Why Art Teachers Need to Write & How to Do It!

Image: Letters Book, Altered Book, Jean Fitzgerald, 2009

As art educators, we know that images are powerful tools to communicate ideas.  However, our world also relies heavily on written communication to share information. This makes it necessary to have good writing skills.  Good writing is key to effectively advocating for your art program, communicating art concepts, and sharing ideas with colleagues. New media, from blogging to tweeting to collaborating on ArtEd2.0, has made it easier for us to do just that.

Despite having a blog and the Tech4Arted column in SchoolArts Magazine, I simply don’t like to write. Words just don’t flow smoothly from my head to my fingertips.

What I do love to do is communicate and share ideas. I just finished my first year writing the Tech4Arted column (check out my articles below) and I have been getting great ideas from SchoolArts for years so it has been exciting to contribute to a large audience.

I know many of you who are reading this may think: “If I could just show you what I want to say with a picture instead of words, it would be so much easier!” You have a great idea on art education, but you may hesitate to share if you dread the thought of writing.  Here’s the writing process I have developed over the last couple years that works well for blogging, writing for SchoolArts, and writing e-newsletter communication to parents. Maybe it will inspire you.

1. Choose your topic. What art lessons have been successful? How have you improved on someone else’s idea? Don’t reinvent the wheel.  All great ideas are inspired by something else, right?
2. Start typing. Don’t worry about how incoherent you sound. Just get the ideas out of your head and written down.
3. Read it afterwards and fix the things that do not make sense.
4. Go do something else for a few minutes, a few days, or a week.  This is the magic time when you will think of a new idea or perfect phrase.  Then run —  don’t walk — back to your writing to make your edits.
5. Read what you wrote and ask yourself: Did I communicate my ideas? Revise your writing. Repeat steps 3-5 until you communicate your ideas effectively.
6. Choose a friend or colleague to read your rough draft.  I always do. Make revisions and let them read it again.

In case you missed my first year of the Tech4Arted column for SchoolArts, I have linked to the articles below.  I share my writing with you with hope that you will take the leap and share your ideas with us as well!

Creating a Compassionate Curriculum
Take an Art Tour in Google Maps
Wallwisher: Collaborate and Interact
Twenty-First Century Storytelling
Out of Place
Re-Making Time
Create Your Own Customized Art Quiz
Technology Transformation [Infographic] Wired to the Natural World

Ready to share? SchoolArts is always looking for lesson ideas and art expression in your school and community. Or write a guest post on The Teaching Palette. Check out some of our fantastic guest post submissions here.

Special Note: A great resource for grammar is the Associate Press Guide to Punctuation.

Theresa McGee

Hello! My name is Theresa McGee and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator teaching in Hinsdale, Illinois. My curriculum is structured around creative thinking and technology integration into the learning process. I have authored eighteen articles for the Tech4ArtEd Column in SchoolArts Magazine and several iTunes U courses for professional development. I've presented at the state and national levels including several online webinars for art educators. In 2010, I was awarded Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year and in 2011 I was awarded the national PBS Teacher Innovator award. I love to share ideas that contribute to the art education profession!

6 Comments

  • June 28, 2011

    craig r

    Great posting, Theresa! I would add here that writing helps us clarify our thoughts. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re thinking, until we write it down. I look forward to reading another year of your articles in SchoolArts!

  • July 7, 2011

    Jodi

    Great article! I just wrote a paper advocating for art teachers to write, too. I believe with the advent of venues such as blogs and self-publishing opportunities, that we can cross market barriers and write about our own experiences and share information to help others – rather than depend on giant publishing houses to feed us the same ol’ information. I would also like to admit: writing is hard for me too. But I hack it out, let my friends help me and subscribe to an online grammar check (grammarly.com) … why do I do it? Because I believe in the power of the arts. Keep up the great work!

  • July 7, 2011

    Jessica Balsley

    Great ideas for organizing our thoughts when we write. I never thought of myself as a writer until I started my blog. Now, I am asked to write articles as well, and it can be scary, but I find if you keep the writing simple, and stick to good content, you can’t go wrong. I also like to make outlines. They really help me focus my writing. I will outline the whole entire article or post, and then fill in the blanks as I type. This helps the whole thing come together without having to re-organize.
    In our Blogging for Art Educators (www.theartofed.com/classes) course I noticed the participants had some trouble just getting started with their writing. These would be great tips to share with my next batch of teachers who want to blog, but are fearful they are not good writers or hit a road block along the way.
    Do you also have a larger list that you use to plan out your posts and articles? How do you decide what to post next, or what kind of content to share and in what order? I struggle with the bigger picture planning, but once I sit down to write it usually flows. Thanks for getting me thinking!

  • Hillary Andrlik + Theresa McGee
    July 8, 2011

    Theresa McGee

    Jessica,
    Using outlines is a great tip. My sister (also an art teacher and the person who reads for me) suggested that I write in the same way that I would write her an email. I sometimes get so preoccupied with the correct lingo that my real message never gets across.

    When it comes to posting on the Teaching Palette, honestly we do it when we have time (so don’t expect much in April or May =:))
    Hillary and I often use Google Docs when we collaborate on a new post. Working as a team has been an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend creating a group blog for newbies. This was the first blog either of us have written and it has really helped make the blog the resource we hoped it would become.

    One of my favorite blogs to read is
    Art Teachers Hate Glitter – this teacher is so funny and just writes like it is a great conversation in the teachers lounge.

  • August 27, 2011

    Nancy Walkup

    Theresa: Thanks for encouraging other teachers to write! Getting published is such a good thing for any art program!

  • August 27, 2011

    Jan

    Great inspiration here. I get so much from when folks share their thoughts and ideas.

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