Tell Me a Story
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Tell Me a Story An Interdisciplinary Unit connecting English Language Arts with Visual Art for 8 th graders.

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Tell Me a Story

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Tell me a story

Tell Me a Story

An Interdisciplinary Unit connecting English Language Arts with Visual Art for 8th graders

Joseph Cornell "Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny."--Carl Schurz, Address, Faneuil Hall, Boston, April 18, 1859. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. 1958. Mixed Media.


Tell me a story

Eighth grade is a turning point in the life of a young adolescent. Middle school is coming to an end and the students will soon be entering High School. The student becomes a teenager in the eighth grade and attempts to leave “childhood” behind with this new title. In this same sense, it is a time when children’s stories are no longer read, and a different kind of story begins to be appreciated. Students study myths, biographies, and works of fiction geared to send a mature message to young adults. This unit is designed to accompany the English Language Arts curriculum and teach visual methods to portray the different kinds of stories the students have been reading. It examines the many ways in which artists, both of fine and written arts, tell stories.

Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, 1972, Mixed Media Assemblage


Tell me a story

  • ENDURING UNDERSTANDINGS

    • Artists and writers reflect on their personal histories when creating meaningful works of art.

    • Often equally engaged in the process of writing as they are in painting, drawing, or sculpting, contemporary artists are inspired by both visual and literary sources.

    • Stories are told in both visual and written modes.

  • ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

    • What makes art meaningful?

    • What inspires contemporary artists?

    • How can artists tell stories?

Marmaduke, Brad and Paul Anderson, 2011


Tell me a story

  • Unit Objectives

    • Lesson 1: Students will be able to define myths and fables and express them visually.

    • Lesson 2: Students will analyze character development in fiction writing and develop their own comic strip.

    • Lesson 3: Students will be able to differentiate between assemblage and collage and combine the two techniques to create personal narratives in a box.

    • Overarching: Students will demonstrate

    • knowledge of the different ways artists and

    • writers have chosen to tell stories in both

    • the contemporary world and in the past as

    • well as gain the skills to tell their own

    • stories using visual dialogue.

Joseph Cornell, Bel Echo Gruyere, 1939, mixed media.


Tell me a story

State Standards Addressed

  • MASSACHUSETTS VISUAL ARTS FRAMEWORKS

    • 1. Methods, materials and techniques. Students will demonstrate knowledge

    • of the methods, materials and techniques unique to the visual arts.

    • 2. Elements and principles of design. Students will demonstrate knowledge

    • of the elements and principles of design.

    • 6. Purposes of the arts. Students will describe the purposes for which works of dance, music, theatre, visual arts and architecture were and are created, and, when appropriate, interpret their meanings.

    • 7. Roles of artists in communities. Students will describe the roles of artists, patrons, cultural organizations, and arts institutions in societies of the past and present.

    • 10. Interdisciplinary Connections. Students will apply their knowledge of the arts to the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics and science and technology/engineering.

  • MASSACHUSETTS ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS FRAMEWORKS

    • 9. Making Connections. Students will deepen their understanding of a literary or non-literary work by relating it to its contemporary context or historical background.

    • 13. Nonfiction. Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the purposes, structure, and elements of nonfiction or informational materials and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

    • 16. Myths, Traditional Narrative, and Classical Literature. Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the themes, structure, and elements of myths, traditional narratives, and classical literature and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.


Tell me a story

Kara Walker, Ancient Greek, Roman & European works

Lesson 1:

Illustrating Myths & Fables

Finding the Moral of the Story

Watercolor Illustration

Tell Me a Story

Lesson 2:

Fiction in Four Frames

Lesson 3:

My Story; My Box

Inventing a Character

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Trenton Doyle Hancock & Marvel Comics

Collecting symbolic objects & images

Combining collage & assemblage: My Box

Joseph Cornell & Betye Saar

Creating a four-frame comic strip


Tell me a story

Lesson Overviews

1: Illustrating Myths and Fables

In this lesson, students will discover how to illustrate a scene from a myth or fable though investigating artworks from our past. They will explore the moralistic quality of such stories and bring out the moral/message in their own watercolor painting.

Maurice Denis, Orpheus and Eurydice, 1910, Oil on Linen


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  • Botticelli, La Primavera, 1445, tempera on wood

Linda Kay, Aesop’s Fable: The Wolf and The Kid, 2009, watercolor


Tell me a story

Lesson Overviews

2: Fiction in Four Frames

  • In this lesson, students will investigate qualities of interesting characters from comic strips and books and use the knowledge to invent their own exceptional character

  • in a four-frame

  • fictitious comic strip.


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Charles M. Shultz, Peanuts, comic strip

Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes, 2011, web comic


Tell me a story

Lesson Overviews

3: My Story; My Box

  • In this lesson students will reflect on a story about themselves that they will share by creating an assemblage/collage combination inside of a box the way that artists Betye Saar and Joseph Cornell have done in the past.

Becky Peabody, Memories of Last Summer, 2006, Mixed Media


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Becki Smith, Choose Wisely, 2009, mixed media

Frank Turek, Lonely Man, 2007, mixed media


Tell me a story

Conclusion & Assessment

Students will be able to represent and understand different methods of story telling in both visual and written means. They will revisit the genres of fable, myth, narratives, and fiction that they explored in language arts. Students will be assessed based on their knowledge, effort, behavior, and understanding. This will be decided by class observation and discussion as well as by personal interaction with the teacher.

Linda Kay, Aesop’s Fable: The Wolf and The Kid, 2009, Watercolor


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