Monthly Mentor

Karen Keifer-Boyd (October)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. This month’s mentor is Karen Keifer-Boyd, PhD, Professor of Art Education and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She is a co-founder and editor of the journal Visual Culture & Gender. Her research on feminist pedagogy, visual culture, inclusion, disability justice, transdisciplinary creativity, cyberart activism, transcultural dialogue, and social justice arts-based research is published in 60+ publications and translated into several languages. She is a past president of the NAEA Women’s Caucus, a former Fulbright Scholar, and recipient of many awards and grants in the areas of social justice art education, gender barriers in technology, and more. She also serves on the NAEA Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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June 08, 2015

Writing Across the Curriculum

From: Janine Campbell

Writing across the curriculum is nothing new; in fact, it is something that I have tried to tackle differently each year since I started teaching in 2004. In my classroom, my main focus is art and making time for students to authentically interact in with art and art-making processes. I have been to many professional development workshops that show the importance of writing in all subjects so students gain reading and writing skills. I would enthusiastically try them out and disregard the complaints of students, in hopes that I was helping students improve their writing skills; however, I was always left feeling like I was missing an opportunity to advance that learning in the understanding of art when doing so. The strategies were often one-and-done, which proved to be ineffective. Instead, I had to rethink how to better incorporate writing as a tool to foster the exploration of art rather than supporting another subject area. It was not until I deployed these three literacy strategies as a routine part of the classroom that I was able to find results in art learning:

1.  Artist Statements: My students are asked to write artist statements for each of their works published on our Artsonia gallery. Using my State’s Visual Arts Standards that are embedded in rubrics on Schoology, I give my students clear guidelines for what to include in their statements so that others can understand their thinking and learning as a result of the work being presented. By giving them a clear, student-friendly rubric using “I can” statements to outline expectations for their writing, students are able to reflect on what they have learned and use art terms and ideas to accurately describe their intent within their works. This strategy supports learning in my classroom through their ability to reflect the standards being assessed and it also supports literacy strategies in other subjects by asking students to use their artwork as evidence when supporting their claims. It is a strategy that works seamlessly and has become an expectation for students to the point that they will even provide statements when I don’t ask for them. Here is an example rubric and student statement:

8th grade Student example:

Nolan1533 said this about his/her artwork ...

My choice of using printmaking to make an image of me writing my name withe a pencil helps me express my ideas about objects. Since a pencil allows you to complete your work and graduate school, in a way a pencil changes the course of a person’s life. We all know that how well you do in school will determine what jobs you can get and how successful you are in life. Also, there was a purpose for using printmaking. Pencils are used time, after time, after time. This is similar to how a stamp can be used multiple times. I feel that this connects to me because I take school very seriously. I often find myself stressing about school and getting my work done on time. Without a pencil getting through school would be very difficult. One artist that I used as a reference when making this image was Jim Dine. In one image he used printmaking to create an image of a robe. Our images are similar because they both use bright colors to make a simple image of an object. Overall I think that my image of me using a pencil to write my name represents objects in many ways.

2.  Artist of the Week: For the first ten years of my teaching, I was the one in sole control of which artists my students were exposed to in my classroom. This year, I decided to incorporate a practice of inquiry, where students would use their computers to investigate and report on artists of their choice. Every other week, I asked students to go to Scholastic Art Magazine Online and use our classroom code to access the archives of magazines. Students would then select a work and write about it using the standards-based rubric. Because this activity became routine and focused on arts learning, I found the writing was more meaningful and the students used the rubrics to hone their abilities to interpret works they deemed both interesting and relevant. Below is a student working on the website, an example rubric, and student response.

7th grade Student example:

3.  Sketchbooks: This was the first year I have used sketchbooks as a routine process in my classroom. Just like the above practices, the key to implementing new procedures in the classroom is to make them a part of the routine. Often when thinking of writing, I automatically think of traditional essays or sentence structure. This does not have to be the case. Students can easily write and draw in their sketchbooks to communicate ideas and plan out projects, which will help reinforce literacy skills. When starting new projects or demonstrating materials in the classroom, I asked students to use their sketchbooks to take notes on vocabulary, experiment with media, as well as plan out ideas and set production schedules. This use of writing is also effective at supporting habits of inquiry and experimentation through art making. Having students document their thought processes through sketchbooks also which helped me better understand their learning and also got students thinking more about the how and why behind their making. Below are examples of students using their sketchbooks.

The key to making each of these methods work for my classroom was letting go of notions I had around writing in the art room as a way to support other subjects. Instead, I embraced the power writing had to support learning in the art classroom and leveraged its’ ability to further engage students in comprehending why and how we create.

What are some strategies you have used in your classroom to engage students in writing? Have you tried any of these methods and how have they worked for you and your students?


Tracy F

Thanks for sharing your students sketchbook work and insights into your journey to help students take more ownership on the ideas, themes and materials.

Adam VanHouten

These are all terrific ideas and meaningful ways to incorporate writing. It makes it a part of the art and not just something extra that you tack on to a project.

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