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Getting Started

The Visual Journal

The following lessons use visual journals as a way to integrate art and writing for first through twelfth grades. The visual journal is a simple notebook with lined or blank pages, a journal that students can use as a starting place for all the following lessons. Visual journals maybe created in existing notebooks or constructed by binding copy paper.

Unlike regular writing journals, understanding and writing about art concepts serves as the primary goal of a visual journal. The following activities are short and help the student think and write about the visual. Work in the visual journal aims to do the following:

  • Sharpen powers of observation—students may be directed to first observe, then memorize, then draw what they see or what they remember, whether it is a painting at a museum or a vase of flowers.
  • Elicit reactions to art—students may draw a piece of art and record first observations in order to write about it later. The resulting notes may be used in longer, more formal pieces.
  • Assist in note-taking—the notes can be visual, as in sketches, written, or in diagrams. Drawings made in a visual journal are not just self-expression; they are recordings of visual data and the interpretation the student has given of the subject.
  • Aid in data collection—the collected written and numerical data (for example, information from labels) supports the students’ sketches.