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Jacob Lawrence's Painted Stories

Storytelling meets visual arts in the style of Jacob Lawrence, African American artist and storyteller.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Jacob Lawrence was an African American artist whose work was known for its emphasis on storytelling. Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1917, Lawrence spent portions of his life in both Easton (the home of Crayola®) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before moving to Harlem in New York. Jacob's work focuses on the history of African Americans in the United States. He includes scenes of everyday life, historical events, and the lives of African American heroes and heroines in his work.
    2. Invite students to conduct further research into the life work of Jacob Lawrence. Organize a variety of text and electronic resources for students to use. Once research is complete, invite students to create their own storytelling artwork.
    3. Students begin by thinking of a significant historical event that has occurred during their lives, or to their ethnic group, or that has influenced their family heritage. Students compose a story about this event with Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils. Encourage them to include details such as important names, dates, and circumstances.
    4. Use Crayola Crayons on heavy paper to draw a portrait of the person, or people, featured in their stories. Surround the main portrait with other story images, using bold colors and firm strokes. Fill in drawings with color.
    5. Students cover their work areas with recycled newspaper. Use Crayola Watercolors to fill in the background of drawings. Dip brushes into water; then collect a small amount of paint on a wet brush. Apply diluted wet paint to the background for a wash effect.
    6. Provide a time for students to share their artwork with classmates. Ask them to discuss how they each wove their learning about Jacob Lawrence into their artwork.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence by John Duggleby; The Great Migration: An American Story by Jacob Lawrence; Jacob Lawrence by Mike Venezia

    Students investigate the historical era known as "The Great Migration" in American history. What motivated many Blacks to leave their homes in the Southern states and move North? Why were Northern states referred to as "The Promised Land"? Did Blacks find "The Promised Land"?

    In a similar manner to Jacob Lawrence's artwork, students illustrate an important event that they are studying in history or social studies. Compose a brief summary of the event to accompany the display of artwork.

    Students select one of Jacob Lawrence's powerful works, such as a piece from his series about Harriet Tubman. Research information about the scene portrayed. Present research to classmates.

    Students create a storytelling painting about an important event in their personal lives. Include details about the event. Write the story of the event and post it with the displayed painting.


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