See, Think, Write!

Jet Schmidt, Jessica Gizzi, Bonnie Martin

Lesson Goals

Students will understand the connection between a series of historical events through analyzing pieces of art.

This lesson will have students work in groups to discuss and order art work based on sequence of events and create a narrative based on one of the images.


Link: Arts Integration Image Resources
Writing Paper


1. Squirrel-Nut-Tree Game – Purpose: This activity introduces how ideas/things connect. The students will be looking and thinking about how things connect.
Directions: Introduce how concepts are connected by playing the improv game, “Squirrel-Nut-Tree”. Students gather in a circle. Teacher models acting out a squirrel in the center of the circle. Teacher picks a student to act out being a “nut’. Teacher picks another student to act out being a “tree”. Teacher explains how these three things are connected by their relationship to each. (i.e, a squirrel finds nuts on a tree to eat). Teacher chooses one of the 3 things (squirrel, tree or nut) to remain in the circle. For instance, the “tree”. The student that acted out the “tree”, repeats their “tree” action and says “I am a tree”. The teacher encourages another student to think of a different thing or action that is related to a tree. For example a student might say and act like “falling leaves”. This student then joins the “tree” student by making their action by the tree in the center of the circle. Teacher encourages another student to act out a concept that would be connected to both the tree and the falling leaves. Another student might say, “wind”. This student would join the students acting out the “tree” and “falling leaves” saying wind and acting out “wind”. After there are 3 actors in the circles who have performed their actions, the first student to act or the “tree” student (always the first student of the trio) gets to say which “action” gets to stay. This format continues with other students performing related actions to the first chosen action. The action of the three actors always takes place in the center of the circle. Modifications: The teacher can designate which actor stays after each trio. The students have to explain or justify their connections.

2. DISCUSS IMAGES: Groups get a set of 2-3 images. First, have the students do a silent preview of the photos for 2-5 minutes. Next, work together to discuss how they are connected and what might be happening in the image. How are the three images connected? How are the three images alike and how are they different? What do you think is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What are you wondering about the picture? Who are the people in the image? What do you think they are doing?
I think this artwork shows _____
The images are connected by _____
The artworks are alike because _____ and ____
The artwork are different because _____
I notice _____ and _____ that makes me think _____
I think the person is _______ because ______
I think the person feels _____ because ______

3. ORDER IMAGES: Students order the images on a timeline, using context clues from the images to determine which comes first, next, and last. Which image do you think is from modern times? What makes you think this is modern? Are there clues in the images that make you think so? Which image do you think is the oldest or shows the oldest scene?
I think _____ is the ______ image because ______
One thing that makes this artwork look modern is _____ because _____
A clue that makes me believe that this is ______
I think _____ came first because …
I think ____ came last because …
I think _____ is in the middle because …

4. CREATE A NARRATIVE: Individuals choose one photo. Create a narrative with beginning, middle, and end about what is happening in the photo. Use these prompts to help students start thinking about the image: Who is the person or people in the image? What are they doing? Where does the story take place? What time of day is it? Does the person have a special job they are trying to accomplish? What things or people might they speak to or have to work with? What challenges do they face? Is there something this person needs to say to tell?

Differentiation Approaches

Provide sentence frames to support student discussions (included in the activity description) and for narrative writing.


The student participated appropriately with the group.
The student described the story in the artwork using clues from the image.
The student justified the order of the images.
The student wrote a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
The student used time order words, such as first, next, after, or last.
The student used descriptive details to bring the story or characters to life.
The student used a capital at the beginning of each sentence.
The student used appropriate punctuation at the end of the each sentence.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

Visual Art Extension: Use just the paintings that are from an earlier time period. Students will choose a painting and think about the same event (i.e. going to the circus, travelling by train, etc.) and make their own picture using various mediums (color sticks, watercolor washes with pen drawings, etc.) to show what that event is like today.

Additional Details

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