Pat Klos | October 2013

Student Art Inspires Writing

Got an email from the Teaching Channel (TC) this week that showcased a writing lesson which incorporated a slightly different version of a visual art strategy that that I love to use with kids at all grade levels. It is called Describe and Draw. This activity encourages observation, articulation and attention to detailed description. It also provides practice in listening and team building skills and is fun! After watching the video accompanying the TC lesson called Monster Match: Using Art to Improve Writing (check out the video of the lesson by using the link cited below), I realized that Describe and Draw would be a really good pre-writing activity for a new version of the strategy: Draw, Write and Describe. What do you think?

Describe and Draw:

Materials: An artwork or a reproduction of an artwork projected on a classroom wall, printed, or shown on a computer screen; pencils and paper.


1. Group students into pairs. Assign one member of each pair to be the “drawer.” The other member of each pair will be the “describer.” Each drawer has a blank piece of paper and a pencil. The partners sit back-to-back, so that the describer is looking at the artwork, and the drawer only sees his/her paper.
2. Instruct the describers to take 30 seconds to look carefully at the artwork. Then, ask them to describe the lines and shapes that they see in the artwork as clearly and as detailed as possible, so that their partners can draw it. After five minutes, ask the partners to switch roles and provide new art images. After another five minutes, ask the teams to stop.
3. Ask students to think about their experience:
•What was most surprising?
•What was most challenging and why?
•What skills does this activity require?

How could we extend Describe and Draw into a writing activity to support Common Core standards? Incoporate the ideas from the Teaching Channel’s Monster Match lesson!

Draw, Write and Describe

Materials: Examples of art from the artists acclaimed for their abstract or surreal drawings/art such as Paul Klee, pencils and paper.

1. Use the Art Thinking routine, Colors, Shapes and Lines, to examine and describe the selected art, focusing on line and shape. Discuss the style and objects in the artwork after looking at the details. Discuss how one might describe the image(s).
2. Ask students to create a drawing of something in the same style. For K-6 students, creating their own monster drawing is a great idea.
3. Students then write a detailed description of their drawing and read it aloud to a partner or group of students who will recreate the drawing while they listen to the description.
4. Ask students to compare contrast the original drawing with their own drawings and ask questions from step 3 above.

The Teaching Channel: Monster Match: Using Art to Improve 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.