One of the biggest problems children have with writing stories is the ability to empathise with their characters enough to understand and describe how they are thinking, feeling and reacting to events. One way of overcoming this is to use paintings in combination with drama techniques, such as freeze frame or thought tracking.
Paintings, such as An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump (right) by Joseph Wright of Derby, help to solve the thorny problem of structuring a story. By analysing and describing the different reactions of each of the characters to the cockatoo's suffering in the air pump, with the help of drama, children can structure and write powerful narrative with plenty of emotion and rich use of vocabulary.
The description of each character also helps them plan paragraphs and the foreboding setting in the background provides opportunities for powerful word sketches about settings as well
Libby Lee is a primary teacher at North Mymms St Mary's C of E in Welham Green, Hertfordshire
Useful websites: www.nationalgallery.org.ukcollectionfeaturessciencebird.htmwww.tate.org.uk