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The Art of Writing

Exploring the Use of Art to Reduce Creative Writing Anxiety
by

Alexandra Farrell

on 7 May 2013

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Transcript of The Art of Writing

Forming the Question Drive Poetic Voice Research Activities Conclusions Core Exploring the Use of Art to
Reduce Creative Writing
Anxiety What does the research say? District wide goal for this year was to improve literacy and writing across the entire school district.

Students would talk about beloved books often in class, and voiced how they could picture everything vividly in their minds.

In conversation, I became truly intrigued by books that had been written that inspired very visual imagery in the reader's mind. Why does this matter?
How will affect students?
How could it help students?

Why did these questions resonate
so strongly with me? The Art of Writing: In the classroom. I formed a direct action research activity.

Week one. I had students complete a writing attitude survey.

After reviewing elements of a good story I sent students to work to write me a short story connecting objects on the table together.

After they had completed their stories students were asked to complete a garfield survey about their writing experience. They could then illustrate their story.



Share stories from days... and written by the kids.
I found that the 4th Grade students in Bedford, NH enjoy writing. Although many struggle to translate their ideas to the written word.

They also found the new experience of using artwork to inspire writing to be very powerful. Most students voiced that they wish they could use art more during the writing process. Not only because art is fun, but also because it can help inspire their work.

Many students verbalized a strong preference to word processing on a computer. They find that writing by hand slows the writing process. Once the writing process becomes tedious many students lose interest in their work.

When students have a positive attitude towards what they are doing in class it shows clearly in their work. Alexandra Farrell How I found my new question..

I struggled with my original question until nearly November. One thing I should have done directly from the start was to listen to UNH more closely. They told us look deeply into our classrooms.

When I did again, my question came more easily than I could have imagined earlier in the year.

Since September we had a boy in our classroom who had severe disabilities. My CT had worked in special education for 19 years before becoming an art teacher. She created some amazing projects for this student that inspired my question. Forming my First Question. Why that wasn't enough for me....


I felt as though it wasn't digging deep enough.

I wanted to find a question that would help me discover something not only interesting, but also meaningful and useful to other educators.

I felt this to be a great challenge because I wanted to find something that could be useful to a variety of teachers, instead just useful to art teachers. My inquiry question:


How does combining art with writing affect student anxiety about the creative aspect of composition, and the quality of their writing? What does the research say about the link between student anxiety and writing performance?

What are the current trends in integration of writing curriculum with the arts?

What does the research say about the influence of art on the student creative writing process?

How do I accommodate for students’ with lesser motor skills which effect drawing and writing?

What is expected in the typical writing for a 4th grade student in Bedford, NH?

How will I know if I have made an impact on student anxiety during writing in the classroom? Interviews Lastly I completed interviews with three teachers and select students from each classroom.

I asked the teachers....


I asked the students.... So how will this research affect me? It has strengthened many of my core beliefs.

I aim to create a curriculum that is not only educational but also enjoyable for students. Attitude is one of the many necessary keys to success.

I also believe that collaboration between content areas is key to developing a group of well rounded students that have the understanding that everything is connected.

In my future position I will do everything in my power to collaborate with colleagues to provide a richer educational experience. What could this mean for fellow educators? Teachers should give students as much inspiration as they can. This inspiration can be in form of folders of photographs, music, even a pen and paper to begin drafting ideas.

We need to find ways to make school and writing a positive experience, and from an early age work to prevent negative attitudes.

Writing is tough, and anxiety about the process only makes it more difficult. Easing that anxiety wherever possible is vital to the successes of our students.

We should also collaborate whenever possible. Students have a fuller experience when they how content areas are connected. What would I do differently next time? I found that... the surveys did not give me conclusive data. Believe it or not UNH was right. My real information was qualitative, and came from my interviews with students, and teachers.

If I had to do this again I would become much more involved with the Poetic Voice Project and frame more my research around that activity.

I would extend my action research over several weeks until using art and writing became routine.

I would collaborate with fellow teachers.. I would create an integrated unit with a grade level where in art we would have time allotted to create images to correlate with writing pieces they were completing in their homerooms. Questions? Week Two. Students were asked to come in and begin to illustrate a picture using objects on the tables.. The objects were all different. After 15 minutes I directed students to take the lined sheet of paper and write me a story about their picture. At the end of class I passed out an identical garfield survey.

Share stories.. and drawings..

I then entered the results into Excel to find if the results of the surveys showed any significant change in response. What other questions arose from my question?

After arriving at the Elementary School I found an
amazing tradition in place that directly correlated to my research.

Fourth grade students would select a piece of artwork that spoke to
them, and made them feel something. It could be a memory, or even just a emotion.

Students would then take the piece of artwork and write a poem that was inspired by the artwork.

Once completed they would select music that fit their piece, and present their work at a special after school event for their parents.

Why did this relate to my research?

I observed this process closely from beginning to end, and I
attended the Poetic Voice Event where student presented their work.

I also sent home surveys that asked both parents and students
questions about the project. Thoughts from the Teachers Thoughts from the Students Writing Attitude Survey Results from the Garfield Survey Turns out typical 4th grade students like writing! I had the wonderful opportunity to spend my entire year in the Bedford School District.

As an art teacher, I had slightly different requirements because I get certified K-12. I was required to split my year between a secondary internship, and an elementary internship. Honestly I feel lucky, because the split made me a better teacher, however it created challenges for drafting the question that would be the driving force of my year.

So as I began to form my question in the fall, I was preparing it before I had even met the kids who would be helping me complete my research. I was in a different school, at a significantly different age level, and differences between elementary and secondary art teaching are more dramatic than had any concept of at the time. So I became interested in descriptive writing, and I wondered how art may impact descriptive writing, and that's where my original question began to grow.

