Pat Klos | September 2013

Write Like an Artist!

Writing continues to be a hot topic in my world these days! Incorporating short (and long) writing prompts as part of an arts integrated (AI) lesson/unit is my new look-for. I am looking and listening everywhere for ideas to pass on to teachers about how to infuse Common Core (CC) writing standards into their lessons.

This week I attended the Maryland Administrative Briefing for Coordinators of Fine Arts. Of course, the hot topic at the meeting, and in several breakout sessions, was the development of Fine Arts Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Many of the counties showed SLOs that focus on CC writing. This caught my attention! I immediately zeroed in on the types of prompts that were included in the assessments.

In the case of visual arts, having students write an artist’s statement about their work was included in lots of the assessments. In the case of music and dance, the assessments included writing to a prompt that asked students to reflect on their own performance and their success in meeting the unit’s performance objectives.

Artful Writing Prompts for Assessment

The AI connection light bulb lit up! Let’s include more opportunities for students to take on the role of the artist (themselves or others) and write from that role. The reflective/informative aspect of these artist perspective type of writing prompts provides a great addition to the range of writing opportunities we can provide in the arts integrated classroom.

An artist statement writing prompt can be approached either as informative or opinion writing, or a combination of the two. According to author, Daniel Grant,

“An artist statement presumably offers some information about the art one sees — such as, who the artist is, how the work was made, but also may include the artist’s philosophy and belief system as well as how the art fits either within the artist’s overall body of work or into the political and cultural times — and would enable a viewer to grasp something essential about it.”

An example of a lesson that provides instruction on how to write an artist’s statement about one’s own work can be found on the Incredible @rt Department website: Writing an Artist Statement. I am of the opinion that we want students in and AI class to see themselves as artists.

Writing about the art they produce in a content classroom can be just as rich an experience as what the art studio student writes. However, we can also ask students to step into the role of the artist they are studying.

An excellent example of a lesson on writing an artist statement with the student writing from the point of view of the artist (after activities to help them analyze the art they are observing) can be found at The Getty (museum) website. They provide a series of three lessons about exploring photographs, check out Lesson 3: Writing the Artist’s Statement.

Writing in Role

Doesn’t a “role” remind you of another art form? In an integrated classroom we might consider using drama as a pre-writing strategy.

Drama strategies that ask students to take on the role of the artist, musician, dancer etc., such as tableau, thought tracking, interviews or hot seating would prepare students for writing either about others’ artwork as well as their own.

Once students have put themselves physically and mentally in the shoes of a performer or an artist, they will have less trouble with writing in that role. An added benefit: it could provide insight into aspects of a career in the arts: all artists reflect on their work.

Supporting Writing Activities

There are lots of writing activities that ask students to imagine themselves in the role of an artist, musician, actor or dancer. They might be asked to write a museum label, a CD label, or even create a QR code to accompany an artwork or a performance.

Students can write exhibition titles, artist’s biographical statements, captions, program notes, or website entries. Asking students to assess the quality of a performance, media presentation, exhibition or specific musical composition, dance, play, film, or visual artwork will give practice in opinion/argument writing.

Whatever activity you choose, it doesn’t have to be long to be good practice in writing.

About the Author

Pat is an arts integration specialist in Anne Arundel County, MD. Having been a mentor teacher and instructional coach, she passionately believes that integrating the arts is the best approach to teaching: it enriches the classroom environment with art, engages students and motivates learning. Her mission is help all teachers realize that they can teach through the arts with a little know-how. Pat appears every Monday. Email Pat.