Writing through art ....
Every year I hear the same cries from my students. For generations, we have categorized our children's learning into neat divisions, not encouraging them to see their education as a whole composed of interrelated segments. A typical curriculum offers isolated bits and pieces of information, rather than presenting students with a giant jigsaw puzzle that comes together to form a wonderful picture.
Process and Practice
As an art teacher and an English teacher, I am always amazed at the similarities of thought and process inherent in both disciplines. Process is the key word for both subjects, for each is a process of exploring our own thoughts, and ideas and seeking to convey them to others. Our expertise in both improves through practice as we increase our sensitivity to the world around us. Writing is a valuable tool for helping students develop this sensitivity, and in encouraging them to respond to their feelings and impressions.
In light of these beliefs, and in spite of the protests of soon-to-be-enlightened students, I often incorporate the writing process into my art curriculum. Most students lack a consciousness of detail. One method often used in English classes to develop this skill also adapts easily into the art classroom.
If the Shoe Fits
At the beginning of each year, I have students select one shoe each from my collection of assorted sizes and styles. They are instructed to study the shoes and write short descriptions with enough detail for another student to distinguish that shoe from the rest. After recording their observations, students are asked to sketch the shoes. I display the drawings and collect the written papers. I read each paper, and the students try to guess which drawing matches the description. This activity increases the students' appreciation of detail, and gives me an indication of the level of each students' ability.
The Design Journal
The writing journal, another key tool for developing insight during the writing process in English class, also transitions nicely into art class. The students keep a journal of the elements of design they recognize in their everyday environment. They record shapes and patterns in buildings, colors and line in automobiles, or images which have impressed them because of contrasting values. The journal is also an effective method of providing closure of art projects. Students reinforce learning by listing the concepts they learned, the problems they encountered or the ideas they discovered.
Art stimulates personal responses and inner reactions, but students need to learn how to express these feelings. I encourage this skill by showing the class a piece of fine art. I ask them to describe the feelings the artwork evokes in them, list them and write an essay about why and how the artwork creates these feelings, what art elements help devlop the mood, and how the choice of subject and surrounding environment contribute to the total effect. The essays provide a starting point for a class discussion of techniques artists employ to suggest a mood or to make a statement.
A Written Critique
Evaluation is difficult task in art class. Writing can help alleviate the burden by encouraging students to assume responsibility of assessing their own work. Before beginning a project, I give students a list of expected outcomes. Upon completion of the assignment, I have them evaluate their art through a written critique. In the first step of the critique, students evaluate extent to which they have fulfilled the objectives by responding to specific items. The critique might include descriptive questions regarding identification of the media and process used the create the artwork, the elements and principles applied, and the reasons for these choices.
Recording their observations in writing helps the students to retain the new concepts they have learned. Personal responses are also valuable in helping students focus on their own strengths and weaknesses, and in helping them reflect on their experience. Some of the specific items they are asked to respond to include: What part do you like best? What area are you concerned about? How could you correct this? What skills have you learned?
I save the critiques in a portfolio, and they are referred to throughout the year as a means for helping students set goals. They also serve as a record to the students' growth patterns and process.
The Pen and the Paintbrush
The exercises described here represent only a few of the ways of writing process can be incorporated into the art class on all grade levels. Writing provides a unique form of artistic expression, and the pen and paper belong in the art class along with paint, the brush and the easel.
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|Title Annotation:||combining writing and arts instruction|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1993|
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