Tips to Make Writing More Successful in the Art Room


Whether it’s required or just something you want to try, writing can be tricky to integrate into any art lesson. I teach in a “Write-to-Learn” school, which means over the last three years I’ve been weaving writing components into all grade-levels. Scary, yes? Not anymore! By making some thoughtful choices about what you ask and how you ask it, writing can prompt students to think on yet another level about art. Here’s how you can make writing a cornerstone of well-rounded learning in your art room…

1. Use what you’ve got.
Just like giving simple assessments, the back of the art is where it’s at! You don’t always have to bother with printing up a special worksheet or getting out extra supplies. Use the materials already within reach and have students do their quick writes on the back of their work. Fast, simple…doable.

2. Frame it.
No, I don’t mean put their words on the wall, I mean give them a writing frame. Kids need practice before they can produce meaningful answers to open-ended questions. Give them a structure to practice with at first, and as they become better writers you can relax the frames. How about an example: I just took my fourth and fifth grade students to visit the Des Moines Art Center, and I like them to reflect on their experience. If I asked them to do just that, I would get a whole hot-mess hodge-podge of answers. Instead, I have them do something more like this…



3. Read them, all of them.
I know, I know. But really, you should. They don’t all have to be 10-page research papers. Most of my writing assignments take 5 minutes to do and even less time to read and assess. I read all of them because I get a better insight into my students’ thinking and level of understanding. I don’t worry a ton about writing conventions, I worry more about content. Once you’ve read them, generate feedback, either on an individual level (if you have time) or for the whole class.


What are some easy ways you have found to make writing go smoothly in the art room? 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Sarah Dougherty

Sarah Dougherty, a visual arts curriculum coordinator, is a former AOEU Writer and elementary school art educator. She loves working with diverse populations to bring art into students’ homes, communities, and everyday lives.

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