art develops greater detail in writing

As we continue to work on improving the descriptive detail in the kids’ writing, I thought it would be fun to integrate some art.

Using a piece from the ArtNC website called The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, we started with a VTS-style discussion about the painting. The purpose of the discussion was to get the children to look more closely at the image and take note of all of its details. One at a time, the children talked about the specific things they saw in the work, at times building on what someone else said or sharing a new discovery. I pushed them to provide further details if they offered a vague statement but for the most part, they noticed things I hadn’t even seen.

I have a poster of the work but thought it would be easier for them to see if I projected it from my computer. At some point, one of the kids asked if they could pull it up on their iPad somehow because the darker parts were hard to see… brilliant! The best thing about them having the painting right there in front of them was the ability to zoom in and see smaller parts of it with much more clarity than I could offer on the big screen. When a student mentioned a specific part of the piece, we could all go to it together, just like we do when we analyze a piece of text. Next time we do a VTS lesson, I will make sure it’s on a day when we have the iPads!

For the second part of the lesson, we made a T-chart in our writing notebooks. We titled the left side Nouns and I set the timer for three minutes, asking them to list all the nouns they could see in the painting independently. After the time went off, we spent another three minutes sharing words as a group. This gave us a chance to add to our own lists and check to make sure that all of the nouns were, in fact, nouns. We repeated the same process with a list of Adjectives on the right side and looked for more ‘juicy’ versions if a more common adjective was provided.


With our lists complete, I presented the challenge of a Six-Word Story. “What?! You can’t write a whole story in six words!” was the immediate response. “How is that even possible?” “Does it have to be a sentence?” After some discussion and a bit more complaining (okay, a lot more) they got to work. As they came up with their initial stories, I offered to tweet them on our classroom Twitter page. This always motivates them in a way I can’t quite explain. You can visit our feed for more but here are a few of our favorites:


I realized as I was typing up their stories that I had forgotten to tell them that they could ONLY use the nouns and adjectives from their list. Oops. There wasn’t enough time remaining to do that today so as we revise, I will ask them to do just that. I do like to give them freedom to alter assignments to suit their own style but I think in this case their writing would have been stronger and more descriptive if they eliminated all the other words.

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