Journey to Art Journaling


I’ve always liked the idea of mixing Literacy and the Arts. After all, Art is the universal language through which to communicate.

​Literacy and the English language is just a subset of communication because we are limited to 26 letters to express ourselves. In contrast, communication using Art is only limited by the possibilities of one’s imagination…

So, through our blending of Art and Literacy, we are actually equipping our students to communicate more effectively.

Why I Feel My Students Should Journal in Art

​​Literacy is merely one subset of communication. We are limited to 26 letters to express ourselves.

In contrast, communication using the language of Art is only limited by the possibilities of one’s imagination.

Starting Out with the Basics- Materials

This year’s class is experimenting with Altered Books. And by Altered Books I mean, I went to the Dollar Tree and filled an entire cart of hardcover novels from the shelf (sorry, authors!) for my students to destroy/create.

​I (not-so-secretly) HATE the idea of destroying texts!

if they are going to be used for creation, then I guess I am OK with it! Just know that I first learned about Altered Books in 2007, and this was written in 2015, so you can tell that I took a very long time to warm up to the idea! 🙂

Setting Up Our “Canvas”

​The first thing I had them do was rip out about half the pages from dollar store hardcover novels. This will allow us room to grow as we layer, glue and collage pieces onto the pages throughout the year.

The kids LOVED this step. I worked on ripping some of my pages out, too. And let me tell you, it surely was a stress-reliever!

Cover and Spine Design

I have to add more pics later, but for now, here’s one example of the cover. The student painted the hardcover with glossy tempera, and then went over it with pieces of duct tape, attaching a personal piece of ephemera on the cover. The white sheet you see is parchment paper, so the damp painted or glued pages inside don’t stick to each other.


Table of Contents

Using the Table of Contents, each student tells me which page they created the daily assignment, so I can check to make sure each assignment is complete.


First Pages

The first task assignments were simple things, like

  • Create a Color Wheel
  • Design a Value Scale

This way, as the attacked the pages, I could get a better idea of how each child handles the artistic prompt and assess what basics they know, and where I need to fill in the gaps.



If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’m a huge fan of rubrics. I explain and remind the students of the expectations of a completed page, constantly referring back to the rubric.

Class Journaling Contracts

The students and their parents signed a Journaling Contract, agreeing that if they missed class demos, page assignments, or otherwise didn’t complete the work, that they would be assigned written makeup work.

Teacher Reflections

As the first marking period comes to a close, here are some things I observed as I assigned page tasks:

  1. At first, students who journal seek teacher approval, rather than enjoy the opportunity for creative expression.
  2. Some students sit there ‘uninspired’- usually my
  3. It takes a long time for a student to develop intention, rather than just place pieces on a page.
  4. Time management skills for Art must be taught in order for each student to reach his or her productivity potential.
  5. Students have a hard time interpreting “vague” directions in Art. They ask me, “Is this OK?” “Did I do this right?”

In another post, I’ll discuss these observations and my style to remedy them.

Happy Teaching!