Brushstrokes and Words


This segment introduces students to The Thousand Words Project and provides an overview of what they can expect to learn from the video. The Chinese saying, “One picture is worth a thousand words” is the springboard into using artwork to improve language skills.

Time: 45-50 minute period


  • Students become familiar with the goals of The Thousand Words Project
  • Students compare and contrast “writing” and “art.”
  • Students complete an initial evaluation of a piece of art by creating a list of words that identify the piece.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts:

  • W.CCR.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • W.CCR.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • SL.CCR.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • L.CCR.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings

Maine Learning Results Visual and Performing Arts Standards:

  • A2 Elements of Art and Principles of Design – Visual Arts
  • E2 The Arts and Other Disciplines

Segment Vocabulary:

hindrance, think outside the box, equivalent, convey, composition

Teach It

Prior to viewing:

Divide students into two groups. Group One is provided with the word “writing” and Group Two is given the word “art.” Groups should brainstorm the meaning of their assigned word and create a group definition of the term.  Both groups share their definitions with the entire class.  Next, Group One uses Group Two’s definition of “art” and creates a list of actions to correspond to the word; provide the group with a lead of, “When you create art you…”  Group Two will create a list of actions to go along with “When you write you….” Groups share their lists and create a Venn Diagram to compare similarities and differences.

Note: Keep the Venn Diagram to revisit following each video segment. Students should be able to make necessary additions or corrections based on the information that will be provided in each segment.

Focus the students’ attention on how art and writing are essentially both forms of communication. (Add this to the Venn Diagram if students omitted the idea during their initial brainstorming.) Ask students to explain and discuss why and how art and writing are considered forms of communication.

Explain to students that they will be watching a video that will use artwork to improve their writing. Tell them that they will be hearing from current writers and artists and viewing art from Bates Museum of Art. The video segment serves as an introduction to The Thousand Words Project and builds on their earlier brainstorming about the connections between art and writing.

Pause after William Pope.L’s statement, “…it’s an artful way of thinking” and before “One picture is worth a thousand words” is displayed.

Post William Pope.L’s statement, “Creativity can help you get a job…you gotta be able to think outside the box.” Check for understanding by asking students to explain what Pope.L means by this statement. Explain that The Thousand Words Project will help students learn more about how to think outside the box and further develop their writing skills.

Show the remaining portion of the segment.

Writing Through Art Activity:

Note: Before introducing this activity to students, view the group of recommended images from Bates Museum of Art. Determine if you will choose one image for the class to work with or if you will allow students to select from the recommended images.

Once the image has been chosen, tell students they will be generating a list of single words to describe the image, like the Narrator did in the video for Neil Welliver’s painting. Tell them to examine it for at least two minutes. Time them! Then, ask them to quickly generate a list of single words that provides a general idea of the image. Encourage them to list colors and objects. Students should list as many words as possible.

Remind students that the words they listed are similar to the brushstrokes a painter uses when roughing in a composition. Explain that the list of words they created are the building blocks of a writing piece they will be completing.

Dig Deeper

Post Alison Hildreth’s statement, “Fear is the greatest hindrance to writing or drawing.” Ask students to share their views on what it is about creating that often scares people. Let them know that The Thousand Words Project will provide some strategies that will help to overcome those fears.

Ask students to explain what is meant by the “One picture is worth a thousand words” quotation.
Then, ask students to write whether or not they think the reverse is true:  Is one word worth a thousand pictures?

Link to teacher inspired lessons