Art teachers know, when we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Banksy—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems in creative ways. Art is the meeting place of all subjects.
We know that students who have art outscore their peers by about 100 points on the SAT. Because of my intercurricular approach, my students outscore their peers by an average of 155 points. That means my budget is protected, my position is respected, and our art department is doing well. We already to incorporate core content, but we can include more writing in a way that is more thoughtful weather you see students daily or once a week.
Nearly every project I do includes some pre-writing, these are included in the books I have written (HERE) and some simple reading about our theme. I do this not just because reading is important, but it also means I am meeting the state requirements for my 504 and IEP students. No one can claim I didn't provide additional resources for those who are required to get them, because ALL my students get them. It helps students stay focused and provides a reference to answer questions like, "What are we doing again? I don't get it!"
"Well how about you read the paper I just handed you and we read together?"
I will often include some writing component. Often a list. In my current Art 1 project students had to list 5 possible alphabet themes for an illustration project. They then had to create a list of 26 thing within a final theme to create their alphabet from. So a food theme would include 26 edible items.
Another way I incorporate writing is "Art Quote Monday." I do weekly writing with my students where they respond to an art quote with their interpretation of what is meant by the quote. What is the quote trying to say or teach? I do not correct their writing but I have 3 students share their responses, and I add my own idea into the mix, but let them know that there is no "right" answer. I tell them that the important point is to read, think, interpret, and write.
I do this each and every week that we have a full week of school. This takes about 5 minutes every Monday, and reinforces reading, writing, and problem solving skills that are very important.
Later in the year we create posters based on quotes they picked from a bucket. I put in enough so no 2 kids would have the same quote. They are allowed to pick 2 quotes and put back one. They are given another 5 minutes to trade. They write down their interpretation of the quote, use their cell phones to do a little research, and then they begin to sketch ideas which will become final projects. DETAILS HERE
When I need a sub plan for my students I often choose a video related to the art history component of our current project. While students watch, they need to write 20 facts about what they have seen, heard, or observed. I let them know that 1 and 2 word answers are not acceptable and they need to write in statements or sentences. At the end they need to summarize what they saw. These are simple things we can do that encourage student reading, comprehension, and writing.
Every year students have to do a short research paper for a grade. Here's my packet:
"The dead have come to life again! You'd think the government would be on high alert, schools would be closed, and there would be chaos everywhere... but no. Unlike pop-culture zombie movies, these dead folks are just as normal as they ever were, except partially decayed, but all-in-all, the same... Your art teacher, apparently a zombie sympathizer, has decided that this is the perfect opportunity for you to actually go out and meet a famous artist and interview them instead of writing a boring research paper..."
HERE is one more blog post on this topic, but my last comment is this... by implementing core content connections in all your lessons you do lose a tiny bit of art production time. But I have to say from experience that the quality of the work is higher when students take the time to read, think, write, and plan their work. Sometimes the desire to jump in and create can lead to the thought that these "extras" like writing and exploring core content connections is robbing us of production time, but I'd argue it enriches it.