Writing from Outer Space

Writing from Outer Space: Connecting art, expository and creative writing with pictures of the universe.

The Thousand Words Project, Joyce Bucciantini, Auburn Middle School


Guiding Questions:

  1. How is expository writing different from creative writing?
  2. What does space “look” like? What stories does space “tell” us

Learning goals:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to use details and information present in the artwork to create a list, and then write a clear descriptive expository text that clearly describes the artwork. (just the facts).
  2. Students will use the descriptions of the artwork to write a creative narrative, such as a myth, that connects to the same artwork.
  3. Students will be able to explain how the purpose for writing influences our choices or type of writing.
  4. Students will write and revise their work to answer the questions: What does space look like or what stories can space tell us?

Content Connections: Science/ Astronomy, and Language Arts
This lesson will combine science vocabulary and science texts related to studying astronomy, as well as expository and creative narrative writing.

Common Core Writing Standards:

  1. Text Type and Purposes: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    a. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details,
    quotations, or other information and examples.
  2. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
  3. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
  4. With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grade 8 on page 52 of the Common Core Document.)

Teach It

Pre Teaching Activities:

  • Prior to viewing the art selections from Bates Olin Arts Center, students will be learning about astronomy and space in their science classes.
  • Students will read a variety of narrative texts which will include nature myths.

Teaching the Lessons:

One Small Step:

  1. Students will use the on line videos from the TWP site to review how art and writing connect and complete the first few lesson activities related to listing details and sentence lengths.  Using a Think, Pair, Share format, students brainstorm lists of details and sentences, share with a partner, and then report out to the class making a class list of ideas.
  2. As a class, discuss the following question.
    Describe at least 3 strategies that can make your writing more interesting.
  3. Assessment:  Students turn in an exit slip that includes 3 strategies that work to make their writing more interesting. Exit slip may be electronic or paper.

Space Travel:

  1. Students view several different paintings or photographs that show images from space.
  2. Students select one of the pieces of artwork to describe in detail.
    What can they see and observe about the topic of the artwork?
    Students will create a list of the details.
  3.  Students view the TWP video about organization. Using the organizational strategies from the video, students will create a draft of a short expository text to describe the artwork.
    **Turn and Talk** Have students turn to a partner and talk – share the paragraph for content and look at organization.
  4.  Using their list and brainstorming strategies, students will create a short creative narrative about the artwork.
    **Turn and Talk** Have students share their narrative.
  5. Whole class discussion question:
    • How are the two types of writing different?  How might the author’s purpose influence the type of writing used?
    • Remind students of the two questions: what does space look like or what stories does space tell us.
  6. Assessment: Students complete exit slip (may be electronic) that explains how expository and creative writing are different.

Rocket Reboot: Extending the mission and setting a purpose for the writing.

  1. Students will select a purpose for their writing: either their expository quick write or their narrative quick write to develop into a longer writing piece.
  2. Using the TWP video lessons for drafting, revising, and publishing work, students will move through the steps of the writing process to develop their writing piece.Students will add to their original piece to develop their topic, show an understanding of organization, use of detail and sentence variety, and purpose for the text.
  3. Peer editing, and discussion should be an integral part of the writing process.
  4. Students complete and publish their writing piece with the artwork.
  5. Formative assessment will happen as students peer edit and teacher check as a part of the writing process. Students may use writing rubric as a part of revision.
    Summative assessment: Using the Common Core Standards listed above, the teacher will have created and shared a rubric with the class for the summative assessment

Intergalactic Café: Publishing the work

Once the students have completed their work, it should be published in a way where both the writing and art can be viewed to show “Writings from the Universe” Some suggestions follow:

  • Create posters with copies of the artwork and the student writing to be displayed as a part of a team or class art museum.
  • Use digital story telling to share artwork and text in an audio and visual format to create an on-line art museum.
  • Create a walk through galaxy with models of planets with the artwork and texts as a part of the exhibit. Distances should be to scale.
  • Invite others to view the published work.
  • Create tour guides to explain the universe and weave the written texts into their narrative about the universe.

Tech connections:  There are multiple opportunities for tech integration.

  • Using NASA sites for researching more specific information.
  • Using Google Docs or Edmodo for sharing work with teacher and/ or peers.
  • Use organizational tools such as Omni Graffle, or Mindnode to create lists or brain- storm narratives.
  • Use digital story telling formats such as iMovie to publish work.
  • Film and create a documentary of the process.

Dig Deeper: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence