July 14, 2013

Five Ways Art Can Improve Your Students’ Writing

What does it mean to use art? Personally, it goes way beyond looking at an image as a visual writing prompt and writing a story- there are so many other possibilities for children to learn, grow and reflect. All of the learning outcomes below are based in higher level thinking- meaning students are synthesizing, analyzing and judging what they observe.  Isn’t that what we want them to be doing?

Anyone who has used art in a regular education classroom has experienced the positive impact fine art can have.  I have outlined five specific learning outcomes for students who use art for inspiration.

Using art in your classroom will help students to:

1. Learn to carefully observe characters and their environment.

visual writing prompt

It is important to build time into lessons for looking, thinking and making connections.  Observation is the first step in thinking.  It is important for educators to teach children how to observe with intention – learn to look with a purpose.  The images we are bombarded with every day contain limitless information that we must sift through, prioritize, decipher and act upon.  Observation requires stamina and focused thought, skills which can be taught and improved upon. Keen observation is an important part of the writing process. Read more about observation art here.

2. Sequence events

Look for cause and effects relationships in the image.  Is one event causing another? How are the characters interacting? What’s going on? The smallest of details can change the order of events.  Once these questions are answered, they may be put in logical order to help students sequence events in a story. Remember to document their ideas (I suggest making a written list on chart paper or overhead). Students can refer to these as they write. This is especially helpful when they get stuck in the middle of a story and don’t know where to go.

3. Make inferences from details

Making inferences from an illustration is one of the best ways to use art.  We must look at an image critically and question what is going on.  What do the people, animals and even color tell us about the image? What does the angle or perspective tell us about who is telling the story?  From the clothing, facial expressions, and even time of day we may infer certain things.  Once again, document student answers.

4. Write stories rich in detail and imagery

Simply put, with careful observation students can generate long, descriptive lists. One way is to pair up students.  One student looks at the art while the other student turns away.  The student looking at the art has to explain, in detail, the images, colors, characters, lines, shapes, mood, feelings, and patterns in the image.  The student listening must then draw the picture they are hearing with never seeing the original image.  The student speaking must use rich language, while the listening student must apply those descriptions to their own drawing.  Works like a charm.

5. Learn how to tell a story from multiple perspectives

Using an image with characters- either animals, people or even objects- may be used to teach point of view.  Once students analyze the image and think they know what is going on, they choose one character and write a story from the point of view of that character in first person perspective.  It gets even more interesting when the student chooses an animal or inanimate object as the narrator. One student in my class wrote her story from the perspective of the dog and it completely changed the outcome of the story.  What you may do then is graphically compare/contrast the elements of the story and how they changed depending on who was telling it.


You can find images for your classroom anywhere- magazines, posters, post cards, calendars, etc. I have a collection of print writing prompts, as well as a collection of illustrations and supplemental graphic organizers are specifically made to inspire critical thinking and creative writing.  I also have short Video Story Starters you may use in your classroom today.  Let me know your ideas- I’d love to hear them.   Happy creating!

Download my free eBook, "How to Use Art to Inspire Creative Writing". I hope it helps you the way it has helped my students.
I've compiled numerous tips and techniques to get the best creative writing from your students. Get them to think critically!
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