If you’ve been able to get your students started working in an art journal of some sort, here are a few tips to keep in mind that will keep the journals relevant, meaningful, and fresh for both you and your students.
1. Collect the journals and comment in them periodically. Don’t make this a huge chore… just gather them up every so often and check out how your students are using them. This can be an excellent time to get a feel for any improvements/challenges in their writing, and also for checking out their attention to detail in their drawings. Keep comments to a minimum. Things like, “Great observation!”, “I agree with you here.”, “Love the detail in this drawing!”, are all things that will encourage your students. I wouldn’t think of this as “correcting” their journals, but rather just an opportunity to touch bases and see that they are being used as intended. (For example if you see lots of drawings of cartoons, you might want to speak to that student and remind them of how their art journal should be used.)
2. Work as a whole group periodically. Just as you did in the beginning to establish your expectations for the art journals, work every so often as a whole group to reinforce those expectations and offer encouragement while your students are actually working in them. One fun thing to do is to observe and draw something seasonally as a group. As a first grade teacher, there was a small tree in a planter right outside of my classroom, and a few times a year — at the change of seasons — we would all take our journals outside to carefully observe and draw this tree. The students loved looking back at the drawings they had done previously to see how the little tree had changed. It was a simple, but powerful way to help them be more aware of their everyday surroundings. Many would report back to me about how trees were changing around their own neighborhoods, “just like our tree”! Imagine!
3. Don’t keep a journal with your students. I’ve touched on this before, and I can’t emphasize it enough: DO try keeping an art journal of your own, but please DON’T draw in it along with your students. First of all, if you are trying to observe and draw in your own journal, you will not be able to monitor and be engaged with your students as they work. Secondly, if you are working in a journal, your students will lose interest in their own journals and will want to watch what you are doing. Finally, that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself! Your students don’t need to see you draw to be able to have a meaningful experience drawing in their own journals.
In my next post, I’ll give you a few more suggestions about how to keep your students on track and engaged with their art journals, as well as easy ways you can incorporate them into the curriculum you are already covering in your classroom. As always, if you find yourself in need of Professional Development credits and/or are looking for ways to bring some meaningful art experiences into your classroom, click on the Fresno Pacific University link at the top of the page for information about courses I offer. Also, I’d love to hear what you think of this blog, so drop me a line if you’re so inclined.