STORY SPARKS (GRADES: 6-12)

Use Norman Rockwell’s Post covers to spark creative writing.

Rockwell is known as The Saturday Evening Post’s most famous illustrator.  He submitted his first successful cover painting, “Mother’s Day Off”, to the Post in 1916. Over the next Forty-seven years his work appeared on the cover a total of 323 times.  Each cover that he created tells a story. Through his work, he presents images of everyday life in America, childhood, civil rights, war, and change.  He was known for finding the special stories in moments that others took for granted.

 

GOALS

  • Spark creative writing
  • Develop narrative voice
  • Explore dialogue

MATERIALS

  • Printed or digital copies of various Rockwell “Post” covers.
  • Writing paper
  • Index Cards

After the Prom, Norman Rockwell. 1957
©1957 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

[One line activity for teaser: In five lines or less tell the story of what is happening in the picture.]

ACTIVITY

Observe

  • Choose several Saturday Evening Post covers to share with students. Ask:
    • What do you notice about this painting? What is the setting? What are the characters wearing? What are they doing? What objects do you notice?
    • What story do you think Rockwell is trying to tell?
    • What do you imagine these characters might be saying or thinking? What do you think happened right before or after this scene?
    • What was happening in America that may have influenced this illustration? 

 Explore

  • Use the covers that you have chosen, to spark creative writing and narrative voice. Try some of the following exercises with students:
    • Have students write a short story about their image of choice. Before they begin, encourage them to take detailed notes on the character, setting, tone, and style that they observe in the painting. Layer your classroom learning goals into this assignment.
    • Show a Post cover. Explain that the picture shows us the middle of the story. Challenge children to come up with an illustration that shows what happened before and after the image on the cover. Then have them write a story to go along with the three illustrations.
    • Choose Post covers with two or more characters. Have students write a dialogue between the two characters.
    • Choose a Post cover. Ask students, “Would this be painted today?” Have them write a persuasive essay arguing their answer to this question.
    • Present several Post covers. Inform students that Rockwell was known for capturing everyday life in America. Ask, students to write about three ways that Rockwell captures everyday life in America and three ways that he does not.
    • Show two different Post covers and challenge students to merge them into one story.

EXTENSIONS

Try these activities to go even farther with your explorations.

Create

  • Have students create their own Post covers to depict everyday life in America as they see it. Then have them write a short story, song, poem or play to go along with their cover.

Reflect

  • In small groups, have students reflect upon the process of using art to spark their writing. Have them discuss the following: Was it helpful? Why? Was it difficult? Why? In what ways did the art inform the writing? 
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