9 Easy Ways to Incorporate Writing into the Art Room

This summer, my district is putting on a Curriculum Academy for teachers. It’s a chance for teachers to get together and write curriculum in a collaborative setting, and it’s awesome. With the development of the Common Core, many teachers have become very interested in cross-curricular planning. As you may know, I LOVE cross-curricular planning, but there are some subjects that are just a better fit for the art room than others. For example, it’s very easy for me to think about connecting a social studies lesson about Native Americans to an art project than a science lesson about evaporation. Not that it can’t be done; it just takes some extra thought. (As a side note, if you’d like to learn more about cross-curricular planning, don’t forget to sign up for the AOE online conference and attend my presentation titled “Getting Started with Cross Curricular Planning.)

Last year, I challenged myself to incorporate writing into the art room to make even more connections with students’ classroom studies. I wanted to make the writing meaningful and fun for the students so that they didn’t see it as extra work. In addition to artist statements and self-evaluation writing, here are 9 more ways I had students write in the art room.


9 Easy Ways to Incorporate Writing into the Art Room 

 For very young, emerging writers: 

1. Students created creatures a la Eric Carle, then wrote the sounds those creatures made:

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2. Students created self-portraits and wrote the emotions they were showing:

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3. I gave students a simple writing prompt they could complete with a few words, then had them do a project to go with it. (thanks pinterest!)

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For beginning writers: 

4. Students created ancient treasure maps and wrote directions from a starting point to their treasures:

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5. Students made story quilt paintings about their biggest dreams and wrote sentences to go with them:

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6. Students made thank you stars to send to a local veterans hospital:

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For more advanced writers: 

7. Students created their own species of animal and then wrote about what those animals would be classified as and why:

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8. Students design buildings and wrote about what the buildings were used for and who lived or worked there:

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9. Students turned personal narratives written in their classrooms into narrative comics:

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So, I’d love to know, do you incorporate writing into your curriculum?

Secondary teachers, how are middle schoolers and high schoolers writing in your rooms?

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • I forgot to mention that the snow globe writing prompt came from this cute classroom blog: http://mrsjumpsclass.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-01-08T11:50:00-05:00&max-results=7.

  • Erica Carlson

    Eh, this feels like a boring contribution, but another thing to look at is standards. For example K-3 MN standard is to compare/contrast art. I use that with those kids to write about art. Older kids meet standards by doing a critical response to pieces of art. 4-5th write artist statements and more recently (thanks pinterest), we now do an “art sandwich” to give each other written feedback. Nearly every art project requires writing (so I can do standards based writing). Kids didn’t like it, but they are so used to it that they know they need to spend time doing a bit of writing after the art project is complete that they expect it. It has taken a lot of practice to get there, but I think if we start these expectations when they are younger, it makes it easier on our secondary teacher friends when they also do similar assessments.


  • UTown

    I have my high schoolers do “Art Journals”, sketchbooks with writing. The Art I and Art II students have a journal due every other week, the Art III and Art IV students have one due each week.

  • Tami R

    1)Near the end of the year, my 1st graders looked back over the artists we had studied, then decided on a favorite & wrote about why. “My favorite artist is ___, because ___.
    2)3rd & 4th graders looked at James Franco’s “Invisible Art.” We had quite a lively & fun discussion & short opinion writing piece about whether it was really art or a scam. Then they tried their hand at creating invisible art & writing the description of their pieces.
    3)Students used the book, “The Important Thing” & used that writing format to write about an artist – much better results that just having them write a “report” – short & made them really get to what is unique & important about their artist.
    I think students love expressing their thoughts about art – the key is keep it short!

    • Great ideas, Tami. I agree with you- keeping it short is key!

  • RWS

    Today I read my second graders “The Pie is Cherry,” by Michael Rex and we talked about adjectives, wrote sentences and then illustrated favorite foods thinking about how to show the adjective with pictures. They loved it! They also got to hide a cherry and a bird in their pictures. I also teach the proper anatomy of a fish to third grade (mostly because I’m tired of fish that look like goldfish crackers.) They create their own fantasy fish with the proper number of fins, tail shapes etc. First grade learned about crystal formation when we made snowflake prints. I try to do a cross curricular tie in with nearly every lesson, just to show them that they need to use their brains to be artists!

    • hahaha. Your goldfish comment made me laugh.

  • CMcCann

    I’m middle school and am always looking for ways to incorporate writing in my room and their art. I posted on the other article “Tips to Make Writing More Successful in the Art Room” about how I do daily quick writes as part of my daily routine and lesson intro.

    In our art however, I have the kids incorporate favorite lyrics or sayings into their works, we do a whole unit on calligraphy, when cartooning we also study onomatopoeia (Batman & Robin words…pow! bang!), and we illustrate homonyms/homophones, we include original haikus when we do our watercolor unit in our outdoor classroom at the same time they are studying habitat in Science. We also use Scholastic Art magazines as a “no zero” policy for kids who “lose” assignments or are suspended or such.

    • I love how you incorporate writing right into the projects! Makes for a natural connection.

  • sherrie silvio

    I set up a “writing wall” outside of my classroom. I post various pictures, depending on our yearly theme. (ex. Art Around the World) These are printed on photograph paper so I don’t have to laminate to use them again. I use photos of famous works both traditional and contemporary. The students are then able to analyze the art using vocabulary words posted above the writing wall. They are not to use the words “pretty, awesome, or cool” when writing and they are instructed to write in complete sentences. They are introduced to the wall on the first day and may contribute to it while waiting for another class to leave or if they finish early with a project. They enjoy leaving their thoughts and I have begun getting responses to the original analysis. This will be the fourth year I have done this and now the students feel as though it is just another part of the classroom expectations. I teach elementary and even the Kindergarten students contribute with one word responses. They will begin this during the latter part of the year and use the posted words to help with spelling. I ask them to use line, shape, or color. If you would like to try this let me know and I can e-mail pictures to you.

    • I LOVE this idea. What a great, interactive, fun way to incorporate writing.