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What's the story?

Telling stories is one significant way we recognize meaning in our lives and our relationship with the world around us. Storytellers throughout time have been revered in many cultures and serve a number of functions in societies. They pass on their culture's traditions through narratives--telling stories of the past, preserving tales of heroes, myths, legends, and fables, and predicting the future.

Storytellers may entertain, inform, or educate their audiences through oral dramatic interpretations, written narratives, or visual images, but they all fulfill the basic human need to believe that life has meaning and purpose.

It makes fine sense that many artists describe themselves as storytellers. Art tells stories that students can interpret, and you can tell engaging stories about artists' lives. Students can tell their own stories through works of art and write them down or tell them, too. Even young children can tell you stories about their artwork that you can record or write down.

If you are not averse to role-playing, you can bring artists to life for your students by impersonating an artist. For example, I once posed as the American folk painter Grandma Moses for a first-grade class. The students were happy to suspend disbelief as I told them tidbits of "my" life.

Engaging stories make the artist real and memorable to students. Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses), for example, lived for 101 years, through Abraham Lincoln's presidency, two World Wars, and the invention of flight. Her work was discovered in the window of a drugstore, and she thoughtfully took jars of her jams to sell at her opening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City!

You may want to pick an artist you resemble or just not worry about physical similarities. I have also impersonated the African-American outsider artist Bill Traylor.

Bill Johnson, author of Understanding What a Story Is, suggests that a good story is one that "carries us on an engaging, dramatic journey to a destination of resolution we find satisfying and fulfilling." All of us have a story to tell. How will you help your students tell theirs?

All of us have a story to tell How will you help your students tell theirs?

Using Stories in Art

All Levels

* Have students create art that tells stories.

* Impersonate artists and stay in character throughout class discussion.

* Show photographs or self-portraits of artists so students will know how they looked and think of them as real people.

* Collect interesting stories about artists to share with students.

* Bring the stories of art to life through living paintings.


* Read children's storybooks aloud to first engage students' interest and imagination and then motivate their own artwork.

* Read books aloud without showing the pictures, and then have students create their own illustrations to the stories.

* Record or write down stories students tell about their own works of art.


* Have students research and then impersonate artists for their classmates. They could work individually or create a dialogue between artists who knew each other.

* Display a narrative artwork with no explanation or discussion and have students write their own interpretations of its possible meaning. Share and discuss student responses.

* Have students write personal stories then create artworks that tell the story.

* Have students create artwork that tells a story and then write about it.

* Ask students to investigate how cartoon strips tell stories and then create cartoons about their own lives.

Nancy Walkup, Editor
COPYRIGHT 2006 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Editor's Comments
Author:Walkup, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:February 2006: Black History Month.
Next Article:Student-parent-teacher conferences.

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