Summer is a great time to sit back, relax, and take a reflective view of the previous school year. It’s also a great time to plan ahead and look for next year’s arts integration opportunities. With a few weeks of relaxation in under the belt, let’s create a list of the standards and concepts that students had the most trouble with. This is where you want to put your most thinking and planning.
My experience, again and again, has confirmed that when arts integration strategies are put into lessons targeting the standards and concepts where kids struggle the most, you get the biggest bang for your buck. Not only will you be addressing an area where kids need help—but you will motivate and engage them and provide them with a new and exciting pathway to understanding.
Arts integration, however, works best when we find places in the curriculum to integrate the arts where they naturally fit. The authors of Renaissance in the Classroom, a primer for arts integration, call it an elegant fit. An elegant fit “is not forced or artificial … the separate pieces of the curriculum are brought together to create a new and more satisfying whole.” (Burnaford etal, p.22)
However, if we wait until we are in the midst of the school year to look for the elegant fit—we are faced with time issues, deadlines and other pressures that make integration planning difficult. A good way to find the elegant fit opportunities is to do some curriculum mapping ahead of time. Curriculum mapping is a procedure for reviewing and recording key components of curriculum and has been discussed many times here on EducationCloset. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of curriculum mapping, having seen its positive benefits with many groups that I have worked with. The following is an example of an organizer that you could use to record opportunities for integrating the arts.
Are you a core content teacher and not sure about what the elegant fit could be? Invite the arts teachers/experts to weigh in. Ideally, content teachers should sit down and plan with the arts experts in the building. Great arts integration happens when there is a two way conversation between core teachers and the arts teachers. This helps insure that core teachers integrate the arts into their curriculum and arts teachers integrate the core curriculum into the arts. Finding time during the school year for this conversation isn’t always easy. Most of the time, the arts teachers are teaching when core content teachers have planning! So—some out of the box thinking is needed to make collaboration happen.
Collaborating through a curriculum mapping organizer might be a solution. A tool like this can inform the arts teachers about when (and which) standards and topics will be taught during the school year in the core content classrooms and vice versa. With this information, teachers can make decisions about their own curriculum maps and find opportunities to connect to these topics and concepts too. The curriculum mapping tool can be worked on collaboratively face to face, or if needed, passed back and forth between the parties. In any case—everyone shares in seeing and documenting the opportunities for integration. Think of the impressive impact it would have on students: standard, ideas and concepts intertwined and reinforced across the curriculum. It’s a win-win opportunity for teachers and students!
Burnaford, G., Aprill, A. & Weiss, C. (2001). Renaissance in the Classroom: Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning. Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education.