Art start literacy activities and projects

Language starters

Group Activity: Looking

  • What atmosphere is communicated in this painting? Find one descriptive word that has the power to evoke it.
  • Make a class list of words that describe the characteristics of winter the painting reveals.

Synonym Challenge

  • Name and list all the things that you can see in the painting.
  • Now write a brief paragraph describing the painting without using any of words from the list.

Guess What I Am Activity

Nominate one student to lead the class through this activity. He/she chooses an object from the painting and calls out an adjective or simile to describe it. The class responds with their guesses as to what is being described. The student continues until the correct object has been guessed.

Senses and Emotion Activity

Imagine you have stepped into the painting. What do your senses reveal? Complete these sentences individually and then share with the class:
(List four things for each line)
I can see…………………
I can smell ……………………
I can feel………………..
I can taste …………….

Expanding Description Activity

Teacher Notes

This activity requires that students have access to the poem Be Specific by Mauree Applegate.
It is available at:

  • Find a copy of the poem Be Specific by Mauree Applegate.
  • Practise reading it aloud expressively, individually or in pairs, emphasising the descriptive language.

Adverbs Activity

Find three adverbs to describe movement in the painting. For example: The cranes danced delicately, daintily or elegantly.

Clever Comparisons Activity

  • Great art and writing often contain starkly opposite concepts that create dynamism and tension to captivate the viewer or reader.
  • Construct descriptive phrases that explore opposite concepts by making detailed comparisons. For example: Smooth, gentle snow compared with the rough texture of the tree trunk. Fragility of the crane compared with the power and solidity of the tree.

Personification Activity

  • Imagine the pine tree as a person.
  • Write a sentence explaining what the tree might think of the cranes’ dance. For example: The ancient tree smiled down on nature’s theatre, wishing he had the agility and grace of the dancers.

Alluring Alliterations Activity

  • Finish the alliterative phrases:
    Cavorting cranes …………
    A silvery stage………..
  • Now create more phrases using as many letters of the alphabet as starting points as you can.

Music and Art Matchmaking Activity

  • In pairs, suggest a particular piece or type of music that would describe the atmosphere and elements of the painting.
  • Explain to the class why your suggested music matches the painting.

Responding to art writing projects


Poetry is like art – it allows us to see something in a different way. Its impact can be powerful and immediate.

“A poem is a painting that is not seen;
A painting is a poem that is not heard”
Phoebe Hesketh, A poem is a Painting, Page 7, Picture Poems, Benton, M and P, Hodder and Stoughton, 1997

  • Using this quote as a starting point, discuss and document ways in which art and poetry may be similar.

Poetry with a Format

Working with a format can be a non-threatening way of starting to write poetry for students who haven’t written in this genre before.

Rondelet Poetry Activity

Write a rondelet poem inspired by Pine with cranes dancing in the snow, dance in motion, 2000 and the ideas and descriptions you created in the Language Starters activities.
For example:
Silvery light
In nature’s theatre cranes perform
Silvery light
Dancing and diving like a kite
Bathed in stillness before the storm
An ancient tree smiles on the scene
Silvery light

Haiku Poetry Activity

  • Write a Haiku poem inspired by Pine with cranes dancing in the snow, dance in motion, 2000 and the ideas and descriptions you created in the Language Starters activities.
  • Write haiku poems about the whole painting, a crane in flight and winter.
  • Find an artwork that describes Spring, Summer and Autumn respectively, and write a Haiku poem for each.


The heart of winter
Frost flowers on my window
A fire burning bright.

Fluttering slowly
In the dappled morning light
A spring dragonfly.

These poems are by a Middle Years student

Presenting and Performing Projects

Poetry Festival Presentation

In small groups prepare and present a poetry festival in a PowerPoint presentation. Include artworks that have stimulated the poetry, appropriate music, poetry written in Writing Projects activities, as well as works by professional poets.

Dance Activity

In small groups, create and perform a dance inspired by Pine with cranes dancing in the snow, dance in motion, 2000. Design the dance movements to follow the music suggested in the Music and Art Matchmaking Activity.