Turning an Ordinary Assignment into a Work of Art
Turning an Ordinary Assignment into a Work of Art: How an English Language Arts Teacher Uncovered her Student’s Hidden Talent
Posted on 04/28/2021
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When Hollie Strickland extended a recent writing assignment to her seventh grade English Language Arts class, she wasn’t expecting what student Lea Johnson would return to her the following week.

“Many students who chose this assignment created a digital product, but Lea asked for a few plain white sheets of copy paper instead,” said the Medlin Middle School teacher. 

medlin student art

The assignment was given to students to show their comprehension and understanding of The Outsiders, a novel the class recently finished reading together. Strickland wanted to give her students creative freedom when completing the assignment, providing them with three options to choose from in order to complete the assignment.

“I feel you get the highest quality of work when students have choice in their products and in their tasks,” she said. “I just wasn’t fully prepared for the amazing artwork that was turned back into me.”

That artwork came from Johnson, who chose to draw the five most significant scenes of the book as a graphic novel. She even included textual evidence to explain how each scene is important to the main plot of the novel. 

medlin atudent art

“When Lea turned her assignment in, I was beyond impressed,” Strickland said. “She is extremely talented! I knew she enjoyed drawing, but I had never seen a piece of her work before this assignment! She adapted the work to compliment her strengths.”

For Johnson, it was more than just a writing assignment. She researched images for inspiration and watched videos of artists who used pencil shading techniques. She also learned how to develop skin tones and create various shades while working on the project.

medlin student art

“I love how art can express your feelings no matter what,” she said. “It was really around fourth grade when I started to realize that I really love art and what it means to me. It’s important to me and I like to use art as often as I can.”

Strickland said this experience illustrates exactly what teachers hope to accomplish with their students. 

“I cannot begin to explain how rewarding it is to uncover students’ hidden strengths,” she said. “I see that students take a lot of pride in their assignment when they get to show another side of themselves teachers might not always have the opportunity to see!”

medlin art student

Johnson has been a Northwest ISD student since kindergarten, attending Beck Elementary before coming to Medlin Middle School. She attributes her talent to her past and present Northwest ISD art teachers and one very important family member.

“I have an older sister that is really, really good at drawing and I’ve learned a lot from watching her over the years,” she said. “She’s been such a great example to me, and I really appreciate that we share a common interest together.”

Johnson plans to attend high school in the district and take as many art courses as possible before graduating.