The Red Pony - From Words to Pictures

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Art, Reading Comprehension

Grade Level


Type of Activity 

Individual, Artistic, Small Group, Ongoing


  • Students will improve their reading comprehension, particularly when reading descriptive passages.
  • Students will practice their art composition skills.


Steinbeck’s writings are known for their vivid descriptions. In this activity, students adapt a short passage from The Red Pony into a visual form. This can be done in traditional artistic forms, or can be done with a computer.

Materials Needed/Preparation 

  • Art supplies
  • Copies of The Red Pony
  • If allowing students to work in assigned groups, have the groups prepared prior to class.
  • This activity requires at least one class period. The teacher should determine how much time to spend on this activity and adjust it accordingly.
    • Consider having students work on or finish this activity at home.
  • If using the warm-up activity listed below in the “Procedures” section, have a basket or box of items prepared (see below for more details).

Estimated Time

1 class period (minimum)


  • Warm-up activity. (Consider assigning this activity as a homework assignment the day before.)
    • Have students choose blindly from a box of objects. The objects can be of any type (common, unique, part of a whole, etc.)
    • Give students 5-7 minutes to write a description of the object, without using the object’s name.
      • The goal is to create a written description that makes it clear exactly which object is being described.
      • At the end of the given time, collect all the items and display them on a table in front of the class.
        • Have a few student volunteers read their descriptions.
        • See if classmates can determine which object is being described.
      • Discuss what kinds of figurative and descriptive language students used (or could have used).
  • Have each student (or small group) choose a descriptive passage from The Red Pony.
    • Students should copy down the descriptive passage on a separate piece of paper. (This will be attached to the back of the final product.)
    • Have students draw, sketch, paint, etc., the scene.
      • The aim is to interpret the scene, but to also create a visual rendition of the passage so that classmates can determine which passage is being drawn.     

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Post Activity
    • Art Gallery
      • Display student creations. Allow time for the class to mill around the art gallery.
      • Consider allowing students to write comments (on a separate sheet of paper, not on the art work).  
      • Consider having students write what passage they think is being described (page and paragraph number will do; again, provide a separate sheet of paper)
    • Individual Presentation
      • Have students/groups present their artwork.
      • Consider having the rest of the class guess which passage was chosen as the inspiration.  
      • Discuss what figurative and descriptive language was used in the artwork. What particular words and phrases were used to create the visual representation? Which words and phrases were not used?
  • Takeaways
    • Students should come away from this activity with a greater understanding and appreciation for the descriptive and figurative language used in The Red Pony.
  • Follow-up
    • This activity can be repeated multiple times throughout the novel.


  • When assessing student art, take into consideration individual student progress in the particular artistic style used.
  • Depending on what skills students have learned and mastered from Art class, assess how well students utilized different artistic elements (vanishing perspective, shading, etc.).

California State Content Standards Met

  • Visual Arts: Content Standards 6-12
    • Artistic Perception: 1
    • Creative Expression: 2
    • Connections, Relationships, Applications: 5

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Craft and Structure: 4
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
    • Craft and Structure: 4
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • Language Standards 6-12
    • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 5