Thursday, April 15, 2010

Using art to encourage reading and writing

Why is art so affective a medium and such an effective tool for teaching written communication?  Art in itself is a form of communication, an extension of the person who has created the art. It is a way of communicating that which is within to those who are on the outside. It is a way of reaching inside to bring out that which is hidden to be revealed. Through art we can express ideas more deeply. Unlike written communication, art uses senses such as colour, sound, touchand even taste


There are many artistic disciplines that can be incorporated into teaching written communication - from the Fine Arts to the Culinary Arts. Who would not prefer to eat their maths work as pizza fraction problems rather than just doing them?

As well as creating art, appreciating art by others is a fantastic way to get children talking, questioning and hypothesizing about all kinds of different scenarios. A piece of artwork is an instant visual or multi-sensory stimulus that can act as a rich starting point  to encourage those children who often shut down when simply asked to "write about...".

Why not give a struggling reader a book of paintings by some of the great masters during quiet reading time? They will instantly begin to formulate their own stories and ideas about who, why, where, when etc.. a painting came into being. 

This leads me on to thinking about developing a child's "inner spoken voice", an area I will cover in a future blog post.  The "voice" inside our head that we hear when reading silently is something that most of us take for granted which many children who struggle to read just don't have. Using pictures to verbalise stories is a great way to practice "hearing" a story in our own heads. 

I recently came across this brilliant book, Alphab'art by Anne Guery and Oliver Dussutour. 

It provides a wonderful starting point for using art to encourage a child of any age to look more deeply into what is on each page of a book. It contains 26 lovely photographs of paintings of renowned artists. Each hides a letter of the alphabet while exposing children to fine art. A nice way to reinforce letter shapes and introduce children to famous artists like Picasso, Dali and Van Gogh and lesser known masters as well.

Can you spot the letter F in this Mondrian painting?

What letter is hiding in this painting by Hopper? Is there a story behind  this picture?

What story did Salvador Dali have in his head when he painted "The Giraffe on Fire"?

What letter shape can you find in this portrait by Van Gogh? Do you know the story of his missing ear?

A famous painting within another famous painting but can you see the letter S?

This is a truly inspiring book. I have a copy in The Learning Den if you want to explore its possibilities!

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