This study was conducted over an 8- week period with 20 first graders in an urban school setting. Students simply wrote on self-selected topics without drawing. During the first week students were limited to writing in a 30 minute time frame. Two weeks later students were timed for 30 minutes again and they were asked to draw and then write. Results showed that when students draw and then write their stories, their writing performance increased. Changes to their writing center occurred during this 8-week period. Hence, their feelings toward writing also increased at the end of this study as measured with a survey and informal observations.
It seems that the Visual Arts is often a neglected aspect of the elementary school curriculum and frequently at the top of the elimination list. According to Norris (1997) teachers are often reluctant to bring art into the classrooms because they are faced with pressure to improve their students’ standardized test scores. Norris (1997) also points out that some teachers don’t view themselves as being artistic, complicated by seldom having the benefit of an art teacher. Unfortunately, as I’ve seen it, art becomes an add on activity “saved” only for Friday afternoons or bad weather days when the students can’t go outside for recess. In addition, if “art” is used, it is used in coordination with writing as an “after-the-fact” activity, as decoration, or illustration when stories are completed. As a first grade teacher I can attest to my students’ enjoyment of classroom time devoted to art activities. However, I ,like many teachers in my school, found art difficult to incorporate daily. The very few times that children had to draw were after they’ve written a story. Children seemed to enjoy this time of drawing but were often rushed to finish in order to share their writing. Many times I found myself saying, “When you are finished writing you may draw a picture.” Drawing was not stressed and at times not even required. However, Graves (1983) describes drawing as an important component in children’s writing development. Lucy Calkins (1989) also remarks: “The act of drawing and illustration itself provide a supporting scheme inside which writing can be built.” (p.66)
In addition, the only art media available on their desks were the basic eight crayons. This didn’t allow for much creativity or expression in their drawing. I found their drawing to be simple and very small. Although my school doesn’t have a prescribed way of teaching writing, I’ve taught writing using the knowledge I had from books or few workshops that I attended. Many workshops stressed the use of graphic organizers as a prewriting strategy. I’ve modeled using various graphic organizers but even with the use of these organizers I’ve had many students express their frustration. I noticed some children struggle to get ideas to begin writing. Often I heard students say, “I don’t know what to write.” or “I hate writing”. This is not to say that children “hate” writing. On the contrary, Graves (1983) affirms the importance of children’s desire to write when he insisted, “Children want to write. They want to write the first day they attend school. This is no accident. Before they went to school they marked up wall, pavement, newspaper with crayons, chalk, pens, or pencils…anything that makes a mark.” (p. 21)
Therefore, these levels of expressed frustration urged me to change my classroom into a more developmentally appropriate classroom. I combined both art and writing by creating a Writing/Illustration Center since I didn’t have an art center. This center would make writing and art materials more available to them. I incorporated various art media. I also allowed my students the freedom to draw or create prior to writing. Therefore, this study attempted to answer the following questions: When writing is combined with art, would writing be improved? Will...