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Eruption: Writing about Art (lesson plan)


Students will view the painting and discuss it and write about what they see, including questions they have. After researching their questions, they will discuss and write about the painting again. They will ultimately compare their writings and reflect on the experience.

Grade Levels
3rd Grade
Impact, Investigation
NC Standards Correlations
Visual Arts
English Language Arts
Earth Science

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

    The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, by Pierre-Jacques Volaire

    learn more

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will ask questions and engage in independent research to find answers to those questions.
  2. Students will reflect on their work.
  3. Students will discuss how information from other subjects can help their understanding of art.
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Session 1 – Discuss/Write

Use the Think/Puzzle/Explore strategy to discuss the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius with the class and then have students write about the piece.


What do you think you know about this artwork or topic?

What questions or puzzles do you have?

What does the artwork or topic make you want to explore?


*The teacher can choose to record student thoughts and questions on chart paper to help support students with their writing.



Students write in their notebooks, responding to the question, “What’s going on in this picture?” and writing two questions they would like to explore.


Session 2 – Research

Allow students to research their questions in pairs/small groups on Discovery Education or by using text resources. They should keep notes about what they learn.


*Possible extension using current news – Use the Newsela article from May 16, 2016 (or one that is more recent) titled “Small earthquakes tremble the ground below Mount St. Helens volcano” to practice reading informational text. Students could discuss what the scene depicted in the painting might look like in modern day should Mount St. Helens erupt again.


Session 3 – Discuss/Write


Students share what they learned with the class in a whole group discussion. The teacher can record facts on chart paper for student reference. Revisit the painting and discuss how the information they learned impacts their thoughts about the “what’s going on in this picture?” question.



Students write in their notebooks, responding again to the question, “What’s going on in this picture?”


Session 4 – Compare/Reflect

Ask students to look at their writing before and after their research, reflecting on the difference between the two pieces. Students can discuss their findings in small groups and then share out any big ah-ha’s with the class. They will then use their writing notebooks to complete a written reflection about the impact of the research on their writing.


Session 5 – Create

Students work in groups to create a poster-sized, modern day version of this piece.

Ask students to imagine what the scene would look if the volcano erupted today. They can begin by sketching their own idea and then talking with their group about what it might look like. Once all members come to agreement about their group design, they will decide how to best depict the scene using only paper.


Student Work Examples

Volcano 1

Volcano 2

Volcano 3

Volcano 4


Written by: Erin Gannon and Elissa Walker


Teacher will evaluate discussion using local rubrics for student participation, including following rules for discussion, building upon others’ ideas, and asking questions.

Teacher will evaluate student writing for the ability to clearly explain their thoughts about the painting, referring to specific details as needed.

Teacher will evaluate student questions for clarity.

Teacher will evaluate student’s ability to conduct research and appropriately answer their questions.

Teacher will evaluate student’s ability to compare their writing before and after conducting the research and to be reflective about how the research impacted their writing.

Lesson Resources




volcanic eruption









Student writing notebook

The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

Newsela article –

Discovery Education videos

Suggested videos:

Earth Science: Volcanoes

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii


For the art making –

paper – in various colors, patterns and weights

craft glue


Lesson Resources:

Think / Puzzle / Explore

Books about volcanoes, such as:

Volcanoes by Seymour Simon

Volcanoes! (National Geographic) by Anne Schreiber

Time For Kids: Volcanoes! (Time For Science Scoops) by Editors of Time For Kids

Books about Mt. Vesuvius, such as:

Mt. Vesuvius and the Destruction of Pompeii, A.D. 79 (Natural Disasters) by Russell Roberts

Pompeii…Buried Alive! (Step into Reading) by Edith Kunhardt Davis

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 by Lauren Tarshis


Student Work Examples

Volcano 1

Volcano 2

Volcano 3

Volcano 4


Written by: Erin Gannon and Elissa Walker