Arts Integration lessons can be very difficult to implement, but sometimes even more difficult to write. You have so many different components to an Arts Integrated lesson that it can be a challenge to know whether what you’re writing is any good. And we all know what happens when you’ve been “inside” of it too long – anything and everything you put down onto the paper seems like it is a great idea. So how do you know when an Arts Integrated lesson you write is of high quality? Through an Arts Integration quality check!
A rich Arts Integration lesson is highly engaging, multi-layered, and provides our students with an opportunity for Hard Fun. When evaluating an Arts Integration lesson plan, be sure to look for the following components:
For this to be a true Arts Integrated lesson plan, your objectives need to be written side-by-side, address both content areas, and be naturally aligned. I always use the 30 second rule: if I can’t figure out how the two objectives connect in 30 seconds or less, you’re trying too hard to make them fit.
Always look at the assessments next. Are they aligned with the objectives you stated at the top? Are you truly measuring what you want the students to be able to demonstrate in their learning, or are you assessing whether or not they followed directions. For example, if part of your assessment was to see if students included 3 different items, that’s a matter of following directions. Does that indicate to you whether or not they learned anything about that area? Maybe, maybe not. Make sure you’re assessing BOTH areas equally and that the assessments you are using are authentic to that area.
Layered Lesson Progression.
Great Arts Integration lessons have a layering quality to them. As you spiral through the lesson, you are going deeper into each content area. It’s a lot of “if, then” actions. If this happens, then we can go into this connection. If we make this connection, then that leads us to the next piece of the puzzle. Try to think of the many ways of seeing these objectives within your chosen topic or essential question. Then, approach your lesson delivery with a sequence that ensures the meaningful incorporation in and through each content area.
Arts Integration lessons are only as good as the intention with which they were developed. If you slap a song onto a history lesson and call that Arts Integration, you might be doing it wrong. Instead, if you carefully look at your objectives from both your history curriculum and the arts curriculum and find a natural parallel in which a song would be a component for students to better understand the larger concept, then you can choose a song with more discretion and target what you are specifically looking for students to be able to do and understand through that music.
By going through this simple quality check of your Arts Integration lessons, you’ll begin to build more robust learning experiences for all students in your classroom. Through this, you can then foster the foundations of a truly integrated classroom or school and engage in the meaningful work of building a 21st century curriculum.
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.