Great writers are great observers. They consider the world around
them, notice overlooked details, and make connections. Looking
carefully at art helps us to develop these observation skills. Art encourages
us to slow down, look closely, and reflect on what we see.
When we accept this invitation, we are rewarded with new thoughts
and perspectives. These ideas and insights provide rich material for
brings together twenty-five remarkable works of art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s
collections and uses them as inspiration for an array of writing activities
for K–12 students. We hope that you and your students enjoy discovering
the limitless potential of art to inspire writing in every form.
Works of art were chosen for their capacity to inspire writing in
several genres and to appeal to students of diverse ages and backgrounds.
The writing activities were designed to encourage focused
looking and offer opportunities for student collaboration as well as
personal reflection. They emphasize different stages of the writing
process and include a wide range of purposes and audiences. The
images and activities may also stimulate your own ideas for the classroom
and can be adapted and used in countless ways.
Alignment with Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Visual Arts
Both national and Pennsylvania educational standards served as
guidelines throughout the development of this teaching resource and
helped determine the forms and concepts explored in the suggested
looking/writing activities. In addition, the National Council of Teachers of English position statement, “Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing,”
provided a foundational understanding of the nature of writing and
the skills students need to develop for the twenty-first century (see
In particular, the looking/writing activities align with the following
Common Core State Standards (College and Career Readiness
Anchor Standards), which were adopted in 2010 by Delaware,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and many other states:
Anchor Standard for Writing 1:
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis
of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient
Anchor Standard for Writing 2:
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine
and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the
effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Anchor Standard for Writing 3:
Write narratives to develop real or imagined
experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well-structured
Anchor Standard for Writing 5:
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by
planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
Anchor Standard for Writing 10:
Write routinely over extended time frames
(time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting
or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Anchor Standard for Speaking and Listening 1:
Prepare for and participate
effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners,
building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Anchor Standard for Speaking and Listening 2:
Integrate and evaluate information
presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively,
Anchor Standard for Speaking and Listening 4:
Present information, findings,
and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and
the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and
The looking/writing activities also align with the following National
Standards for Arts Education:
Content Standard 2:
Using knowledge of structures and functions. (Students
know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to
convey ideas, and describe how different expressive features and organizational
principles cause different responses.)
Content Standard 4:
Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
Content Standard 6:
Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.
Rubric for Assessment
A useful assessment model for students’ writing is the 6+1 Trait®
scoring guide. It provides guidelines for evaluating ideas, organization,
voice, sentence fluency, word choice, conventions, and presentation.
Several versions of this rubric can be found online at