Teaching Theme and Tone in Writing Using Art and Photography
Help Students Learn to Set the Mood
Help inspire creativity in students by showing a slide show of photos and art to show different moods that may be used in a story or a poem. Students sometimes find it difficult to decide upon a “tone” or “theme” of a story or poem. If they see a work of art that moves them in some way, they are often eager to begin writing and developing their story or poem.
Many different types of art and photographs may be used for this project. If your slide show contains many different genres of photos and art, most students will find something that appeals to them.
Teenagers have vastly different interests and, like adults, their taste in art will vary. Some enjoy art that is romantic, some that is realistic, shows storms or sunny days, families and people alone, nature and high technology, athletes and musicians. Show as many other different types of genres of art as possible.
Art helps students move out of the known and into the “unknown.” Art expands the world view of high school students by showing them there are aspects to life around the world that they never have seen or imagined.
Light That Creative Spark
Once students have had time to look at and discuss the art, ask volunteers to give one word to describe the tone or theme of a certain piece of art or a photo. Then ask each student to write 10 words that describe the tone of a photo or piece of art they liked. This helps students brainstorm ideas about the tone and theme of a story or poem.
Ask several volunteers to share their list of words with the class. They may also list some of their words on the board at the front of the room.
Ask students to move into teams, two students each, so they can brainstorm ideas together. Tell them to talk over their word lists and discuss what kind of story or poem they want to create. Tell students they may write on any theme as long as it is appropriate for use in school.
After time for brainstorming ideas, ask students to create either a draft of a poem or an introduction paragraph for a story. Then the students will peer-edit the work of their partner.
Advise students to use imagery and vivid language in their story or poem. Also ask students to use at least one simile in the work they create. The tone and theme of the work should be apparent very quickly in the first few lines of the poem or story.
To evaluate student work on this project, give a grade for participation in class discussion about the art. There should also be a grade for each student's effort in helping the other student and for revising their own work based on suggestions received during the peer-editing process. Then also evaluate the poem or story for overall writing skill, use of imagery and simile, and for clearly creating a unique tone and theme to the piece of writing.