6 Amazing Art Projects that Incorporate Writing

An 8th-grade student walks into a classroom and sits down at a desk. With a freshly-sharpened pencil, the student is preparing to take the state writing assessment. As part of this assessment, the student will be expected to complete a descriptive essay in 90 minutes. This is the writing prompt: “Describe one activity you enjoy.” If you’ve ever had a conversation with an 8th-grader, you know they’d be able to sum their answer up in one sentence! Yet, they are expected to compile a detailed, descriptive essay about a vague topic.

So what does art have to do with state writing assessments? Well, we often teach our students that art tells a story and contains meaning. Art can be viewed as its own visual language. Sometimes a student just needs a really good idea to have something worthwhile to write about. Art can be that good idea to inspire writing!

Today I am going to share 6 art projects that incorporate writing and turn your students’ imagery into a written story.

1. Bleezer’s Ice Cream

drawing of ice cream flavors
This project is inspired by Jack Prelutsky’s poem “Bleezer’s Ice Cream.” Share the poem with your students and give them the task of inventing their own ice cream flavors. To throw in a twist, have your students create flavors only using alliterations. Take the project even further by having students visualize and depict their flavors. Your students will have so much fun inventing wacky flavors they’ll probably forget they were even writing!

2. Smashing Faces

smashed portrait student example
This AOE Lesson Plan takes a traditional concept, the self-portrait, and turns it into an entirely new idea. Creating self-portraits just got fun again! After finishing their drawings, have students write narratives about them. Why are their faces smashed? What are they looking at? What’s happening? Did they just witness an extraordinary event? The creativity to answer these prompts will be sure to flow right off the page!

3. Emotional Weaving

student weaving project

To start this project have your students select an emotion. Then, using the 5 senses, challenge your students to create a written description of that emotion. For example, what does anger look like? What does it feel like? What noises would you associate with anger?

Students will then use their written descriptions as a jumping off point for a piece of art as they depict their emotion through the use of color and line. Finally, students will use that piece of art to create a paper weaving.  To take the project even further, you might want to try weaving together two different emotions!

4. Abandoned Cars

car student example
One of the key components to successful writing is a starting with a solid theme. Giving students a theme of “an abandoned car” provides a great starting point for a creative visual story. When finished, or even as they work, encourage your students to write a story based on experience or fiction that describes their drawing.

5. Blackout Poetry

blackout poetry student examples
Challenge your students to see written words as an art form. Blackout poetry focuses on rearranging words to create a different meaning. This project will force your students to think critically as they search for anchor words that create a powerful story. Encourage the use of imagery and color to bring more meaning to the message.

6. Fan Fiction

minion art
It’s no question that students of all ages are fascinated with the characters from movies and television. Allow your students to create a project based on one of their favorite characters. Whether it’s a LEGO, Minion, or superhero, expose your students to the fan fiction writing style. As students work, have them write about their pieces. You may even want to suggest that they write a sequel to their favorite movie or book.

Writing and art can be used together to strengthen each other. Making it a practice to incorporate writing alongside art lessons will only benefit your students. If you’re new to incorporating writing in your art room, start simply. Try out one of the ideas presented here to get started!

What are your favorite projects that incorporate writing?

How often do your students write in your art room?

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Matt Christenson

    These are some great ideas to get some writing going! In my high school visual arts classes, I have one assignment per semester that requires a four paragraph (or more) artist statement and several smaller, single paragraph reflections throughout the year. My most intriguing student writing comes from deeply personal assignments that ask students to communicate a message about themselves or their views on some aspect of society using symbolism.

    • Abby Schukei

      Thanks for sharing! It’s amazing to see the meaning that is achieved when a student writes about an artwork rather than just guessing as a viewer. Such a good way to “get in their heads!”

  • Mrs. P

    Hi Abby–Thanks for the great lessons. I had someone ask on my blog the other day if the writing int he art room was graded and, if so, how? I’d be interested in hearing what you (and others) say about this. I don’t grade most elementary writing that accompanies their work (I just want to get them reflecting and responding). I do start to grade my middle school writing though, I grade my artist statements and such for content, but not spelling and grammar (usually). Thoughts? Thanks! Mrs. P at [email protected]

    • Abby Schukei

      When I taught elementary I didn’t incorporate the writing portion as a grade, it was just something we simply did. Students were generally excited about the process that they were excited to write about it. Whether it be an artist statement or a writing prompt I always encourage students to write in the mentality that the viewer doesn’t know what your piece is all about–so tell them!

      I as well approach it similarly with my middle schoolers. Almost every project we do incorporates writing some way so it is an expectation. I give students two separate grades one for the project and another for the writing portion. I too am looking for content and not worried about all the spelling and grammar, but fix it when I come across errors.

  • Jennyg

    Excellent round up! Planning on the ice cream project for my 6th graders this Friday. I like to give them a Friday fun art challenge after a week of patterns and textures this will be highly relevant!! Thanks!!

    • Abby Schukei

      Sounds like a fun Friday for sure! Your students will love it!

  • Abby Fliehler

    I use artist statements for my 6th graders but one of my favorite writing/art history activities is to have students make up a story about about a painting or writing a letter to a character in the painting or from a character in the painting. Students amaze me all of the time at their creative writing and imagination about what they see in the art. It exposes them to lots of art pieces and helps them look at it more deeply and closely. Students can be mysterious, dramatic, funny, silly, or sad. It is really cool to see what they come up with and hear their discussions.
    I use this with 3rd-5th grades every Wednesday(Writing Wednesdays is what I call it) because we have shortened classes due to PLC time. It forces me to incorporate it into our normal schedule and saves me from scrambling around with supplies for a short class.

    • Abby Schukei

      What a great Idea! Do you discuss the paintings beforehand or do they just choose one and let their imaginations run wild? I do something similar using the Makey Makey Kits.

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