Lesson 9 of 10
Weekly Visual Journals
by Debi West
I have found through the years that holding my kiddos accountable by having them submit weekly prompt-based journal assignments is a win-win-win experience!
My first year as a secondary teacher, I realized that my students needed to be encouraged to practice their drawing and compositional skills, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Telling them to practice wasn’t cutting it. So I started thinking about my college art course experiences and how much I enjoyed my sketchbook assignments, and the light bulb came on!
I came up with prompt-based weekly journal assignments that not only give my students inspiration to work in their journals, but I figured out a way to combine the technical with the creative that encourages my kids to work hard.
On the second day of school, I give my students a visual journal handout that explains the reasons why artists keep journals; specifically, how these journals become a storehouse of ideas and how their sketches can often be used to push their class projects to the next level.
The handout explains how each week the journal will be graded on a three-part rubric. I must see direct observational drawings, collage and text. I never say how much of each, but I must see at least 50 percent drawing, so that I know that students are practicing drawing from life, as well as working on how they arrange these works into creative compositions.
My intro students have prompts such as, “Who Am I,”, “Invent a New Object,” “Scare Me,” “Kitchen Items,” and they even have a “Free Choice” week, and all of their works on one page, while my art II and advanced students have single-word prompts such as “Me,” “Rip,” “See,” “Joy,” “Eat” and “Spirit,” and their work is a two-page spread, with the added challenge of making the work unified even with the spiral holding the pages together.
Each class has 14 journal assignments per semester. One of the most fun aspects of having to grade these journals each week is that I call students up to my stool and we have a one-on-one conversation as we grade the work together using the rubric. We have really wonderful chats about their personal progress.
These quick meetings hold them accountable and I have seen their work grow tremendously as they want good grades, they want to get better at their art skills and they really want me to snap a photo and pin their work on my visual journal Pinterest page! (www.pinterest.com/dewestudio/visual-art-journals-2015-2016/) I am now pinning approximately 65 works a week, as the work continues to get stronger—which is the ultimate goal!
I love Mondays, because Monday means I get to really connect with my students as they share their hard work with me via through visual journals … As I said, it’s a win, win, WIN activity!
Next up … Summative Assessment Bookmaking Unit!
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Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT, is Art Department Chair at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She is also an Arts & Activities Contributing Editor.