Resources and Research

Allen, Janet. Words, Words, Words: Teaching Vocabulary in Grades 4-12. Portland: Senhouse, 1999.

Barrett, Terry. "Studio Critiques of Student Art: as They are, as They Could Be with Mentoring." Theory Into Practice 1st ser. 39 (2000): 29-35. ERIC. Humboldt State University. Nov. 2007.

Berrett, Terry. Talking About Student Art. Art Education in Practice Series. Worcester: Davis Publications, 1997.

Cahan, S, and Z Kocur, comps. "Teaching Students." Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education. New York: The New Museum Of, 199. 31-38.

Dojka, Mimi. Personal interview. Nov. 2007.

Hoddinott, Benda. "A01 - Illustrated Glossary of Drawing Words and Terms." Draw Space. 2007. Oct. 2007 .

Kucan, Linda, Woodrow R. Trathen, William J. Straits, Donna Hash, Donna Link, Linda Miller, and Lucas Pasley. "A Professional Development Initiative for Developing Approaches to Vocabulary Instruction with Secondary Mathematics, Art, Science, and English Teachers." Reading Research and Instruction Winter 2007: 31-38. Humboldt State Library Database. Nov. 2007.

"Picturing a Story." Teach PreK-8 35 (2005). Oncores. Humboldt State Library. Nov. 2007.

Rohrer, Ken, and Judy Decker. Incredible Art Department. 2007. Art Teachers. Nov. 2007 .

Scott, Judith. "Vocabulary Instruction Throughout the Day in Twenty-Three Canadian Upper-Elementary Classrooms." The Elementary School Journal 103 (2003): 269-286. JSTOR. Humboldt State Library. Nov. 2007.

Short, Georgianna. "The High School Studio Curriculum and Art Understanding: an Examination." Studies in Art Education 40 (1998): 46-65. JSTOR. Humboldt State Library. Dec. 2007.

Wood, Julie. "Can Software Support Children's Vocabulary Development?" Language, Learning, and Technology 5 (2001). Questia. Nov. 2007.

Zimmerman, Enid. "A Comparative Study of Two Painting Teachers of Talented Adolescents." Studies in Art Education 33 (1992): 174-185. JSTOR. Humboldt State Library. Nov. 2007.

We'd like to thank EasyBib for helping us format our sources.

What Our Research Tells Us

We found that many secondary teachers are not using the best methods for teaching art vocabulary effectively. The lack of research that has been published and been made widely available to art teachers is a contributing factor. Art classes at the secondary level are general education classes. They are not just for teaching students how to create art but also how to look at it, and to talk about it. When art vocabulary is not taught effectively the students who are not as interested in making art miss out on being able to appreciate art in its entirety. Art vocabulary also gives us the vocabulary and skills to look at and break down any image and find its underlying meaning. In a culture that is based on image and information, being educated about what is seen enables us to be more conscious and conscientious people.
We have posted effective methods for teaching art vocabulary earlier. Using a combination of these methods works the best.

The Research Methods We Used for This Project

Each member working on The Academic Language/literacy inquire project talked to their mentor teachers about using art vocabulary in the classroom, and collected handouts that related to Art vocabulary. We also observed our mentor teachers' interaction with students, and observed students use of academic vocabulary in the art classroom. In addition to our mentor teachers we also interviewed our “teaching methods” teacher Mimi Dojka, as well as using articles from her class. See our resource posting for more information.
In addition to interviews and observations we collected a variety of articles and web pages about vocabulary in the classroom, teaching vocabulary, and art vocabulary.

We used the following internet search engines to help us with our research: Google, Google Scholar, Oncores, Hsu Library data base.

Information from the internet was evaluated for quality by looking at the authors' credentials as well as who published them on the web. We did a comparative analysis of the data that was collected and found patterns that showed up again and again for methods that were affective and those that were not. These methods are those posted in other postings.

