Interpretive Resource

Lesson Plan: Write a Short Story

Lesson Plan: Write a Short Story

Nighthawks and Nightlife both depict aspects of urban life in 1940s America. Students first compare the paintings, answering a series of questions, and then create a short story about the paintings’ characters.

Suggested Grade Level: 7-9
Estimated Time: Two class periods

Lesson Objectives

  • Compare and analyze works of art
  • Learn the short-story form

Key Terms

Instructional Materials

  • Pencil
  • Paper



Examine Nighthawks and Nightlife with students. Have two students list responses to the following questions on the chalkboard:

  • What adjectives would you use to describe each scene?
  • How did Edward Hopper and Archibald J. Motley Jr. use color, line, and composition to create mood?
  • What role does space play in evoking the mood? Is the space in each painting crowded or empty? Shallow or deep? How do visitors get into each space? Are they even able to enter?
  • What is going on in each scene? What interactions, activities, and conversations are taking place? What are the sounds and smells? What is the temperature?
  • What time of night is it in each scene? How do you know?
  • What visual clues place the works of art in the 1940s? (clothes, dancing style, signs, architecture)


Have students write a short story based on either Nighthawks or Nightlife. Ask them to consider who the main characters are and what has happened or will happen next. Give them the option to create a conversation between two characters. Encourage them to incorporate into their stories the adjectives the class used to describe the paintings.


Base students’ evaluation on their ability to compare and contrast two artworks in terms of subject and pictorial elements, such as line, space, color, and mood, as well as on their ability to employ descriptive terms in writing.


composition (n)
the arrangement of elements, such as space, shapes and colors, in a work of art

Illinois Learning Standards
English Language Arts: 3
Fine Arts: 25, 27

20th century, American, night scenes, painting, urban life


Fine Arts, Language Arts
High School, Middle School

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