Close-up of Beth Olshansky with clear glasses, a big toothy smile and long wavy grey hair


General Artist Information

Name: Beth Olshansky
Artist Discipline: Visual Arts and Writing
Grade Level Preference: Elementary and English learners at all grades
Location: online
Geographic Availability: not applicable since Beth's residency is virtual
Artist/Presenter Fees (negotiable):

  • One classroom of students, 5 sessions = $1,500 (full week)     
  • Four different classrooms, 5 sessions each = $5,000 (full week)
  • Contact Beth to discuss other options 
  • Additional expense for PW supplies. Options include:  
    • $25 per student + shipping / Classroom Pack for 20 students - $435 + $45 shipping / Classroom pack for 25 students - $500 + $45 shipping
  • Picturing Writing is an Evidence Based Literacy model which enables schools to use their Title or ESSER III Funds as the match!

Phone Number: 603-659-6018


Beth Olshansky has spent the last 30 years developing, refining, and researching her innovative methods that place art at the heart of literacy learning. Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art® is an evidence-based approach to teach writing and improve reading that has been proven effective for a wide range of learners. Through the Picturing Writing process, Beth has discovered the deep connection between art, reading, and writing. Even students who traditionally struggle become fully engaged in a rich reading/writing process as they create their own carefully crafted picture books aligned with grade-level standards and curriculum. Beth has trained hundreds of teachers across North Dakota both onsite and virtually as well as worked directly with North Dakota students. She has been Zooming into classrooms as an artist-in-residence since the fall of 2020.

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that human beings are hard-wired to think in pictures. Evidence dates back to our earliest recorded history. When students are given engaging visual tools for thinking and expressing their ideas in pictures first before they write, and taught methods for reading their pictures to access detail and description, even those who traditionally struggle find success and confidence as artists and writers. Additionally, students discover that when they write using rich, descriptive language, they can make their paintings come alive! What student doesn’t want to learn this magic trick?

Residency Description:

Picture Writing/Fostering Literacy Through Art

Whether teachers have already taken a Picturing Writing Workshop or are new to the process, observe for yourself the magic of bringing words and pictures together in your classroom. Experience the simple 4-step Artists/Writers Workshop process using easy-to-manage art materials (crayons & watercolors), and specially designed brainstorming sheets to help students access descriptive language. Watch your students become enthusiastic wordsmiths as they learn how to make their paintings come alive! 

Work with Beth to develop a project aligned with your English Language Arts Standards and content area curriculum or choose an introductory level experience to introduce you and your students to the Picturing Writing process. Watch the magic transform your classroom!

Sample Lesson Plan #1: Introductory Picturing Writing Time of Day Unit

Grade level: Elementary grades or English Learners of any grade

Number of Sessions: Minimum of five 60 to 90-minute sessions depending on grade level (2 art, 2 writing, and one sharing/reflective process.) Additional sessions may be required depending upon project goals.

Residency Description: Changing skies through night and day is universal to all people, all cultures. This introductory Picturing Writing unit introduces Artists/Writers Workshop and the crayon resist painting process. Students learn how to create simple landscapes, paint the sky at different times of day, read their pictures to access detail and description, and craft poetry or prose to describe what is happening in their paintings. They will experience how bringing words and pictures together can make a picture appear to come alive. Learn how to conduct The Magic Trick while advancing students’ art and writing skills!

  1. DAY ONE: Students will be introduced to the Artists/Writers Workshop through the crayon resist process by painting simple landscapes and skies at a particular time of day.
  2. DAY TWO: Students will be introduced to the process of reading pictures to access detail and description.  Students will use grade-level appropriate brainstorming sheets to craft simple descriptive sentences and experience “The Magic Trick.” 
  3. DAY THREE: Students will create a second simple composition depicting a different time of day. Students will experience the Group Share process to reinforce art skills and front-load vocabulary. 
  4. DAY FOUR: Students will use grade-level appropriate brainstorming sheets to craft a second descriptive passage and experience the magic of bringing words and pictures together. 
  5. DAY FIVE: Students will reflect on the Picturing Writing process (in one of many formats) and share their finished work. This can take place in a variety of ways and be tailored to meet the needs students and teachers and overall project goals.

Sample Lesson Plan #2: Picturing Writing Research-Based Animal Trifold

Grade level: Elementary grades or English Learners of any grade

Number of Sessions: Minimum of nine 60 to 90-minute sessions depending on grade level (time frame depending on grade level). Additional sessions may be required depending upon project goals.

Residency Description: The Picturing Writing Research-Based Animal Trifold Unit teaches how to conduct visual and written research as well as how to create engaging informational text as students create their own research-based animal trifolds. While conducting visual research, students learn how to draw facts from pictures in mentor texts and conversely, how to embed facts into their crayon resist paintings. From reading the details in their own paintings, they learn how to draw out visual information to include in their fact-based poems. The research-based animal trifold is set up as a Who Am I? guessing booklet, with facts organized in such a way as to keep the reader guessing.

The research-based animal trifold contains two fact-based poems and a reflective/opinion piece on the About the Artist/Writer page. Teachers may choose to include straight informational writing as well. Teachers of older students may choose to add a fourth panel to expand the content covered in this unit.

  1. DAY ONE: Conduct visual and written research
  2. DAY TWO: Sketch animals and build animal word banks
  3. DAY THREE: Explore texturing techniques & create "Who Am I?" covers
  4. DAY FOUR: Create habitat painting
  5. DAY FIVE: Create "Animal in its Habitat" painting
  6. DAY SIX: Write fact-based "I Poem" 
  7. DAY SEVEN: Write "Acrostic Phrase Poem" or "Magic Poem" (grade-level dependent)
  8. DAY EIGHT: Create "About the Artist/Writer" page & take photos; Revision techniques and editing
  9. DAY NINE: Artists/Writers Share/Celebration