PhotographicStorytellingClassroom Activities & Lesson Plans

Developed for Middle School Curriculum, but most activities are scalable for multiple grade levels.

Create Your Own Lesson Plan: Template Use this template (or your own) to create and share your own lesson plans, museum strategies, artmaking activities, and ideas for teaching about arts and culture. We’ll share them on this website, on our tours, and at upcoming educator events. Download

Narrative Writing Lesson Plan (by Alder Creek Middle School Teacher, Matt Chalmers) Includes graphic organizer for storyboarding, and prompts for developing student writing by connecting to meanings in students own, personal objects. Download

Object-Oriented Storytelling Classroom activities and Brainstorming Web graphic organizer, to encourage students in developing stories about their own objects with description and personal meaning. Uses “This is not a roll of tape” and “Crossing the line” formats. Download

Object Stories: Graphic Organizer (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart)  Brainstorming worksheet for developing stories from objects that students love. Download

Object Stories: Memories Worksheet (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Graphic organizer for developing stories from the memories that objects carry. Download

Object Stories: Narrative Writing Activity In this activity, students explore the meaning and significance of their own, personal objects via written narrative; for Common Core Standard 6.W.3 Includes graphic organizer “Storytelling with Objects” for brainstorming.  Download

Object Stories: Brainstorming in the Classroom (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Prompts students to think about significance and the memories and meanings that objects contain (people, place, time, descriptive language). Works well with “Word-Quilt Artmaking Activity.” Download

Oral Storytelling Lesson Plan (by teaching artist Adele White) Theater-based storytelling activities for developing oral presentations and narratives from objects of personal value and significance. Common Core Standard 6.W.3, works well with Oral Storytelling Prep activities. Download

Oral Storytelling Prep Theater-based storytelling activities for developing oral presentations and narratives from objects of personal value and significance. Common Core Standard 6.W.3, works well with Oral Storytelling Lesson Plan. Download

Photographic Storytelling Lesson Plan (by teaching artist Julie Keefe) Using a series of prompts relating to perspectives, students craft a six-word story and create photographs that tell the story of their object. Works well with “Photographic Scavenger Hunt Activity” as a tie-in. Download

Photographic Scavenger Hunt Activity (by teaching artist Julie Keefe) An excellent tie-in to the “Photographic Storytelling Lesson Plan.” Download

Poetic Storytelling Lesson Plan (by teaching artist Cindy Williams Gutiérrez) Students create and tell stories about their own objects with description and personal meaning; students recognize that all objects have multiple stories and begin to find personal meaning in museum objects. Includes poems by Pablo Neruda. Download

Preparing for a Museum Visit: Classroom Lesson Plan Demonstrates how the ordinary objects of today receive and accrue meaning, providing a corollary to the same processes that take place in the objects of the Museum. Includes stories from the Object Stories online archive and links to using Online CollectionsDownload

Quiltmaking Classroom Activity: Storytelling by Word-quilt (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Students tell stories about their own objects with description and personal meaning; bridging students’ visual quilt squares to a verbal story about their object. Includes Object Stories Brainstorming Worksheets. Download

Senses, Simile & Metaphor Lesson Plan (by teaching artist Cindy Williams Gutiérrez) Writers and storytellers see more than the object as it is; students use their imaginations to bring them alive by comparing them to other things through simile and metaphor. Works well with “Poetic Storytelling Lesson Plan.”  Download

Storytelling with Objects A simple graphic organizer for brainstorming object-driven narrative. Works well with “Storytelling with Memories” worksheet. Download

Storytelling with Memories A simple graphic organizer for brainstorming from personal significance inside objects that contain strong memories. Works well with “Storytelling with Objects” graphic organizer. Download

Theater Storytelling  (by teaching artist Lindsay Genshaft) Includes Object Stories Story Map Worksheet, works well with Tableau Museum Activity (see “Museum Activities Tool Kit”). Download

“This is not a roll of tape” Warmup Exercise Can be used in the classroom and the Museum. Download

Turning Written Stories into Oral Stories & Presentations Includes story map worksheet; supports Common Core Standard 6.W.3 by looking for Time, Place & People, description, and significance. Download


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Museum Activities

Create Your Own Museum Activity: Template Use this template (or your own) to create and share your own lesson plans, museum strategies, artmaking activities, and ideas for teaching about arts and culture. We’ll share them on this website, on our tours, and at upcoming educator events. Download

“Getting to know you” Worksheet A very useful, simple worksheet for introduction and orientation to the Portland Art Museum galleries. Download

Gallery Tour Worksheet Designed for students to use in the Impressionism Gallery, but can be used in any gallery. Download

Museum Activities Tool Kit Designed and compiled by the Portland Art Museum Docents & Education Department, this valuable all-in-one resource includes eleven Museum activities, suggested works of art and Story Map worksheet. These activities were developed to improve storytelling and literacy skills through museum visits, and to aid in your tours in engaging students and visitors. Includes tableau, a theater storytelling exercise, one of the most popular activities with students. Download

Object Stories Gallery: Tour Worksheet Designed to be used in the Object Stories Gallery on the Lower Level of the Portland Art Museum. Download