Art Critiques

Critiques are essential for farthing the use of art vocabulary in the classroom. In art classes the use of vocabulary allows the students to express themselves verbally as well as analyze artwork from other artists. Critiques not only help student’s art, but they also assists students in learning how to make their art more successful.

During class critiques students put their works of art on the wall to allow the whole class to observe and analyze. Students can give a brief introduction to their work, similar to an artist statement, which focuses on the intent of the artist. This is a time when the artist can see if his concepts are being conveyed to the viewer. When the message is misinterpreted the artist needs to make the decision, if they want to change the work of art so that their message is more understandable.
When talking about art during critiques a good art vocabulary is crucial. Often students with little or no art vocabulary can only convey their observations by stating that they like it or they don’t like it. These comments don’t assist the artist in evolving his work. Comments need to be more focused and address aspects of the artwork directly. When students say they like it, there is a reason behind that statement, but the student just can’t articulate verbally what they are thinking. Teaching art vocabulary helps these students express what they are thinking.

Teaching art vocabulary for critiques can come in many different forms. First, the teacher can teach vocabulary words throughout every class by using them on a regular basses. Second, teachers can assign sketchbook assignments, such as writing down definitions for art words and drawing a picture of that definition. This can evolve into a sketchbook dictionary which the student can reference during critiques. An example of a word for the dictionary would be abstract, which means to distort aspects of the subject or the entire subject. Third, teachers can equip their students with a vocabulary list which they must use during critiques. Using art vocabulary during critiques main functions are to interpret the intent of the artist, and to analyze the techniques used.
Critiquing art by professional or famous artists is another way for students to practice using art vocabulary.

One on one critiques create a more personal dialog between the student and the teacher. During a one on one critique students can talk about their work, what techniques they are using, and what they want their art work to say. Teachers can give important feedback especially if the work is in progress.

To conclude, the use of art vocabulary equips students with an arsenal of words to express their ideas about art verablly. Vocabulary words allow us to interact with other artists and discuss works of art in the classroom, small art venues, and in galleries. Learning to interpret art is a necessity for all artists. When students learn to analyze art they began to see art in everything, such as advertisements, clothing, and videogames. The vocabulary students learn during art critiques will help them recognize the intent of artists as well as relate art to their everyday lives and the world we live in.
The High School Studio Curriculum and Art Understanding: An Examination
A Comparative Study of Two Painting Teachers of Talented Adolescents
Humboldt State University Library


Findings: How We Sould Teach

Through our research with this project, we concluded that art vocabulary can be taught effectively in a variety of ways. First of all, here are some activities which teach art vocab in written form:

  • Written artist statement: Students must use the vocabulary covered in class in a written artist statement
  • Written words on the board: teacher writes the words to be covered in class on the board, then goes through each one in detail
  • Research paper: Students must research a particular artist dealing with an art component, such as assemblage, armatures, or juxtaposition
  • Think/pair share activity: students jot down notes on cards, paraphrasing what a partner says about their artwork
  • Illustrating a book: Students use art vocab to make their own illustrated book
  • Keep a sketchbook/journal: in their own drawings, students can identify elements and principles of art and write them out
  • Making elements/principles posters: Students can make their own posters representing the elements and principles of design, using imagery to convey the vocabulary
These activities reflect some of the key elements that we found to be the most effective methods of vocabulary instruction:
  • Making cross-curricular connections
  • Active student Participation
  • Access to multiple representations of words
  • Group/pair work
  • Student centered curriculum
  • Making curriculum culturally relevant
  • Art Critiques (see critiques posting)
Using just one of these methods to teach art vocabulary by itself is not as affective as using multiple methods. Using multiple methods does two things: it reaches multiple learning styles as well as reinforcing students' learning by having students apply their learning.

We also concluded that students need to use the vocabulary that is taught to them repeatedly and in multiple ways or students do not really learn it. A really good activity for having students use their vocabulary is having Art Critiques. This will be talked about in it's own posting.

