This overview of assignments gives several examples of successful writing ideas for music classes; some will be new to BCC faculty, others will not. Special emphasis is placed on writing concert reviews as experiences that go beyond having a student report on the music. This method provides an interesting way to teach students about the broader experiential side of appreciating a performance as something grander than just the notes being played. There are also excellent assignment ideas for more advanced music classes that performance oriented: students can write reviews of each others’ performances and journals on their own musical development.
In this collaborative piece - a revisitation of an influential 1989 article - an artist and writing instructor pose two provocative questions: is drawing itself a form of writing, and can it be recognized as such by WAC? Drawing was the earliest form of writing -- and remains the primary form of written expression in some societies. However, what is most interesting about this article is how it demonstrates staging, revision, and critical thinking through an analysis of the types of drawings that are present in artists' notebooks. The underlying message is that the same qualities of critical thinking that underlie good writing also underlie good drawing in visual art. The authors are able to create a process oriented typology of drawings (some of which are amusingly displayed in the article) from types that function to reinforce specific skills, to reflective pieces, to analytic pieces which focus on the clarification of major themes. The implication is that a well taught drawing class could teach critical thinking with the same kind of attention to process as an introductory composition class could do with essay writing. The argument ends with a provocative call for the WAC movement to recognize drawing as an alternate form of writing and not ignore the importance of visual literacy. An excellent counterpoint - and companion - to Bill Haust's article (see below).
In response to art educators who downplay writing vis-a-vis other forms of visual expression, Bill Haust provides concrete examples of how writing can be extremely helpful in courses across the visual art curriculum. Haust focuses on the importance of writing in studio arts courses (drawing, and three dimensional mediums such sculpture and ceramics) as well as in art history. In studio art classes, where visual expression is frequently elevated above writing, Haust advocates a holistic approach in which learning to make art is cannot be separated from learning to observe, read, critique, and write. He makes use of sketchbook journals, assigning writing in conjunction with drawing as well as making it a part of critique excercises. Writing can also help students grasp the abstract concepts of line, shape, and positive/negative relations that are crucial for learning to think and work in three dimensions. Finally, formal and informal writing is crucial throughout the art history curriculum in order to teach beginning students basic research and writing skills and more advanced students effective ways to critique.
Mierse , William E., Jean Kiedaisch, Sue Dinitz. "Fitting Writing into the Survey". Art Journal 54:3, autumn, 1995 (not paginated)
available online at www.jstor.org
This short piece authored by faculty of the University of Vermont deals with the importance of writing in art history courses. It recommends that students must have at least two papers assigned each semester for significant improvements in writing to take place. It also makes a case for using a large amount of group work for students in the "brainstorming" stage, claiming that students often learn to look at, think about, and talk about art by listening to each other. A strong case is also made for integrating writing center tutors into the process. Interestingly, the authors prefer writing tutors without an history background, as more content based input can skew the goal of writing a theses driven paper.
Instead of describing what art departments have to learn from WAC, Murray demonstrates what WAC can learn from art (and thus shows why the two go well together). Murray, a CUNY writing fellow from Lehman College, describes how WAC principals of empowering students, critical thinking, and active learning are already a latent presence in many art classrooms (she deals specifically with web design and life drawing). She focuses on two features of art pedagogy that many art instructors will know well - critique and play - to show how these methods can be transposed to other fields. Critique provides a forum for students to learn to "read" together, and to learn intervene in each others work as confident, empowered peers. "Play" assignments (such as being told to draw a live human figure using only geometric shapes) allow students to develop specific skills through low-stakes but rigidly defined challenges. Murray's goal is to translate these ideas for teachers in other disciplines, but the article is also excellent for art teachers who want to recognize and bring out the WAC potential that already resides in most art pedagogy.
Orr, Susan, and Margo Blythman, Joan Mullin "Designing Your Writing/Writing Your Design: Art and Design Students Talk About the Process of Writing and the Process of Design". Across the Disciplines Volume 2, December 2005
on the web at http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/visual/orr_blythman_mullin.cfm
This article examines the distinct ways in which visually oriented art and design students think, feel, and go about writing. It argues that art majors tend to have a personal relationship with writing that is difficult. Many students associate drawing with creativity and the generation of ideas but writing with satisfying the requirements of professors. It also points to differences in the notion of audience. Art is expected to be shown to a boundless public but writing is often private and sometimes custom tailored to one professor. Similarly, both writing and art are viewed as difficult painful processes, but only art is viewed as having a "gain". While not providing much encouragement for instructors, the piece is valuable in laying out the kind of challenges to plan for when designing WI courses for art students, and in particular, art majors.