Artists at Work

poem by Jenny Erlanger , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning Intention:

I am learning to create imaginative texts by adapting ideas encountered in literary texts so that I can enhance my skills with using different approaches.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify language that reveals perspective.
  • I can analyse a text to identify alternative perspectives.
  • I can respond to artwork.
  • I can compose a poem that represents my perspective.
  • I can include an alternative perspective in my poem.


Essential knowledge:

View video Narrative from The English Textual Concepts. Discuss the ideas in the video, such as: narratives are the way that we organise events in the world, experienced by ourselves or others.

View the video Perspective from The School Magazine. Ensure students note that: perspectives may differ, and that they can be based on our past experiences and our values.


Oral language and communication:


Prior to reading Artists at Work, inform students that often poems tell a story, just as a narrative would.

Discuss some of the differences and similarities between narratives and poems and record responses in a table.

Note: If more scaffolding is required, view the poem, My Bed’s a Boat (page 14) and the narrative, How to Wash an Elephant (pages 15 to 17)

For example:

Narratives Poems Both
  • The story is written as prose
  • Prose is organised in paragraphs
  • The ideas are written in lines
  • The lines may or may not rhyme or follow a pattern
  • Lines are organised into stanzas
  • Can include characters and settings
  • Can include fictitious events

Understanding text:


Without showing students a copy of the magazine, read the first two lines of the poem to them:

He stands back, admiring his artwork.

It’s finished and ready to view.


Discuss students' predictions about who the artist might be. For example: a world-famous artist, a school student.

Discuss the different mediums artworks can be created on, such as canvas, paper, fabric.

Read the next two lines or listen to the audio file.

My brother has obvious talent
for someone who’s not even two.

Discuss students' ideas about what the artwork might look like, drawing their attention to vocabulary such as ‘talent’. Students will most likely conclude the artwork will be impressive.

Read the second stanza to the students and identify vocabulary that shows the artwork from the perspective of someone who admires it (divine, captured, creative design).

Continue reading to the end of the poem and discuss where the artist has chosen to create the artwork (on their Grannie’s living room wall). Show students the accompanying illustration and discuss the Grannie’s perspective of it (she looks angry in the illustration and the poem describes her as not looking ‘happy at all’).

Discuss the impact of the ending, by using the following questions as a guide:

  • Did the narrator’s and the Grannie’s perspective differ? (Yes, the narrator admired the artwork while instead it annoyed the Grannie as it was displayed on her wall)
  • Did you find the ending surprising? (Yes, as it seemed the artwork would be admired by all)
  • Do you find the poem humorous? If so, why? (The difference between the two perspectives makes the poem engaging and enjoyable)


Creating text:


View artworks by Jackson Pollock. Select one of the artworks, such as Number 18.

Inform students that their reactions to the painting may differ and that different perspectives are to be embraced. Discuss the artwork, using the following questions to guide the conversation:

Note: Record students' responses on the board or digitally in Google Jamboard for them to refer to later.

  • What can you see? (Swirls, blobs and lines in colours such as red, black and yellow)
  • How does it make you feel? (Student responses will vary, but may include, it makes me feel curious or it makes me feel bored).
  • What do the elements in the image make you think? (For example, it makes me think of dancing, or it makes me think of a toddler's artwork)
  • Do you like or dislike the artwork? Explain your reasons. (For example, yes, I think it is interesting and unique as it includes a variety of times of lines and shapes or no, I think it is pretty boring and that I could easily paint that myself)

Inform students that they will be composing a poem about the artwork, that shows their own perspective about it and that also includes an alternative perspective. Gradually release responsibility, by constructing a collaborative example first.

Collaboratively select two perspectives, such as from someone who loves the artwork and from someone who thinks it is boring and that it could be produced by a toddler.

Discuss positive and negative vocabulary that shows different perspectives and note students’ ideas on the board. For example:

Positive vocabulary

Negative vocabulary










Waste of money

Easy to recreate


Identify rhyming words for the vocabulary suggested, using a thesaurus or an online rhyming dictionary. Inform students that they can choose whether to make their poems rhyme or not.

Collaboratively create a poem, outlining both of the perspectives and incorporating some of the vocabulary identified. For example:


When I first saw the painting, I was shocked,

It’s simply so wonderfully unique,

With its colourful swirls and patterns,

I could stare for at least a week.


My friend felt so very different,

Said it was such a bore,

Felt her brother could do the same,

And he’s not even four.


Place students with a partner and instruct them to complete the following:

  • Identify your perspective of the painting
  • Consider an alternative perspective
  • List vocabulary to include in the poem
  • Identify rhyming words (if choosing to compose a rhyming poem)
  • Construct a poem that shows two differing perspectives


Assessment for/as learning:


Match the pairs together to form groups of four. Instruct students to read their poems to each other. Instruct the pair who are listening to note any ideas they have for how the poems may be improved. Once both pairs have had the opportunity to share their poems, tell students to workshop each others' ideas, making suggestions of how the poems might be improved. Students can use the strategy Two Stars and a Wish for this activity.