In today’s classrooms we are very careful about how we spend our time.
Often individual schools or districts designate how much time we should spent on each subject during the course of a day or week. Language arts and math may even break down into several parts, each given a specific amount of time. But even within these guidelines, it is easy to get off-balance in terms of how much time the students engage in a given activity. I remember an instance where I decided to look at one week’s lesson plans in terms of writing time.
It shocked me to realize how little my students actually engaged in meaningful writing over the course of the week. It was a great wake-up call for me. In an arts integrated classroom, we want to be giving as much equal and balanced engagement in the various arts as we can. Even if you think you are giving them equal treatment, it might be worth a closer look.
Take one week’s lesson plans and chart them out for yourself noting how much time the students actually engaged in “doing” the various arts.
Use that data to create a visual for yourself like a pie chart showing percentage of time used for each art form or a tally chart with each mark representing 15 minutes spent making a particular art form.
Notice if you are utilizing one art excessively or neglecting another. Most of us are more comfortable with one or two art forms and will tend to subconsciously favor those in our planning.
If you have used one form more than another, see if any of the instances where you integrated one particular art form you could have used another. If you consciously challenge yourself to utilize an art form with which you are less comfortable you may be surprised at how many amazing integration opportunities you discover.
You may even want to dig a little deeper and look at individual lesson plans or units of study to see how much time the students will be given to truly engage in practicing their art. I know that at times I have gotten so involved in explaining and in modeling examples that I did not leave sufficient time for my students to actually play with the art concept or skills.
Now don’t get me wrong.
You may make a very conscious choice to focus on one art form to truly delve into a concept or for a wide variety of other great reasons. The key word here is conscious. If you are just wading into the waters of integration, by all means be gentle with yourself. Start with an art form with which you are most comfortable and build on that to eventually branch out to other art forms. Again, the idea is that you are conscious of the choices you are making and have a plan in mind to bring greater balance as you go along. It takes a long time to bring about true integration where the arts standards have equal time in the classroom. I believe that a small amount of integration done well is better than none at all.
Teaching is a tricky balancing act to be sure.
Treat yourself as you would one of your students. Design achievable goals that are challenging enough to inspire but not so challenging that they discourage. Be mindful of your balance of arts engagement as a means to creating those goals and by all means, make sure you are having fun!
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.