Monday, February 15, 2010

Pairing Paintings with Poems

It certainly has been awhile! I’m student teaching this semester (and loving every minute of it) so things have been busy around here. I have had some time the last few days, though, because we got hit by a ton of snow and schools have been closed now for over a week! I’m sure the kids are loving it, but I’m ready to get back.

I spent some time last week working on a lesson for our poetry unit and I thought some of you might be interested in what I put together. Some time ago I read an article by Judith Jester in which she talked about how we “read” paintings in the same way we read literature. I wanted to use this idea so I went on a hunt for four poems that I could match to four paintings. This was a lot more difficult than you’d think! Below is what I found.

I matched Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Afternoon on a Hill” with Claude Monet’s Poppies at Arguenteuil (shown above).

Deborah Chandra’s poem “Bubbles” matched Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin’s Boy Blowing Bubbles.

Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) by Henri Rousseau seemed a great illustration of “Tiger Dance” by Carconti Etva.

And “Wind Pictures” by Mary O’Neill (scroll toward the bottom of the page to find the poem) paired well with N.C. Wyeth’s The Giant.

All of the poems except Tiger Dance can be found in The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury selected by Jack Prelutsky. It’s really a great book. It has so many wonderful poems, all illustrated superbly by Meilo So.

My thought is to have the students read each poem and look at each painting and decide which painting to pair with which picture. Then they’ll write about how they made the pairings.

I’m excited about this lesson. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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PeterParis said...

Happy to "find" you again! Happy also to learn about your activities! You have made some perfect choices! Please tell us about the results (once the snow is gone)!

utbtkids said...

This is such an interesting post, considering that in our book blog,, we just finished an art exploration round up for Jan and we are thinking of poetry as the theme.

I would very much like to try matching paintings to poems at home. I have a five year old who is being introduced to poetry at school. I would like to see how she responds.

Jessica said...

I am working with 3rd graders so some of the poems I chose may be a bit above your 5 year old's level [but I could be wrong :) ]. The tiger poem is especially difficult. I think, though, that looking at art while listening to poetry would appeal to a 5 year old. I would find out what poems your child is reading at school and try to match paintings to some of those.

I'd love to hear how it goes and what poems and paintings you use!

Anonymous said...

One of my favourite links and one I remember from school is the pairing of the poem 'Musee des Beaux Arts' by W H Auden with 'Landscape with the fall of Icarus' by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. So much to look at in the painting, including the little pair of legs sticking up out of the sea!

There is a link of them on the web as well at, which might be of use.


Unknown said...

Good to see you posting again. Still trying to get back to "normal" at my house. Hopefully that will happen soon and we can continue working on that wonderful idea you proposed!

Austin Couponer said...

Your post made me think of this project done by the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas:

Jessica said...

Thanks for the websites. I had such a tough time finding appropriate poems to match with paintings that would interest my kids that I ended up writing one of the poems myself! (I'll post it when I give you the update.) It's nice to see that others have also been inspired by paintings to write poems.

And I'm glad you all were interested in this lesson. I'd love to hear more of your experiences.

Choxbox said...

wow this is an awesome blog! came here thanks to utbt! blog-rolling you, hope thats okay.

sandhya said...

Wow! Completely bowled over. I came to this post via Choxbox' blog-roll. Now I'll be found trying to find a suitable picture/painting to match my favourite poems.
Thanks for giving me a completely new perspective.

Anonymous said...


Joy's Creative Space said...

Fantastic idea! I teach ages 5-adults and always looking for inspiration and methods of teaching art.I also love writing and use it with my own art. I will definitely try the technique and let you know how it goes. Thanks for your blog. Here is mine joy

Leslie aka Mother Robin said...

SO glad I stumbled upon you through via Handbook of Nature I am teaching art in our homeschool co-op and at home put emphasis on poetry, but I never would have thought of pairing the two.Thanks!!
Stop by! Mother Robin's Notes from the Nest