Native American, South American and African art pieces with lots of detail and action, but it seems that expressive crowd scenes with high pixelation are the domain of European artists. Haven’t given up, though. Also, here's where art books from the library come in handy. Yay, libraries.

Veronese's Wedding at Cana. Thanks, Wikipedia.

There’s so much you can do. Here are a few ideas to start with:
  • Take turns describing what you see: observe details like colors, textures, light and shade, in addition to what is actually happening. 
  • Make up a title (best if you don’t show your student the title first). Make up titles for different parts of the scene if there is a lot going on. 
  • If you want, you can play a grammar game: list the verbs you see happening. List the nouns, and then the adjectives that describe them. List the adverbs. 
  • Describe imagined details: sounds, smells, sensations, tastes.
  • Make up a story about one person, about the whole scene...pick one interaction and tell what has happened just before the moment in the painting, and what will happen in the next moment(s). 

More on what to do with art coming soon.

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