Brianne Gidcumb | February 2018

Arts-Based Strategies for Struggling Writers

Pen to a blank sheet of paper… it can be daunting for even the most experienced of writers. For our students who struggle with writing, it can be the source of limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, and doubts about abilities and intelligence. What if there was a way to alleviate some of the stress of writing, allowing students to tap into their other strengths as a catalyst for writing experiences? This is a great place for the arts. Here are a few arts-based writing strategies to use in the classroom that will hopefully engage and motivate your struggling writers.

Visual Art

Art Stories: Students summarize key points of a story or a book by creating a piece of visual art. Students will then write an artist’s statement about their piece and how it reflects the key points of the story, describing their artistic choices.

*Storytelling: Cut up several old picture books, and have students mix up the art to make up a new narrative. Students can then use these pictures as a prompt to write their new book. 

Drama

Stepping Into the Painting: Using a piece of art or an image, students become a character or an object they see. After students choose their character or object, they must begin to verbally tell a story. They give background into what they are seeing, thinking, and feeling. Once the exercise has been completed, have students write their story. See more about the Stepping into the Painting strategy HERE.

Character Letters: Have students write a letter to someone of their choosing: a character from a story, a composer of a piece of music, an artist, etc. Have the student introduce themselves, ask questions, and express opinions. Extension: have students switch letters and write a reply.

Music

Guided Active Listening: Have students listen to a piece of music, preferably one that features a particular instrument. Have students write a monologue from the point of view of that instrument. You can also have students listen to a piece and write a creative story about an imagined event within the piece. See more HERE.

Song Stories: Have students select a piece of music of their choosing and brainstorm who wrote the song and why. Students will then write a story about how the song came to be.

Dance

*Key Topic Dance: Have students brainstorm important words or topics in a story or book. Next, list movements, shapes, levels, and energy that could be used to convey the topic. Have small groups plan a dance or movement around a chosen topic word. After the performance, have students write a response about what they did and how they felt, making reference to the key topic they conveyed as well as elements of dance.

*These strategies, and many more, can be found in Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts by Claudia E. Cornett.

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: https://artsintersection.wordpress.com/