What Have Others Wrote About Similar Questions?

One article that we found was right on with our question. "A Professional Development Initiative for Developing Approaches to Vocabulary Instruction With Secondary Mathematics, Art, Science, and English Teachers" had some interesting things to say about this subject. Unfortunately, like it is stated in this article, there is a great need for research about this particular subject in actual settings, and it was hard to find any information on it. Never the less, this article addresses some key issues.

This article is about a study that was done at Alleghany in North Carolina. It explored ways in which teachers were teaching vocabulary, and then analyzed for effectiveness. Four high school teachers were observed, and the evidence suggested that "the most effective methods for instruction 'emphasized multimedia aspects of learning, richness of context in which words are to be learned, and the number of exposures to words that learners will receive." During this study, the importance of the following aspects of vocabulary instruction became apparent:

  • " Teacher commitment to vocabulary development in terms of planning and class time
  • Willingness to complete experiment with a variety of instructional approaches as needed
  • Setting learning goals in terms of developing rich representations of word meanings as well as an understanding of how words work
  • Facilitating student access to multiple sources of information
  • Providing support and encouragement for students to discover connections among words, including forms of words and related words
  • Giving students opportunities to create multiple representations of words
  • Highlighting cross-curricular connections
  • Sustaining commitment to activity based approaches
  • Acknowledging the social dimension of classrooms by providing chances for students to work together and present and perform with their peers
  • Developing interesting assessments involving multiple contexts for focusing on word meanings and features of words."
Ms. Link, the art teacher in this study, provided some good examples of these aspects of vocabulary instruction. One of the classes that she instructs is called "Interdisciplinary Art." In this class, relationships between art and other specific content areas (such as math, science, and literature) are analyzed. A unit on art and literature, for example, poses questions that the students have to answer through detailed exploration. One question was "How can you combine text and images to make a collage that sends a paradoxical, satirical, or ironic message about the world we live in. Not only did the students learn art terms (collage), but traditional literary terms as well (parody, satire, irony). She also connected these words to the students every day experiences, by having them listen to songs which described irony, like Alanis Morrisette's "Ironic." They also found examples in art such as parodies of the Mona Lisa, like the Mina ressed in camouflage smoking a cigarette. This is a great example of highlighting cross-curricular connections, and facilitating student access to mulitple sources of information.

Ms. Link also taught a course called "Thematic Art." In this class she applies an approach called synetics. This is a "process of connecting different things in a variety of ways...For example, Ms. Link asked students to connect a word to colors and sensory experience. In a unit about plaster work that included isolation as a vocab word, she asked students to respond to these questions: What does isolation feel like? What color is it? What texture? She also invited students to create anagrams and analogies for terms." This is also a great example of making cross-curricular connections, as well as relating vocab to real life experiences.


Why is important for Students to Learn Art Vocabulary in the first place?

Knowledge of Art Vocabulary is essential for people to be able to talk about and interpret artwork at a deeper level. Having a specific vocabulary for discussing Artwork gives people a common ground for communicating. It is important for all students to learn this language in order for them to participate in the greater art world, as well as classroom discussions. When people know art language they can use that language to better identify aspects of their own work that are successful or problematic. This helps students grow as artists.

Another reason to teach vocabulary is that many of Califo
rinia's Board of Education Visual Arts Content Standards require that students know art vocabulary in order for them to meet the standard. (Specifically 1.0 Artistic Perception standards.)
Lets look at the first one as an example:
1.1 Identify and use the principles of design to discuss, analyze, and write about visual aspects in the environment and in works of art, including their own.

For Students to meet this standard Students need to know:
  • what the elements and principles are (the vocabulary)
  • how they relate to each other
  • how to recognize them in various artwork


The Question

How do students best learn art related vocabulary?
How are they using that vocabulary to "read" and talk about art?