Making Literacy Engaging

I have been on a mission over the last year to improve the quality of written work within Art. It has always been an issue with students seeing us as a purely practical subject – I truly think that some of them choose us at GCSE because they think there is no writing!

After having a play with a few ideas, I found a few that worked. I wrote a little piece on my staffrm profile earlier this year: about ‘Literacy games’, the main focus being on how to get students excited about written lessons in Art.

This theme has developed on and I now have a few successful strategies that seem to work well. Some of these are just embedded into everyday lessons – the writing frames and support mats for annotations etc. (all differentiated for each subject specialism and age range as you would expect) and others are the once a term type strategies that you pop in to encourage deeper thought and analysis at key points in a project. For example, when reflecting on a body of practical work or when discussing and comparing the work of others… This is where I would pull the Jenga out of the cupboard or get the bingo cards out.

I was asked recently why I’ve decided to make literacy a bit of a personal mission – I honestly think it’s because I’m not very confident with writing myself. I’ve often had that ‘Im just good at arty stuff’ type complex.. all through school I was never very good at the written stuff (those of you that know me will know that my verbal skills more than make up fo it!) I think I just know what it feels like to not really know where to start.. what it feels like to sit in a classroom and know what you want to write but not quite how to structure it.

The latest addition to the literacy strategies used is my ‘literacy loyalty cards.’ They are my new favourite – This is probably because there is a bit of drawing on them too! The image below is taken from my recent presentation at #BranstonTM and summarises nicely how the cards are used. They are essentially just a list of works with tick boxes next to them. However, they just look a bit nicer than a normal spelling list and if introduced to the students in a bit more of an engaging way (ie: with the promise of prizes etc.) then they really seem to work.


I have already set homework for KS3 students to learn them as spellings, find examples of artists work showing evidence of the words listed as well as asking them to describe the work of others using at least 3 of the keywords. The cards aren’t about doing something massive and ‘wordy’ – they are to allow the students to gain confidence with more subject specific vocabulary early on in their experience with us in art. The more the students are encouraged to use the words for smaller tasks, the more likely they are to naturally be able to improve the quality of their written work in class when evaluating or researching. The long-term hope is that these students will feel more comfortable with the written element of GCSE courses in our subject areas.. where good quality annotation is often an uphill struggle for a lot of students!

Why not give the loyalty cards a go? It’s early days for me but the students are already engaing with them really well.

Mrs Arty-Textiles


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