I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving and were able to celebrate in a way that was meaningful to you. My husband and I drove down to Central California to spend a few days with family — which was a treat since we don’t get down there that often.

With instructional time very tight prior to the winter break, I’ll be brief but wanted to wrap up this series about using Art Journals in your classroom. My goal in this post is to inspire you to begin thinking of all the ways having your students use an Art Journal will fit naturally into lessons you are already teaching. I’ll touch on two curricular areas, but I know that when you take a look at your own specific lesson plans, you will begin to see many, many ways you can immediately begin to incorporate them. Your students will be motivated and excited to work in their Art Journals because they’ll have a sense of ownership in them. Though the questions, prompts, and guidelines for their use might originate in your curriculum, the observations and ideas that your students explore in their journals will be uniquely their own and therefore profoundly meaningful.

Language Arts: What about using the journals to reflect on what your students are reading independently — or perhaps having read to them — or both? You can provide specific prompts to match curricular benchmarks… write/draw about the main idea of the story… your favorite character… the main conflict… retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story, etc. I would let your students begin where they are comfortable — if that’s drawing, so be it. Let them draw their ideas first, and then write. This will build confidence in those who lack it in their writing, enabling them to communicate their ideas “on paper” to their “reader”. It can also be used as a creative writing/thinking tool, becoming a place where students are encouraged to explore ideas for stories, characters, settings, creatures, you name it. Look at your specific Language Arts curriculum and lessons, and see how many ways you can come up with to make the Art Journals work for you. You’ll be amazed!

Science: With scientific observation being the cornerstone of scientific study, using a journal to capture what is being studied makes sense. You can use the Art Journals here as a way to check for understanding — perhaps as an alternative to filling out some sort of worksheet. (Have your students draw the object being studied, and then label their own drawing.) The journal might also be a place where students can record their existing knowledge about a topic, as well as ideas or questions about things that they’d like to find out more about. Encouraging them to think critically and deeply, you could also suggest that they draw and make notes about any invention ideas they might have.

Depending on how involved you want to be, you might want to talk about the fact that artists, scientists, writers and others use journals all the time in their daily lives. While this real world connection would be interesting, I don’t think it’s necessary at all for Art Journal use in your classroom to be successful. One final point that might not be obvious, is that because journals are sequential — as bound books or single sheets in order — they will, by their very nature, show growth and progress over time. This will be instructive for you as a form of assessment, and encouraging for the child.

As always, please click on Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page if you’re interested in learning more about the courses I teach. Thanks for reading.