"How does drawing affect descriptive writing? How does descriptive writing
affect artwork?" The Parent Survey The Student Survey "What I find is that Art sets the stage. Art is your segway."

"When I child doesn't view themselves as a writer when they don't believe in themselves they just want to be done."

"The image absolutely helps. It's all about creating the scene in the readers mind."

"Kids have an easier time with the Poetic Voice because there are less restrictions."

"The kids that struggle often try hard to do what they think YOU want them to do."

"If you can provide a situation that they enjoy it can help change their attitude, and attitude is key to good writing."

"Using Art in the writing process seemed to lead to students not perceiving the activity in the same way of as a regular writing assignment."

"In certain cases art could be a true help! My student just wanted to keep writing!"

"It's not a strategy we usually see!" "Being able to choose something that speaks to you and how you feel is different, and you don't usually get to do something like that... You don't usually have real choices."

"Art changes how you write a lot!! Instead of needing to paint a picture in your mind you have it right in front of you... It makes it easier to find the words you're looking for."

"Art makes writing easier and more fun."

"Art helps me think."

"If you have the right picture it can make you think of countless ideas!" It turns out that the typical 4th grade student in Bedford, NH enjoyed writing in art class. Did you find this activity fun? Did you find this activity challenging? Unfortunately I did not get conclusive data that showed any real change between the two activities. How would you feel if someone
read this story knowing you wrote it? How did you feel about this writing experience? How do you feel about the piece
of writing that you produced? The majority of students felt more comfortable sharing this piece of writing than past writings because of the setup of the stage. They liked to be hidden from view. Although they were still very nervous, most got through knowing that everyone else was nervous too.

Many liked this project because it was very different from other writing they have done in the past.

They found that art greatly inspired their work, and they kept finding more to add to their poetry.

Most students voiced their excitement about a similar project in the future. (As long as it doesn't need to be shared with everyone)

Most students felt excited but nervous about sharing their work. Most were concerned if anyone would like their poems. Overall parents greatly enjoyed the event! They thought the process was exciting, especially because the children could show their creativity in their poems, and selection of artwork and music.

Parents heard a great deal about this project at home.

Most students were very nervous before presenting, but after they had presented they were very pleased and proud of their work.

Most parents thought that combining the arts with the writing process absolutely helped their students focus and write because they had something to connect with. Many voiced interest in how students would interpret the same artwork differently.

Most parents thought their children loved the event. 1. Can you tell me about your experience during the poetic voice project? What did enjoy? What didn’t you like? What was different from other writing experiences you’ve had in the past?

2. What is usually your first reaction to being told that you are writing in class one day?

3. How do you think that using art as inspiration changes how you write? Do you find writing easier or more difficult?

4. What would make writing easier for you? 1.Do you find that students who typically struggle with writing have an easier time writing during the poetic voice project due to the integration of art and music? Can you explain?

2.In your teaching experience have you found that students write differently when integrating the arts? How is their writing different?

3.What impact do you think the arts have on the writing process?

4.Do you think that using art helps ease the anxiety associated with composition? So why exactly do students get writing anxiety, and how does it affect their writing?

Fear of failure & evaluation
Lack of confidence in their own writing ability and aspects of the writing process
Not fully understanding what they are writing about
Anticipation that writing is difficult

"Many students exhibit unusually strong apprehension about writing, which often interferes with their ability to learn how to write effectively" (Clark, 2004). How does art influence the creative writing process? "Young children love to draw. From their first scribbles and shapes, they move rapidly to expressing ideas through simple pictures. Often these are not so much attempts at accurate representation, but rather a kind of visual shorthand endeavoring to express a richer sweep of ideas" (Bowkett, 2012). Arts helps students think of ideas, organize, and refine their thoughts.
Results have shown that using art leads to more creative story lines, and elaborate narratives.
Art allows students to begin the process of composing a story without being slowed by spelling and syntax. "The advantages of using production of art and artwork in the pre-writing process provided a motivational entry point, a way to develop and elaborate on a scene or narrative" (Andrejczak, 2005). What implications does the research pose about my action research?

One of the biggest causes of writing anxiety is lacking confidence in the writing process
Students have difficulties shaping their original ideas into a piece of writing
Integrating art with writing allows students a chance to organize, plan, and compose their ideas for writing without the added stress of spelling and syntax
This eases the anxiety produced when composing a piece of writing On the blank sheet of paper
in your folder, please write
what resonated with you about this presentation.


Thank you! Method Observations of writing in the classroom
Collect standard 4th grade student writing samples
Direct Research Activity in classroom with all Fourth Grade Classes
Week One:
Writing Attitude Survey
Write fictional stories about random selection of items on tables
Conduct observations of students in class
Student survey about activity (Garfield Survey)
Week Two:
Students enter classroom and draw a scene or comic strip of a story inspired by new items on the tables
Students will then write a short fictional story using their drawing
Conduct additional observations of students in class
Students will complete a second student survey about the activity (Garfield Survey)
Interviews with both Students and Teachers In the weeks following this activity,
I had quite a bit of feedback from both students and teachers..

The teachers had been hearing lots of positive thoughts about the activity, and students were consistently asking if we would be writing again in art.

Many students approached me asking if we would be finishing our stories or if there would be another writing day in the next few weeks.

A couple girls actually came and told me they did similar writing exercises at one of their houses over the weekend for fun. Areas for Future Study How might this project be different if it were to be done on a wider scale with a pool of elementary students from a variety of districts? What is the difference in writing attitude?

What changes between elementary school and secondary school to change students attitudes towards writing dramatically?

What are ways to impact writing anxiety, and negative attitudes towards writing in secondary school?

Discover new methods of easing negative attitudes towards writing.
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