Teaching through the arts can be a great entry point into content. Through engaging, arts-rich instruction, students are hooked into learning. But even more than just an entry point, arts-integration can provide a scaffold for helping students tackle increasingly complex cognitive tasks.
Lindsay Young, a High School teacher at Verdugo Hills High School in Tujunga, California, does an amazing job using the arts to scaffold important reading skills. Lindsay teaches an English Language Development class for long-term English Language Learners who are in Special Education. Close reading, a key reading skill, can be hard to master, but Lindsay helps her students develop their abilities by close reading portraits the way that they would a text.
Lindsay introduces six components to consider when analyzing portraits: clothing, gestures, posture, facial expression, setting, and props. After having her students look closely at portraits, students make inferences and use evidence to support their reasoning. Once they have practiced these skills with artwork, students will be able to apply these same skills when working with texts.
Using arts as a scaffold helps all students — particularly ELLs and students in Special Education — develop key skills in an accessible environment. Lindsay is a master of providing scaffolding. When introducing activities, she gradually releases responsibility to students using an I Do, We Do, You Do approach. She introduces activities by modeling her expectations, then guiding students through how to do the activities before allowing them to work independently.
In addition to providing step-by-step support for her students, Lindsay encourages all students to participate in class by using tools like laser pointers and a timer. With the right scaffolds and opportunities to participate, all students can master complex content.
Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.