Why You Should Display the Artwork of Every Student

Image result for student art showDo you display student artwork at your school?

Are the most technically sound and visually appealing pieces the only ones to go up on display?

Have you ever considered putting every student art piece from a given assignment up at once?

 By putting up all student work for a display, the artistic hierarchy of talent dissolves. Students have an individual assignment that is now part of something bigger and they are all in it together. When students know everyone is putting up their work, the peer dynamic in the room becomes less competitive and more supportive.

Displaying the best work or a percentage of the artwork produced by students promotes an inherent exclusivity . If we want our students to believe they are artists, it is important to give them a venue to make them feel that way.If a small percentage of total student work is consistantly displayed, a message is sent: Your work is not good enough for others to see.

Now, Perhaps that is a bit extreme. At the same time, we must reflect upon and evaluate the purpose of our art courses and make a decision about how we want to impact all of our students. My argument here is at least once a year it is important to give all of our students a platform and a challenge to display their work as authentic artists.

How many experiences do students remember throughout their schooling? Often they study, apply, and forget.  When students see themselves as worthy to put their individual artistic expression in public for others to engage with, it’s empowering!

After a successful exhibition, students may wonder what else they can do in the public realm. For students lacking self-esteem, putting up work with peers can boost academic and artistic confidence.

When it comes time to hang the work, do it during class. This process is an essentail part of the learning in art , in many cases presentation is everything.  As Art educators we must give all students the opportunity to engage in the entire artistic process, from conception, to creation, to communication with an audience. This experience can have a profound influence on students for years to come.


Ekphrasis: Using Art to Inspire Poetry

Image result for Guernica
Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time 2 90-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Killian Williams-Morantine

Hahnville High School


In this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students begin by reading and discussing several poems inspired by works of art. Through the discussion, students learn ways in which poets can approach a piece of artwork (for instance, writing about the scene being depicted in the artwork, writing in the voice of the person depicted in the artwork, speaking to the artist or subject of the painting, etc.). Students then search online for pieces of art that inspire them and, in turn, compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.


Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry: This handout describes several approaches that could be taken when writing Ekphrastic poems.

Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art: This page from the American Academy of Poets explains ekphrasis and provides links to poetry inspired by art.


Poets have used art as inspiration for centuries. John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is one famous example, but even ancient poets such as Homer have turned to artwork as a source of stimulation for their writing.  Honor Moorman notes: “William Blake said that poetry and art are ‘ways to converse with paradise’ (Farrell 6). In the Phaedrus, Plato observes that when paintings and poems are put together, they ‘seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent’ (qtd. in Foster and Prevallet xv)… Georgia Heard calls language ‘the poet’s paint’ (65), and many other writers and artists have commented on the parallels between these two modes of expression.” (46-47) In Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, Jan Greenberg explains her belief in “the power of art to inspire language” (4). She notes that “What the poet sees in art and puts into words can transform an image . . . extending what is often an immediate response into something more lasting and reflective.” (4). This lesson allows students to harness the power of visual images to inspire their own poetry.

Further Reading

Greenberg, Jan, ed. 2001. Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art. New York: Abrams.

Moorman, Honor. “Backing into Ekphrasis: Reading and Writing Poetry about Visual Art.” English Journal 96.1(September 2006): 46-53.


knowledge of social,
cultural, historical,
and personal life
with art-making
approaches to create
meaningful works of
art or design.



Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.


Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).


Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.


Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.


Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.




  • Packet of Ekphrastic Poems
  • Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art by Justine Rowden (Boyds Mills, 2005) (optional)
  • Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, edited by Jan Greenberg (Abrams, 2001) (optional)







Students will

  • read and analyze poems inspired by art.
  • discuss the methods poets use to write about artwork.
  • use Internet searching techniques to find several inspiring art pieces.
  • compose poems inspired by the artwork of their choosing.


  1. Hand out copies of “Vincent” lyrics by Don McLean and additional poems from the prepared packet.
  2. Play the song while students follow along with the lyrics. The song is played by clicking on the title “Vincent” in the Don McLean Music Player located on the bottom right corner of the home page.
  3. Ask students to reflect on the song in their writing journals, answering the questions, “Who do you think Vincent was?” and “What do we learn about Vincent from the song?”
  4. Discuss students’ journal responses. As the discussion develops, students will point out references to painting and art, and some students may realize the song is written about Vincent Van Gogh.
  5. Display an overhead or LCD reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. (The song also references other Van Gogh paintings—Sunflowers, Wheat Field with Crows, Self-Portrait—which you may choose to show students as well.)
  6. Continue discussing the song, noting how McLean uses Van Gogh’s artwork as his inspiration.
  7. Point out the songwriter’s perspective in writing this piece is to directly address the artist.
  8. Ask students to re-read the lyrics in their packet, this time noting poetic devices they find. Students may mark the text (underlining, starring, notetaking, etc.) as they re-read.
  9. Students then share their findings with the class, noting examples of devices such as rhyme, alliteration, repetition, etc.
  10. Encourage them to add to their notes during the discussion. Point out literary devices students may have missed (tone, for example).


  1. Introduce the term ekphrasis and define its meaning—“writing inspired by art.”
  2. Take a few minutes to have students explain how “Vincent” is like an ekphrastic poem and therefore offers a good preview of their own analysis of ekphrastic poetry.
  3. Mention that students will have the chance to write ekphrastic poems of their own after analyzing several as a class.
  4. Share several ekphrastic poems and accompanying artwork on the overhead or LCD projector as students follow along in their packets.
  5. Refer to the Websites listed in the Resources section for examples. Alternatively, read aloud from Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art, by Justine Rowden, (Boyds Mills, 2005) or Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, edited by Jan Greenberg (Abrams, 2001).
  6. As you read each poem, have students mark the text for poetic devices (or take notes as you read) as they did in response to “Vincent.”
  7. Lead a discussion of each poem, noting the various perspectives poets take towards the artwork as well as the poetic devices they use (e.g., sound devices such as alliteration, metaphors or similes, rhyme, imagery, etc).


  1. Introduce and discuss the ekphrastic poetry booklet, and distribute the Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry handout, the Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Checklist, and the Prewriting Chart.
  2. Display an overhead transparency of the Ekphrastic Poetry Booklet Rubric (or pass out copies for students to use), and explain the connections between the checklist and the rubric.
  3. Have students use the Websites listed in the Resources section to search for artwork they find intriguing.
  4. As students select artwork, they should complete the Prewriting Chart.


  1. Allow students time to draft a series of poems about the pieces of artwork they have chosen.
  2. As the class works, circulate through the room and briefly conference with students as they complete their first poems. Make sure that students’ first poems reflect an understanding of the assignment before they complete the remainder of the series.
  3. Students may wish to conference individually with the teacher or ask their peers for feedback as they write and revise the remainder of their series.


  1. Students should finish final revisions and editing of their poems.
  2. Lead students through the tutorial included in the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
  3. Allow students time to assemble their poems into booklets, using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
  4. Teachers may wish to add sessions for peer response, revision, and sharing of the finished poetry booklets.