In this continuing saga of the many benefits of using Art Journals with your students, today I’d like to suggest a few ideas to keep your students excited about and engaged in their journals.

1. Generate excitement. This one is so easy you won’t even believe it — but it’s true. If you want kids to get excited about something and to observe it really closely… put it “under glass”. I had an old glass display box that I would put things in, and suddenly the contents would be magically transformed into priceless objects! I’m here to tell you that this worked equally well for first graders as it did for high school students. As people, it seems we are just naturally interested in things “on display”. My little display case was glass on three sides and the top, had doors on the back — which is how you could put things inside — and it also had the ULTIMATE feature… a light inside! Well, you can imagine how fascinating things became when placed inside the display box with a light shining on them! Just stand back and let the students look, draw, and describe. I think any kind of display area/stand/cover would do… it just sets the objects apart from being ordinary and helps them seem special and worthy of study. I put all kinds of things “on display” in that case… a bird’s nest I found on the ground… rocks… shells… leaves… you name it. In elementary school I used this display box as an “Observation Station”, and students would go there to work independently in their journals. Something to keep in mind — you’ll want to establish expectations for your display container. For example, will your students be allowed to lift it/hold it? Or is it to remain on the counter/table/floor? Be sure to make it very clear to your students how you expect them to use this “special display container”.

2. Choose “unexpected” subjects for their observations. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re game — think about having the kids observe something that changes over time like fruit or vegetables or cheese. (You probably want to have some sort of glass container for this stuff!) As you can imagine, watching fruit/food rot is enough to make children giddy — the more gross, the better! From an observational point of view, it really does make for a fascinating study with lots of opportunities to use descriptive language and to include specific details in their drawings that show the transformation.

Next time… some easy ways to incorporate the Art Journals into your classroom curriculum. Click on Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page if you’re interested in learning more about the art classes I teach. Thanks for reading my blog! If you have any specific questions/comments that you’d like me to respond to, please leave me a comment or write to me at