“Center” of the Universe – Explode your Arts Integration Lessons with Centers!

By |2018-03-11T08:52:48-07:00January 6th, 2011|

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:

  1. Melody Center – students will create a song using handchimes in AB form.
  2. 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.
  3. Computer Center – students will create a song on Garageband that combines patterns and rests.
  4. 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.  🙂


  1. Margaret July 20, 2011 at 5:50 am - Reply

    Hello There,

    I actually own a private music classroom and so at this moment creating a web blog to assist my students here http://readmusic.org

    Will you mind if My partner and I quote a couple of of your blog posts as long as I include recognition along with references back to your blogs? Our blog site is just in the exact similar area of interest as yours and our users would absolutely benefit from a lot of the information you provide in this article. Please let me know if this fine with you.

    Many thanks!

    • Susan Riley July 20, 2011 at 7:02 am - Reply

      Hi Margaret,
      Thanks for the kind compliments. PLEASE feel free to reference anything on this site that would be helpful to your students. I do appreciate you linking back here and providing the site as a reference. I’m glad that you found the site helpful – good luck in your endeavors!

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