Sunday, October 30, 2011

the benefits of assigning student art journals

"An art diary, art journal or visual journal is a daily journal kept by artists, often containing both words and sketches, and occasionally including Mixed media elements such as collages. Such books will frequently contain rough workings, in cartoon form, of ideas later to appear in finished works, as well as acting as a normal diary, by allowing the artist to record their day-to-day activities and emotions. These diaries not only give art historians a valuable opportunity to explore the creation process of these finished works, but they are a useful biographical tool." (Wikipedia) 

Types of art journals used within the context of a fine arts course include:
  • Art journals may be created to address specific subjects or themes about art in general. The  elements and principles of design is probably the most common art subject assigned to student journals. Click here to view a seventh grade journal about the elements of design. I've also posted worksheets that were used to teach the same material to ninth graders. There is a very distinctive difference between the two assignments. One of them is definitely more pleasing to look at. Don't forget, young people also want their work to look attractive!
  • Journal themes may also closely relate to the course of study for the specific class in which the assignment is made. Sketch books in a fashion design course, for instance, are frequently assigned to students. Fashion sketch books become art journals when additional notes and written entries are also included among the pages of these visual documents.
  • Journals may be a collective work addressing a wide variety of questions that the student is required to reflect upon throughout an entire year or semester. Bell questions may be assigned to students as soon as they enter a classroom in order to promote attendance, class participation and discipline. Art instructors may choose to include these bell questions within the pages of an art journal along with a selection of short stories, biographies and research papers designed to teach students about art appreciation. 
  • Art journals are also very helpful when integrating a specific subjects into student art activities such as: zoology, botany, literature, poetry, history etc... Students may be assigned additional reading or research that coincides with art projects that address specific topics that their art teacher is either very familiar with or trained in professionally. 
      Requiring art students to keep journals promotes excellence in the fine arts. This is because much of the student's free time must be spent thinking and researching how art becomes important to different communities, both professional and novice artists, and to themselves. This reflective practice stretches the brain and offers yet another venue type for students to achieve goals dedicated to comprehension, interpretation, and literacy. By these means, art teachers may also be able to assess whether or not their students are understanding the concepts necessary to the completion of art projects.
      Art journals are also excellent replacements for final or midterm exams in an art class because these diaries are the accumulative proof of the students participation in the classroom. If kept under lock and key within the room, art teachers will soon discover this to be the case. However, in order to teach through journaling, art instructors must be prepared in advance to assign pages to the class on a regular basis.
      I prefer to require a mix of pages that not only assign art methods but also the reading of short articles and reflecting upon the content found in them. (approx. 150 words) Once students become familiar with the process, many of them learn to look forward to it. Do not make the pages too difficult. Students should be encouraged to share their own opinions and not to fear censure for them. As long as they are responding with genuine care or enthusiasm, this can be a very successful assessment process.
      There are also many disciplinarian benefits that may be derived from this activity, benefits such as: the productive use of time, the use of technology for research, the active necessity of participation, and the creative interpretation of events or written materials.
      Free time in the classroom after the early completion of art projects may be used for journal entries and so may the few minutes at the beginning of each class period. This teaches students to use their time wisely and to also direct their attention to a task at hand until it is completed.
      Teachers may include research to be performed in the library or computer lab in order to complete assignments or they may also design a reflection dependent upon outside visits to museums or sculpture parks. It is important for students to actively respond to a project that requires physical research and discovery. This form of discipline builds self confidence and independence. Give students a task to perform in order to fulfill an assignment outside of the classroom. They will discover that art is a part of life on a much grander scale.
      Not every page should include written reflection of an event. Sometimes the pasting of brochures, tickets, or photographs of a visit to a play, park or museum may suffice. Encourage the discipline of creative interpretation. Not every page needs to represent "written words." There are multiple forms of communication in art, so require students to think differently about how they produce material for the journal. For example, if they should choose to produce video for a page assignment, play their alternative "page" for the class and develop a fun discussion around the topic. Help students copy their video for their journal on a CD. Cut and paste an envelope to hold the CD on a journal page. This encourages students to see their journal as a record of their school experiences as well. Your students may treasure their art journal above all other mementos by the time they graduate; don't be surprised by their concerns for it's safety.

Artists from the past sometimes kept journals: Many famous artists are known for their art diaries - the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci are probably the best known example. More web pages:  Da Vinci's Secret's * Joseph Mallord William Turner * John Constable * Conrad Martens * Vincent Van Gogh * David Hockney *
More opinions from teachers about student journals:Why Should Students Journal? * Reflective Journals * Encouraging Students to Keep a Nature Journal * Instructional Strategies Online * Learning Journals * Academic Reading Journals *