In a word…YES! If you are seeking a great writing prompt, look no further than a picture book, a local art gallery, or a collection of great works of art from one of those coffee table display books.
When I was a kid, we used to have a large reproduction of Paul Detlefsen’s work, called The Smithy and Horse. I used to stare at it, sort of daydreaming about how the objects could interact if they were real and not just a painting.
Here’s just a short sample of how I made the objects in the picture come alive:
I imagined that the dog raced fiercely toward the boy in the overalls and bit him! Because the boy was in so much pain, he flailed about, knocking over the wooden barrel he was leaning on. The barrel rolled over into the blacksmith’s shop and crashed into the wooden block that held the anvil. Well, you can imagine what happened when the anvil fell off and landed on the smithy’s foot!
I could go on and on—but what matters is that the words seem to flow easily when the imagination takes flight.
Anyway, it’s true—a picture can be worth a thousand words, especially if you can expose your students to some great picture books or fine works of art.
Now, you try…
Select a picture book that portrays several objects;
Model some “thinking out loud” by talking with your students about interesting ways the objects in the picture could interact (chain-reaction stories work great with this!);
Jot down notes about how you connected all of the objects in the artwork;
Have students start with a very short picture book to think about independently, and when ready, let the students record their story in a listening center, on a cell phone, other recording device;
Publish the recorded story together. Have students listen to their recorded stories and then transpose it on paper. No doubt, there will be revisions so be sure that students include them in the final published story.