Object Stories: Museum Tour Overview Begins in the Object Stories Gallery (students tell stories about the personal meanings of their own objects) then connects to the objects in the Museum galleries—making the conceptual leap by illustrating how objects of all kinds carry personal and cultural stories across time and place. Download

Object Stories: Two Museum Tours Personal Stories Tour & Museum Stories Tour build connections between the meanings inside objects that students value the most, to an understanding of how meaning accumulates inside of all objects across time, cultures, and place. Download

Preparing for a Museum Visit: Classroom Lesson Plan Demonstrates how the ordinary objects of today receive and accrue meaning, providing a corollary to the same processes that take place in the objects of the Museum. Includes stories from the Object Stories online archive and links to using Online CollectionsDownload

“This is not a roll of tape” Warmup Exercise Can be used in the classroom and the Museum. Download

Tour Worksheets: Museum Activities Two tour worksheets guide students to make connections between personal objects and Museum objects—sets the stage for a deeper understanding of how meaning is made, and carried within all objects. Download

Visual Analysis: Alternative Methods for Thinking Critically About Art Introduction to forms of interpretation other than verbal and those that rely on visual analysis. Often used for peer-to-peer learning. Download

Word Cards Printable copy for use in Museum activities and tours. (See “Museum Activities Tool Kit”) Download

Writing a Letter to a Work of Art: Museum Activity Worksheet for developing narrative, characterization and descriptive writing skills; encourages students to spend more time looking deeply at one piece of art. Can be used in conjunction with images from Online Collections, too. Download

Writing in the Galleries: Museum Activity Students describe museum objects using visual analysis and descriptive word cards (see “Word Cards” download, above). Students relate and engage with art objects through discussion and writing a letter to an art object, artist, or figure in the work. Includes “Writing a Letter to a Work of Art” worksheet, uses Common Core Standards for narrative writing (6.W.3) Download


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Object Stories Lesson Plans & Activities

Object Stories activities were developed in conjunction with the Object Stories: From the Middle program. They often utilize recorded stories from the objectstories.org archive for examples of oral storytelling and developing narratives around objects with personal significance. They also link to Common Core Standards for narrative writing (6.W.3).

Create Your Own: Promising Prompts for Student Storytelling, Template Download

Group Exercises: Telling Object Stories Icebreakers for telling and developing stories about personal objects. Download

Narrative Writing Lesson Plan (by Alder Creek Middle School Teacher, Matt Chalmers) Includes graphic organizer for storyboarding, and prompts for developing student writing by connecting to meanings in students own, personal objects. Download

Object-Oriented Storytelling Classroom activities and Brainstorming Web graphic organizer, to encourage students in developing stories about their own objects with description and personal meaning. Uses “This is not a roll of tape” and “Crossing the line” formats. Download

Object Stories: Brainstorming  in the Classroom (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Prompts students to think about significance and the memories and meanings that objects contain (people, place, time, descriptive language). Works well with “Word-Quilt Artmaking Activity.” Download

Object Stories: Narrative Writing Activity In this activity, students explore the meaning and significance of their own, personal objects via written narrative; for Common Core Standard 6.W.3 Includes graphic organizer “Storytelling with Objects” for brainstorming.  Download

Object Stories: Brainstorming in the Classroom (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Prompts students to think about significance and the memories and meanings that objects contain (people, place, time, descriptive language). Works well with “Word-Quilt Artmaking Activity.” Download

Object Stories Gallery: Tour Worksheet Designed to be used in the Object Stories Gallery on the Lower Level of the Portland Art Museum. Download

Object Stories: Graphic Organizer (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart)  Brainstorming worksheet for developing stories from objects that students love. Download

Object Stories: Memories Worksheet (by teaching artist Michelle Swinehart) Graphic organizer for developing stories from the memories that objects carry. Download

Object Stories: Museum Tour Overview Begins in the Object Stories Gallery (students tell stories about the personal meanings of their own objects) then connects to the objects in the Museum galleries—making the conceptual leap by illustrating how objects of all kinds carry personal and cultural stories across time and place. Download

Object Stories: Writing Six-word Stories and Tags Simple worksheet for composing six-word titles for student stories, and tagging them in the Object Stories Digital Archive, so they can be found later. Download

Object Stories: Two Museum Tours Personal Stories Tour & Museum Stories Tour build connections between the meanings inside that objects that students most value, to an understanding of how meaning accumulates inside of all objects, across, time, cultures, and place. Download

Oral Storytelling Lesson Plan (by teaching artist Adele White) Theater-based storytelling activities for developing oral presentations and narratives from objects of personal value and significance. Common Core Standard 6.W.3, works well with Oral Storytelling Prep activities. Download

Oral Storytelling Prep Theater-based storytelling activities for developing oral presentations and narratives from objects of personal value and significance. Common Core Standard 6.W.3, works well with Oral Storytelling Lesson Plan. Download

Tour Worksheets Two tour worksheets guide students to make connections between personal objects and Museum objects—sets the stage for a deeper understanding of how meaning is made, and carried within all objects. Download