I hope my last post got you thinking about taking the simple first step of bringing more art into your classroom by introducing the idea of Art Journals to your students. Whether you’ve decided to purchase actual blank books, give each student loose sheets of copy paper in a folder, or you’ve chosen to do something in between, here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started. Let’s begin with expectations.

Make Your Expectations Clear: It’s very important that you introduce the journals to your class as such… art journals. Let them know that these are special and are only to be used for recording their observations (things they see/think about) in both pictures and in words. Let them know that you expect work in these journals to be careful and thoughtful — and that everyone will be working in them the first few times together as a class so that they can understand exactly what you mean. (More about that in a future post.) I would suggest making a little list that you might post someplace in your classroom — this list can then be referred to as needed to reinforce your expectations.

When Students Can Use Their Journals: It’s up to you when you’d like your students to be able to use their journals independently… perhaps during station time, when other work is finished, or when waiting for help… decide what works best for you and let them know.

Art materials to be used in the journals: Again, this is up to you, but I’ve had great success in allowing simply a pencil and an eraser. This places the focus squarely on their drawing and writing — use other art experiences to explore other materials. This also eliminates the problem of them not having what they need to work in their journal — remember, we’re making this easy!

Observation Subject: I’ll talk about observational drawing in a future post, but for now while you’re thinking about expectations, I would suggest that you let your students know that the object(s) they choose to draw/write about in their journals should be something that they can easily see from their seat — it might even be something at or in their desk. Trust me, the last thing you want is for your students to start wandering around looking for things to draw — and believe me, they will! Moving around looking for the perfect thing to draw becomes more important than the drawing. You might guide them to select something that doesn’t move so that they can get a really good look at it — which rules out things like drawing their neighbor!

Next time I’ll talk about observational drawing and how to get your students off to a good start in their journals. Laying a foundation for use in just a few brief sessions as a whole class will help ensure the ease and quality of their use for the remainder of the year. If you’re interested in learning more about teaching art to your students and perhaps need some Professional Development credits too, click on Fresno Pacific University at the top of the page and you can read more about each of the courses I teach. (Specifically ART 900: Drawing Magic, and ART 904: Ideas To Draw From might interest you!) If you like what you’ve read here, I’d love to hear from you — JGomasFaison@gmail.com