Teach Writers Titling with The Fog Warning

Winslow Homer’s The Fog Warning offers mentor art for teaching students the value of thoughtful titles.

Mentor texts have long been used to model writing techniques. Mentor art can likewise be used to inspire, teach, and refine student writing. Mentor art has the added benefit of addressing diverse learning styles and providing visual support to language learners. Consider introducing your students to the value of thoughtful titles with Winslow Homer’s The Fog Warning.

It is beneficial to let students experience a work of art on its and their own terms before using it as mentor art. This link offers teaching moves and language for introducing students to Winslow Homer’s The Fog Warning.

Teach writers the benefits of thoughtful titles with Winslow Homer's The Fog Warning

Project the image above and have students respond in small groups to the following discussion prompts and report back. Click on the image to expand. Drag the jpg into a Word document to create your own handout.

When this painting was first shown it was titled “Halibut Fishing.” Winslow Homer later changed the title to “The Fog Warning.”

#1 How does the title impact the way you see the painting?

Turn, Talk, and Report Back (Possible answers)

  • “Halibut Fishing” makes you focus more on the fish in the foreground. It also focuses the viewer on the hardworking fisherman, the artifacts around him, and bounty of the ocean. “Halibut Fishing” is like Homer’s other paintings about the people who live and work on the edges of the sea.
  • “The Fog Warning” makes you focus on the horizon line, the mother ship, and the background. The title defines the clouds rolling in and alerts you to the dangers they hold. The word “Warning” heightens the sense of danger and anxiety and allows the viewer to “hear” the warning horn coming from the mother ship. “The Fog Warning” is more dramatic. It serves as a foreshadowing element.

#2 Which title do you prefer? Why? (Answers will vary.)

Expand your discussion with Winslow Homer and a group of meerkats. Note the meerkats are an unpredictable lot and can be a tad impetuous. Their opinions and actions are not those of this organization. Don’t blame us for what they say.

Use Winslow Homer's The Fog Warning to teach the importance of thoughtful titles

How would you use Winslow Homer’s The Fog Warning to teach the value of thoughtful titles or other writing techniques? Extend the discussion with your comments below.

Migrant Mother by Dorothea LangeAdditional Mentor Art for Teaching about Titling

For more mentor art that teaches the value of thoughtful titling consider Migrant Mother, originally titled by the Library of Congress “Destitute pea pickers in California, a 32 year old mother of seven children. February 1936.” How do the titles impact your reading of the photograph? Which title is better for engaging the viewer and advancing Lange’s intentions?

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