As a music teacher, I am constantly watching my fellow classroom teachers to see how they organize their classrooms, what the daily routine is and knowing what vernacular vocabulary is being used so that I can stay relevant with our students. I want those students to make connections between their classroom and their arts classes so that they can complement each other and thereby make yet another connection.
After all, isn’t the whole purpose of education to make spiral learning the reality? One thing I’ve noticed through the years is the intense use of centers within the content classes. It allows for differentiated instruction, saves time and deepens meaning for many students. My question to you is: are you using arts centers in your school? If the answer is no, why not?
Providing Choice through Arts Centers
I have been using centers with much success for the past 6 years in my music classroom. I differentiate groups at the beginning of the year, and usually switch them around 2-3 times a year. Students know that on the first full week of the month, their music class will be using centers throughout the room. The four centers are always the same – a melody center, a rhythmic center, a computer center and a reading/writing center. Each month, the topics at the centers change in order to either review content from the past month or to prepare the students for what is to come. As an example, this month’s centers for 2nd grade are as follows:
- Melody Center – students will create a song using handchimes in AB form.
- Rhythm Center – students will use half notes, whole notes, quarter notes and corresponding rests to create a rhythmic story on the drums. Word syllables must match the note values students choose.
- Computer Center – students will create a song on Garageband that combines patterns and rests.
- Reading/Writing Center – students will compose a poem on their choice of subject in ABA form.
Students go to the assigned center with their color group (red, brown, blue or green) and then rotate to each center. I usually allot 7-8 minutes at each center. For the upper grades, this means all four centers rotations in the hour time slot they are provided. For the little kids, that means two rotations at each music class (I see them twice a week for 30 minutes each time).
The Impact of Centers
The impact of using arts centers is two-fold. First, you’re making those connections back to the regular classroom through routine and differentiation.
Second, you’re able to incorporate content curriculum within each center as a result. Students learn about fluency and genre through their poetry center. Occasionally, we study music in historical contexts (like Holt’s The Planets) and the centers revolve around science and social studies. This allows students to deepen their critical thinking on these subjects, while interweaving them with musical knowledge and discovery.
Now, let’s take this one step further – what if centers like this were designed for use in the content classrooms? Think of the amazing possibilities for math and science centers. The variations are almost immeasurable. Let’s continue to learn from each other and see what other pathways we can create. It’s an exciting world out there – but don’t forget about the center. 🙂
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.