This is part of the Norman Rockwell integration blog series. To gain access to all the blogs in this series, click the tag “Norman Rockwell”.

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There are many reasons to bring Norman Rockwell and other artists into your classroom. Here are a three to consider:

1. Reading Skills are Really Real Life Skills

Many of these activities are based on the skills my students are learning through their reading series which includes reading, writing and grammar. They get plenty of traditional instruction in these areas through the use of the prescribed materials. However, I believe it is important for students to learn these skills outside of the normal paper and pencil assignments. That is real life!

For example, we all form facts and opinions about the world around us, not just as we read a non-fiction text; we draw conclusions each time we take in the situation around us; we tell stories about events in our life. Many times we don’t even realize that we are using these skills, but we are! And these are skills that need practice. After all, our job is to teach our students the skill itself as well as how to apply it to their reading and writing.

2. A New Opportunity to Practice

By taking the time to present an arts-inspired activity that is based on these reading skills, we are allowing students a new opportunity to practice them. We are giving them new experiences to build on and a chance to share their understanding of the skills they are trying to master. It may be easier for a child to explain what is in a painting than what is inferred in words they find hard to read.

3. Taking Time to See the Details

One of the most beneficial outcomes of doing an activity where students study and respond to a piece of artwork is that they start to learn the importance of taking the time to look carefully at something. There is much more to be seen than what we see in only the first glance. This can be carried over into the importance of reading and rereading; looking back in the text for answers and support. Giving students the opportunity to look and look again is only reinforcing the idea that it is ok to stay with something for more than a moment.

Connecting the Activity Back to Reading

Once your students have practiced these skills it is important to connect it back to their literacy. Explain to them that when they look back in the text, they are simply looking for more details – just like when you take the time to look at a painting; when you take what you know from the text and make your own judgements, you are drawing conclusions about a story – just like when you formed opinions about the situation in the painting. This is the final step and what makes these activities a source of true integration.

There is so much you can do with a Norman Rockwell painting (or other well selected painting or photo) that directly relates to many reading skills.  My ebook, Integrating the Works of Norman Rockwell into Reading Instruction explains more and gives activities to teach many of them including drawing conclusions, deciphering fact and opinion and making predictions.

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