By now you have probably heard that arts integration is a thing. You might have had some coaching on how to connect an art project to a lesson, or your school may have brought back drama, dance, and the visual arts. This is all very exciting. Yet for some, we may still be wondering, “What’s the big idea with arts integration?” I’m here to help! There’s a big, wide, wonderful world of teaching in and through the arts to deepen critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Learning through the arts is a dynamic way to engage students. But arts integration is more than just an engagement strategy — it’s a powerful way for students to gain and express understanding. Teaching Channel is really excited to present a new series of 19 videos on arts integration, in partnership with The Getty Museum. In this series, we see teachers engage their students in learning through the arts in a variety of grade levels, subject areas, and contexts. It’s inspiring to watch teachers use arts integration with English Language Learners, students in Special Education, and in conjunction with the Common Core.
Learning About Greek Mythology Through the Arts
In David Cooper’s sixth grade social studies class, we see students learning about Greek mythology through the arts. After studying Greek gods and goddesses, David has his students apply their knowledge when looking at artwork in the classroom and then later at a field trip to the Getty Villa. As a final performance of understanding, David’s students work together to plan and perform a Greek or Roman talk show. This performance of understanding shows students applying their knowledge of Greek mythology in a new and creative context.
When learning about ancient history, students can sometimes feel a disconnect. Ancient events happened so long ago that it can be hard to relate. But when the sixth graders in David Cooper’s social studies class learn about Greek mythology, they’re engaged and excited because he makes it come alive with the arts.
Teach Students How to Analyze Art
Students begin by applying their knowledge of social studies to pictures of ancient art. David uses a See-Wonder-Think routine to help them analyze what they’re seeing. In this lesson, students begin by making concrete observations about pictures of ancient art that David projects in the classroom. They then come up with questions about the art and share the questions with each other. This thinking routine requires students to look closely at art and connect it to their content knowledge. It’s a great routine to use across subject areas!
Want to hear something frightening? Halloween is approaching. A day filled with candy, costumes, and corny carnival games. A day I loved as a child and loved as a teacher.
Yes, I know there are many teachers out there who absolutely dread the day, including my colleague Lily, a confessed Halloween Grinch. Well, here’s a different perspective: I truly love it.
To me, it’s a day to embrace the goofiness inside all of us, where we let go of regular classroom routines, and offer a chance for some kids who normally don’t embrace school, to shine. Now, I know that not everyone celebrates Halloween, but in most cases, the students who do celebrate it will celebrate it at school no matter what you do. So, even if Halloween is not your cup of witch’s brew, rather than ignore the day completely, think of a way to make it work for your classroom and community.
When I first began teaching, the arts were part of elementary school students’ daily curriculum. Tight budgets, high stakes testing, and a heavy focus on literacy, science, and math have brought an end to that. These days, teachers tend to incorporate the arts around the holidays or when there is “extra time.”
But the abandoned arts can help students to master Common Core standards: enhancing creativity, increasing self-confidence, promoting collaboration, and offering alternative way to assess learning.
Here are a few simple ways I integrate the arts in my classroom:
Arts Integration as a Path to Deep Understanding
As a K/1 teacher, I spent a lot of time in the hallway. You could have found me standing on a chair, helping students hang tissue paper jellyfish in our classroom ocean. Or perhaps you would have seen me crouched down, helping students attach leaf cutter ants to the forest floor of the rainforest that we constructed. For pretty much every thematic unit my K/1 colleagues and I taught, we found a way to create a corresponding installation in the hallway.