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Writing about Art

by Chia-Ling Ma



In this lesson, students will have the chance to learn how to write about art through the art criticism activity. The purpose of the activity is to improve students’ analytical and synthesis skills as they appreciate and interpret a work of art. Students will also learn how to write unified and coherent paragraphs.


Lesson Objectives


1. Students will participate in the discussion about what they see and what they learn when encountering a work of art.

  1. Students will organize their brainstorming ideas into an outline, which will show the main idea of the paper and all the supporting premises of the main idea.
  2. Students will write a paper of about five hundred words long, which is based on the ideas they have developed.


Material and Resources


- Journal note books

- The art work reprint or poster

- Chalkboard or flip chart paper and markers

- Barrett, Short Guide to Writing about Art


Concept Development Activities


Guided Practice

  1. Introduce students the work of art they are going to criticize. Give students brief ideas about the artist, the art history background and the style of the artwork.
  2. Let students begin to appreciate the work of art for few minutes.
  3. Tell students that they have to do the following things when studying the artwork: In the process of studying this artwork, students need to record information and observations in their journals. After the activity, they are going to show what they have learned about this work of art through the writing activity.
  4. Divide them into groups of 3 - 5 students each. Have students review their own journals first. And encourage them to discuss the following sample questions with each other.


    1) What is the first response to the work?

    2) What is its title? What is the artist trying to say about the subject matter of the work?

    3) How is the line and color employed in the work?

    4) How do light and dark function in the work?

    After their discussion, have student organize the ideas, which have been generated from the discussion into an outline. Tell students that the outline has to show the main idea of the paper.

  5. Announce to students that they will write a paper based on the journals that they have completed during the study of the work of art. Remind students that the content of the paper will be what they learned about the content and formal quality of the work of art.
  6. Remind students that they have to include the following topics, which are the main points of each lesson, and the elaboration of these points in their paper.


  7. When and where was the work made?
  8. Where would the work originally have been seen?
  9. What purpose did the work serve.
  10. In what condition has the work survived.
  11. The response to the formal quality.


7. Guide students to write their papers in unified and coherent paragraphs. Write the above topics on the board and explain to students that they should follow these points. Also, tell students that their papers will be evaluated by the following criteria:

1) Focus-- Presenting a clear main idea

2) Organization-- Logical structure

3) Support-- Quality and detail of evidence

4) Unity-- Points or ideas in each paragraph must be related

  1. Coherence-- Each paragraph transits smoothly


Independent Practice

Have students practice to write the draft based on the journals and outline they have written.



Schedule a time with each student for a conference about his or her writing. Give them additional time to revise their writing.


Informal Learning Assessment


Review students’ papers to see if they include the main topic ideas in their writing. Also, see if students follow the principles of writing that listed on the board.




By Chia-Ling Ma

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