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NNWP Presenter: Sandra Young and her Art & Writing Projects Workshop for Teachers
one of the NNWP's inservice coordinators shares her lessons and resources

Welcome to a small part of my world, a place of words, color, rhythm, line and form. My name is Sandra Young, and I have always loved art. I am the coordinator for this page of lessons at WritingFix that combine writing, art, and literature. During the past ten years, I have added a love for writing to my life, which has been an exciting journey.

In my second grade classroom, I have observed writing give substance to art and art give new dimension to writing as my students become more involved with their projects. Well-thought-out writing lessons should be paired with equally well-planned art lessons.

I believe that creativity and the desire to express it flows in all people. I see it blossom in my second graders as they experience success in both their writing and art. The lessons below, I believe, can be adapted to any grade level. I firmly believe that you do not have to be an artist to teach art. You need to know procedure then let the students create under your tutelage and direction. I have attempted to give clear, concise, step-by-step directions with each art and writing project provided below.

In her book, Creating Young Writers: Using the Six Traits to Enrich Writing Process in Primary Classrooms, Vicki Spandel discusses the addition of art to the primary writing rubric. She states that this feature has been added for some significant reasons. “For many students (not only those at the primary level), picture writing is an essential form of expression. They need to use art to communicate. It does not just make the writing pretty. It is the writing. Much of the detail and most of the voice within early writing appears in picture form. To exclude this is like assessing Picasso’s art by asking him to write an essay about form” (2004 p. 219).

Spandel quotes Bob Steele, author of Draw Me a Story: An Illustrated Exploration of Drawing-As-Language, “Children use graphic units (schemata) much as we use vocabulary, and the thought processes that go into drawing—raw materials organized into meaningful expressive forms—are syntactical in nature.” Steele also comments that children “intuitively use the medium most likely to satisfy their [communication] needs: words for practical communication, drawing for expressing more subtle and complex thoughts. In short, when we overlook drawing (or other art forms) in children’s work, we may be missing the deepest and most important part of their thinking. This has two implications: First, we miss a vital opportunity to enhance thinking skills using children’s natural inclination toward art as one means of doing so. In addition, we diminish the true value of any assessment that fails to recognize art as a legitimate means of communication. Art is 'the unrecognized language,' and language is the way children make sense of their world and, in doing so, develop their minds” (Steele, 1998, p. 7).

On this page at WritingFix, you will find four of my lessons that I share when I teach my Art & Writing In-service Class here in Northern Nevada. Below my four lessons, you will find lessons created by teachers who have taken my class. If you're inspired to create your own art & writing lesson and want to use my template, I would love to have you send it to me! If we post it here, I'll even have the NNWP send you any two of its Print Publications. For more details on this offer, click here.

Sandra Young is a Northern Nevada second grade teacher. She became a consultant and presenter for the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 2005, and she coordinates the popular "Art & Writing Projects" workshop for teachers.

Share Photos of Your Students' Art/Writing Projects:

Join Sandra's Art & Writing Project Interest Group at our Ning by clicking here.

Share classroom pictures and exchange ideas with others!

On Sandra's Bookshelf...

The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art by Beth Olshansky

Sandra's First Art & Writing Lesson:

The Art Lesson:
A Circle of Seasons

Overview: The seasons traveling in an eternal circle spring to summer to fall to winter and to spring again fascinate young and old. This project reaches across the curriculum combining science, math, art and writing.

Lesson's mentor text: Have You Seen Trees? by Joanne Oppenheim.

Click here to access this art lesson and all its resources.

The Writing Lesson:
The Season Mandala

Overview: Students have the opportunity to discover the seasons through the descriptive world of words. They will also collect information about the seasons that will enable them to write their own descriptive sentences as they travel round and round the seasons of their art project.

Lesson's mentor text: The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons.

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

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Sandra's Second Art & Writing Lesson:

The Art Lesson:

Overview: This art project provides the student with an opportunity to examine self, discover proportions, and identify warm and cool color groups.

Lesson's mentor text: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

The Writing Lesson:
I Come From... Poems

Overview: Students will identify the important people, places, and things in their lives. Then, students will have the opportunity to determine and explain why these “nouns” are an important part of their lives.

Lesson's mentor text: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

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Sandra's Third Art & Writing Lesson:

The Art Lesson:
Personalized Kites

Overview: This project allows students to illustrate and design something important to them on a kite shaped background. The children are given the opportunity to reflect, think and then experience oil pastels as they create their designs.

Lesson's mentor texts: Henry & The Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall & Kite Flying by Grace Lin

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

The Writing Lesson:
Tail Acrostic Poems

Overview: This activity allows the students to practice their acrostic skills within the structure of a kite tail using descriptive phrases and exciting verbs. The big challenge is the continual flow of descriptive ideas and words.

Lesson's mentor texts: Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur & Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli.

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

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Sandra's Fourth Art & Writing Lesson:

The Art Lesson:
I Am [a color] Art


Lesson's mentor texts: Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

The Writing Lesson:
Color Personification Poems

Overview: This lesson gives children an opportunity to think, feel, and be through color. They are given the opportunity to present their thoughts and feelings from a different perspective and point of view. Recognizing and developing “Colorful” language is also an important aspect of this writing project.

Lesson's mentor texts: Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman.

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

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Sandra's Fifth Art & Writing Lesson:

The Art & Writing (combined) Lesson:
Paper Plate Simile Books

Overview: Sandra shares credit for this lesson with its co-creator: Nancy Jeppson. Students experience the fun and creativity of similes, ultimately describing themselves using interesting comparisons and lively illustrations. While most of the writing and art lessons are kept separate on this webpage of projects, Sandra felt this particular project made more sense if the writing and art instruction was combined.

Lesson's mentor texts: Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood & If Pigs Could Fly... and Other Deep Thoughts by Bruce Lansky

Click here to access this lesson and its resources.

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Original Lessons Created by Teachers Who Took Sandra's Art & Writing Inservice Class:


Mentor Text:

Some Smug Slug
by Pamela Duncan Edwards

This lesson was written by Jennifer Floyd,
Nevada second grade teacher

Bird Verb Poems &
Marble Paintings

Mentor Text:

by Kevin Henkes

This lesson was written by Shannon Allan,
Nevada first grade teacher

Color Sensory Poems &
Colorful Contrast Paintings

Mentor Text:

by John Lithgow

This lesson was written by Amy Howe,
Nevada fifth grade teacher

Noodle Alliteration &
Pasta/Yarn Pictures

Mentor Text:

Sunflakes: Poetry for Children
edited by Lillian Moore

This lesson was written by Dana Morgan,
Nevada third grade teacher

Nice Mice Advice:
"Meet the Author!"

Mentor Text:

Library Mouse
by Daniel Kirk

This lesson was written by Ann Urie,
Nevada first grade teacher

Song-inspired Color Poetry &
Layers of Color Collages

Mentor Text:

"Over the Rainbow," sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and "Color Me Blind," sung by Extreme

This lesson was written by Barbara Surritte-Barker,
Nevada middle school teacher

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Please, share the resources you find on these pages freely with fellow educators, but please leave any page citations on handouts intact, and please give authorship credit to the cited teachers who created these wonderful lessons and resources. Thanks in advance for honoring other educators' intellectual property.

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