I’m an idea person.
One of my favorite things to do involves looking at objectives from different content areas and find ways to integrate them. However, when I create these integrated lesson ideas I drift away. Thus, come up with a lesson sounding so fun and so effective to me. Until, I remember the students I created this lesson for have little background in the arts. Especially in dance and drama. In my experience many students in my classroom progressed on or near grade level in core content areas. Yet, they were nowhere near grade level in terms of the skills and standards for the arts.
This is an important factor to remember when attempting to integrate the arts with other areas of curriculum. With my fifth graders, I may have been addressing fifth grade science standards but could only integrate those with second grade dance standards at the start of the year. Just as we assess our students in terms of reading or math readiness, we also need to assess their arts readiness.
One way to gather readiness information is to consult with the arts teachers in your building. If you are lucky enough to have an arts teacher addressing dance standards at your school, find out what skills your students should bring to your classroom. That way you reinforce content already taught and take advantage of the background knowledge your students have. Even, referencing those experiences to help them make the connection to new learning.
Another way is through mini-lessons using the arts standards as guidelines.
The beginning of the school year is an especially great time to find out where your students are on the arts knowledge continuum. Addressing the basic elements of the various art forms with your students, you can find what they already know and where they will need direct instruction. You may find with some art forms you need to start at the beginning as they may have received little or no instruction in some areas lacking even basic art vocabulary. (If you need a quick reminder or a cheat sheet, Susan Riley here at Education Closet has designed some fabulous posters that cover the basic elements of the various visual and performing arts for you to download. Click on “Strategies” and scroll down for the article “FREE Techniques Posters” from August 12, 2011.)
Once you are armed with this knowledge you are ready to create meaningful integrated lessons that will meet your students where they are and take them somewhere new and exciting…and you are much more likely to actually get there!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.