Case Studies

Manchester Art Gallery

Key Stages 3 & 4 (ages 11 – 16)

A historic painting acts as the visual stimulus to help secondary pupils develop confidence in meeting the challenges of the new English GCSE.

  • 73% of participating pupils saw their literacy scores improve after the workshops with the writer
  • The workshops also impacted on the end of term result where 54% of pupils saw their scores improve
  • “The pupils’ speaking and listening skills relating to creative writing have developed; Mike got people to speak who never have before”

Manchester Art Gallery contains nearly 13,000 items including painting, sculpture, drawings, watercolours, prints, posters and photographs. Best known for it’s world-famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the collection also includes British and European art from the 17th century right up to the present day as well as a huge collection of craft and design objects including ceramics, furniture, metalwork, wallpaper and dolls houses.

Over the years Manchester Art Gallery has developed an interest in creative writing through a long term partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University’s English PGCE course.

Working together they run training days for students that have resulted in an increasingly varied and sophisticated series of approaches in using art as a visual pathway to creative writing. A student from the course, now Head of English at Tarporley High School, asked for support in meeting the challenges of the new English GCSE, specifically developing writing from an image. This became the MaxLiteracy Award, delivered with two groups of year 9 students over two months.

The gallery educator and writer identified Under Windsor Bridge by Adolphe Valette, painted in 1912, as the focus, as they felt it could draw in the pupils and provide them with ample to write about and discuss.

Although the image wasn’t specific to the school curriculum, the process of writing in response to an image was an element of the GCSE exam, and the Award provided Tarporley High with a way to explore clear strategies for educational approaches in the future.

Frameworks and techniques were supplied by the writer, from word splurges, kennings and haikus, to first and third person narratives, which provided the scaffold to turn ideas into crafted pieces of writing.

As an artist, performer, writer and poet, Mike Garry brought a sense of drama to the workshops, which particularly engaged pupils and educators involved. It established a sense of intimacy and constructive engagement over an extended period.

The improvement in the students’ writing during the project was so significant that Tarporley High School now visits the Gallery on an annual basis with all of its Year 9 pupils.

Manchester Art Gallery
Gallery leads
Jo Davies and Emma Carroll
Creative Writer
Mike Garry
Taporley High School, Cheshire
School lead
Sarah Mulholland
Year 9 (age 13 - 14)
Number of participants
  • art literacy
  • GCSE
  • National curriculum

Resource produced

Image to Text

Prezi presentation

A whiteboard-ready presentation using an historical painting to model a series of activities that help students make personal and creative connections with an artwork.

Want to explore a creative approach to literacy?

  • A digital presentation like ‘Prezi’ can be used as a creative, interactive way of interrogating an artwork
  • Drama and performance can be a powerful way of adding to the education experience in the gallery
  • A creative project can enhance literacy learning and performance, even during high pressure exam years

Explore more ideas in the resources

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York Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

An evocative statue of a bleeding young boy is the starting point for year 9 students to explore storytelling, poetry and playwriting through drama and wordplay.

  • creative literacy
  • empathy
  • five senses
  • role play

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A major exhibition is the stimulus for bookmaking, guided writing, printing and random poetry, and an alternative audio guide for the venue is voiced by year 7 students.

  • exhibition
  • mixed ability
  • visual impairment

Falmouth Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A collection of automata encourages year 7 boys to explore the theme of a dystopian future and write their own science fiction book.

  • art
  • automata
  • boys' writing
  • dystopia
  • literature

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