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Extension Activities

Sherwood Anderson Extension Activities:
The Art Is in the Details

This activity addresses several benchmarks within the Visual Arts standard as students create a work of art to communicate an emotion related to the description of a person, event, or place in the story. We encourage you to work with an art teacher at your school, if possible, but sufficient information is provided here so that you can lead this activity without previous knowledge of the visual arts.

Getting Started

Lesson Objectives
After completing this activity, students will be able to:

  • Create a piece of artwork and write an Artist's Statement explaining their artistic vision and what the piece means to them
  • Write an interpretive response to another student's work

Grade Level Indicators
In meeting the lesson objectives, students will:

  • Demonstrate skill in changing (e.g., exaggerating and transforming) natural forms for expressive purposes
  • Explore ways that art-making functions as a means of personal identification and expression
  • Use observation, life experiences, and imagination as sources for visual symbols and images
  • Interpret selected works of art based on the visual clues in the works

Time Required
This Extension Activity is in five parts. If all work is completed in class, three or more 45-minute class periods will be required.

  • Reading and Preparing to Create - 45 minutes
  • Making Art - 45 minutes (can be completed outside of class, if necessary)
  • Writing the Artist's Statement - 25 minutes
  • Responding to Artwork - 20 minutes

Resources Needed

  • Copy of the story "Death in the Woods" (pages 77-85 of the Ohio Reading Road Trip Instructor's Guide)
  • Art supplies (whatever is readily available)


The purpose of this activity is to get students to engage deeply with the story "Death in the Woods" and then use their imaginations and creativity to express an emotion that they feel as they read. In this activity, the quality of the students' artwork is not as important as their ability to explain what the artwork is supposed to express and how they tried to express the emotion visually. However, this activity is structured so that the students will work through a creative process and not just start drawing.

To help you lead this activity, we have provided the following directions. Feel free to use these as much or as little as needed, based on your comfort level with the visual arts.

Part A: Reading

  1. Students should already have copies of the story "Death in the Woods"; hand out extra copies if necessary.
  2. Ask students to re-read the story and identify any emotions that they feel while they read OR that they think any of the characters are feeling.
  3. Have students choose one of these emotions to serve as the basis for their artwork.

Part B: Preparing to Create

  1. Ask students to volunteer some of the emotions that they felt or found in the story (not just the one that they are planning to use in this activity). Make a list of these on the board, then ask students to name some other feelings or emotions that they have on a regular basis. Add these to the list.
  2. Talk about color. Ask students to name some colors that would express an emotion on your list. Good examples to use here are "love," "happiness," or "sadness." Ask students why a certain color might be good for expressing one emotion but not another. Remind them that colors can be bright, dark, pale, intense, etc. The important thing to get out of this discussion is the idea that colors have characteristics that can be used to express feelings.
  3. Talk about shapes and lines. Have students name some shapes and draw them on the board. Do the same thing with lines (straight, wiggly, curly, jagged, etc.). Ask students to think about what types of lines might be good for expressing different emotions. At this point, students may be able to apply this new concept to the previous discussion of color, so you can skip a similar discussion if you feel the class gets the point.
  4. Have students make a list of some of the colors, shapes, and types of lines they might be able to use to express the emotion they've selected. As they do this, they may decide to use a different emotion. Be sure they know they can switch if they like.

Part C: Making Art

  1. Have students create their artwork. This could be done in class or outside of class. Encourage them to work in 2D or 3D and either in traditional media (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) or, if they prefer, electronic media. Make sure that students will have access to some art supplies (at least pencil and unlined paper) if they will be working outside of class. Remind them to look at things in the natural world to get ideas, and to draw upon their observation, life experiences, and imagination as sources for visual symbols and images. Demonstrate skill in changing (e.g., exaggerating and transforming) natural forms for expressive purposes.

Part D: Writing The Artist's Statement

  1. Have students write at least two to three paragraphs in which they:
    • Identify the feeling that they were trying to express in their artwork
    • Explain how they used colors, shapes, and lines to portray emotion
    • Discuss what they might do differently if they had this assignment to do over again with unlimited time and materials
    • Discuss how they used this artwork as an opportunity to express themselves
  2. Display the students' artwork in your classroom, but do not add the artist statements yet.

Part E: Responding to Artwork

  1. Assign each student to interpret another student's artwork. Be sure that everyone's art will receive a response. Ask students to base their responses on the following guidelines, suggested by art educator Edmund B. Feldmund and courtesy of KinderArt.com. After students have completed and turned in their responses, post the artist statements (and possibly the responses, if you like) with each piece of artwork.


  • Describe what you see.
  • Describe the artist's use of color. How many colors have been used?
  • Describe the lines in the work.
  • What kinds of shapes do you see?
  • Is your eye drawn to any particular area of the artwork?
  • Is there an element that stands out in the composition?
  • Does the work make you think of movement? How does the artist show movement?
  • Does the work look flat or does it give a feeling of depth or space?
  • What kind of mood or feeling do you get from the artwork?
  • If you could imagine yourself within the work, how would you feel?
  • What sounds would you hear?
  • Why do you think the artist chose this particular subject?
  • What part of the landscape, building, person, animal, etc. most interested the artist? Why do you think so?
  • Find something interesting about this work. Why is it interesting to you?
  • What do you like or dislike about the work?

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