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
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.
Parent communication is a very important job for art educators. It is our job to educate, inform and communicate with parents about our discipline. Too often, parent communication can be difficult when you are a specialist. The classroom teacher inevitably has more contact with parents. Why do we feel so disconnected with the families of our students? Maybe it’s because we see so many students in one week. Maybe because we don’t see our students every day or perhaps because the parents are not making the effort as much to be involved in the arts education of their students by reaching out to their art teachers. However you look at it, the amount of parent contact and communication can easily be zero to none if neither party is making the extra effort.
Why is it so important to foster parent / teacher relationships?
- It’s the parents who will advocate for you, support your program and the arts.
- Parents will help to make those home connections with the arts that support the teaching and learning going on in the art room.
- Over time, parents will begin to see all of the important learning that is going on in the lives of their students and they will start to enrich that learning at home.
- They will begin to see that an education without the arts would be very dull.
- They will begin to enjoy and remember why they enjoy the arts and help instill this in their kids.
So, how, you might ask, do we accomplish all of these wonderful great things when the reality of most of ours situations looks something like teaching at two or more schools with 500 or more students and contact time that seems to creep lower and lower each year?
The Itty Bitty Papers! One of the most important ways I communicate with parents is very simple, but yet very effective. I call them the “Itty Bitty Papers.” Put very simply, I glue a little piece of paper with a message to the back of the artwork that explains the concept or standard we are studying. It might also contain how the project was assessed or what specific standards were graded during this grading period. It could also talk about the artist we studied or how the concept connects to other disciplines. Anything to prevent parents for looking at the artwork and saying “This is pretty” and quickly dismissing it. I want them to realize – Something really happened while your student was making this! They learned something! They went through and artistic process! If I can open up this window for families even a little bit more, I feel I am doing my job.
Another great thing about putting messages on the back of artwork is it helps the students to remember what they learned. My elementary art teacher did something similar, and knowing I wanted to be an art teacher, I kept all of my elementary artwork. I still have most of these pieces and could remember what I learned and why it was important in my artistic development. Someday all of the little kiddos you teach will pull out a tub of artwork to display at their high school graduation. With your help, they just may have a nice little memory about elementary art because of your message.
To prepare the messages, I simply type out the message I want to convey and copy and paste over and over onto one sheet. Then, I slice them up on the paper cutter and put them in a little basket. Each basket goes on a grade level shelf ready to go on the back of artwork once the project is completed.
Maybe you have seen this idea, thought of this idea or are already doing something like this. They key here is consistency and to have them on as many projects as you can! I use glue sticks to attach the messages because it does not make the art wrinkle up like runny glue does.
If starting this task seems daunting to you, don’t worry. Start small. There are many different ways to accomplish putting message on the back of artwork.
- Have students glue the messages on the back of their own artwork when they finish the project in art class. This is the method I use the most, and my students are very well versed in doing this, although it does take some time.
- Have a volunteer glue messages on the back (works great for the younger grades)
- Make this a station for any students when the finish early-They can sit down with a pile or artwork and glue away.
- Have students glue them to the back of artwork on the day you pass back all of the artwork before you take it home (I call this portfolio day) It keeps hands busy and gets the entire job done in one shot.
In one simple step, that takes a matter of minutes, you can more effectively communicate with parents and make those important connections home! They next goal for me is to create mini-rubrics, self-assessments and reflections to go along with these messages. These glued to the back, I think, would provide an even richer experience for my art students!
I would love to hear more about ways you all communicate more effectively with parents in the art room!
We wanted to celebrate National Arts in Education Week by offering ways to improve art program communication among colleagues, students, and the school community. In any classroom, communication is always an important ingredient for achieving success. But when we stop to think about the many people that we come into contact with each school year, what are we really communicating about our art program?
Ways Art Programs Can Communicate :
Colleagues, Fellow Teachers
- Work as a team. When you have a student acting up in class, talk to his other teachers. Find out if his behavior is happening other places or perhaps there are family issues or peer conflict. It is amazing how much you can learn about a student in 20 seconds. Work together to develop a strategy together to empower everyone.
- Seek teacher input when connecting to the classroom curriculum. Often it will help you create a deeper level of learning in your own cross curricular lessons.
- Don’t expect other teachers to read your mind. If you have a procedure or system that involves other teachers then keep the lines of communication open. Create an art room newsletter for your colleagues.
- Artsonia is a fantastic communication tool. Create project descriptions as a way to communicate your learning objectives to all artwork visitors. Let the parents, friends, and relatives hear about the art concepts that they have discovered. Share the creative process and celebrate success. This fall, Artsonia will be adding a teacher newsletter feature. You can even customize specific grade-level parents to receive the e-newsletter. If you’re new to Artsonia, see these tips and tutorial on getting started.
- Start a blog, Facebook Fan page, website or Twitter feed. Many upper level teachers use these tools with their students, but they are also useful for parent communication. Here is how a Facebook page is used to communicate with parents. Need help getting started then check out this post on How to Create a Facebook Group for Your Classes.
- Take a moment to acknowledge individual student work and accomplishments. Mail a postcard or send a note home with an individualized message letting a student know what a great job they did or that you noticed how hard they‘ve been working.
- Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic. We have all types of learners in our classroom – teach your concepts or classroom procedures in a way everyone can understand. Write your procedures in multiple places in the room, say the directions out loud and then have the students retell the direction to someone else in the room, and get up and move.
- People wont know what is going on in your classroom unless you tell them. So you say you don’t like to toot your own horn? Get over it . . . now. Your program is too important to be humble. Take pictures of interesting activities and send them in to the local newspaper with a description. If your picture is good, they will use it.
- Create public art for your community and with your students. Art teacher Ian Sands from Apex, North Carolina works with his high school students to create fantastic community art exhibits.
Know Your Administrators
- The fist line of administration we need to work with is our building principals. They hold the keys to scheduling, building budgets, space allocation, teacher evaluations and more. Your principal can be your biggest advocate in many situations. Help your principal out by contributing to your building community.
- Sign up for committee work. There is often committees that focus on whole building or issues such as safety, staff development or technology. Be active in new building initiatives that reach beyond the art room like Peaceful Playgrounds. Volunteer for some of the miscellaneous projects that pop up from time to time such as signs, posters or creating that paw print stencil to mark where kids should stop at the crosswalk. Helping others will build good karma that comes right back to you.
- Get to know the upper administrative team in your district. Introduce yourself at the end of an Institute day. Join a committee that works at the district level. Invite them to art events at your school. They love to see what the kids are doing and escape the office. It also gives them a chance to see your program in action.
In a time when budgets are tight and every program is under scrutiny how we communicate is more important then ever. Be an advocate for your art program.
This post is a part of Craig Roland’s Synchronized Blogging Event celebrating Arts in Education Week! [Synchronized blogging is "where a group of bloggers agree to post on their own blogs on the same broad topic on the same day" (Wikipedia)]
Read more from our other fantastic synchronized bloggers about how to celebrate National Arts in Education Week: