How can I integrate the arts if I’m not an artist, musician, dancer or actor?
Many new to Arts Integration ask this question. I say: no worries! You don’t have to be trained in the arts to be a skillful arts integrationist. You just need to be committed to the value of integrating the arts for student learning and have a willingness to learn about each of the art forms from a variety of sources and experts.
The trick is to build your arts repertoire. According to authors of The Skillful Teacher, really good teachers never stop learning: they are always building a repertoire of instructional strategies to match students’ learning needs. The Kennedy Center’s definition of Arts Integration incorporates a similar idea: “evolving objectives”.
The Kennedy Center’s Lynne B. Silverstein and Sean Layne explain: “just as objectives evolve and challenge students to deepen their understandings in science, math, or language arts, objectives in the art form must also evolve if students are to remain challenged. A student does not learn to express ideas through dance in one session. Objectives evolve and unfold over time as “… experience and understandings develop.”
This applies to teachers as well. Teachers can and should start with one or two elements of the targeted art and build upon it. In the case of dance, for example, start with practicing movement in the classroom first—maybe doing the Brain Dance. Then teach the difference between locomotor and non-locomotor movement. Next, select a couple of the elements of dance to connect to a lesson. Before you know it your students will be choreographing their own dances!
So where do you start? Here are my suggestions for laying a foundation of your arts repertoire– Arts Integration 101!
- Learn and incorporate the Elements of Art: (line, color, shape/form, texture, value, and space) when students are looking at or analyzing art images. These building blocks for the Principles of Design are the perfect starting points for connecting visual arts into your content. Borrow an art textbook from the school and you’ll probably find them in the first few chapters. There are many good sites online to learn about them online such as: http://www.projectarticulate.org/principles.php http://ccsdart.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/elements-of-art-and-principles-of-design.pdf.
- Use the Artful Thinking routines. Help students develop critical thinking skills by asking them to respond to visual images and artifacts with these questioning routines. Then ask them to look for and identify an element of art in the image! http://www.pzartfulthinking.org/routines.php
- Learn and teach the basic acting tools: imagination/mind, voice, body, along with the basic acting skills: cooperation and concentration. Find more on this in Kelner & Flynn’s, A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension or here at Education Closet look at: https://educationcloset.com/2010/12/14/actors-toolbox-steps/
- Start with Tableau. This is a very simple drama technique where students create silent, frozen statutes incorporating body language and facial expression to communicate an event, an idea or a feeling. After the performance, facilitate a discussion from the audience. This video will not only show you what tableau looks like in a classroom, but it also shows how to teach the actor’s tools: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B89ZxL0kv5M
- Start by getting your students used to movement with a purpose by doing the Brain Dance. This series of movements is actually a great exercise for the brain and makes a wonderful brain break during the school day. It doesn’t require a lot of space; students can do it just by standing behind their seats. To see the sequence in action go to: http://vimeo.com/40164646.
- Learn and teach locomotor and non-locomotor movement and one of the BEST (Body, Energy, Space & Time) elements of dance.
- Have students demonstrate understanding of any topic by creating short dance (if there are a lot of middle school boys in your class, you might want to call it movement!) phrases using one or two of the elements in order to illustrate a concept, cycle, sequence etc: http://opd.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/ElementsOfDance_organizer.pdf.
- Here is an elementary math dance example to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jwG5NaieWE
- Learn the Elements of Music and find one or two connections to your content. The elements are: pitch, duration, dynamics, tone color, form and texture. Here is a great tutorial: http://www.wmich.edu/mus-gened/mus150/Ch1-elements.pdf.
- Have students create simple soundscapes using a variety of basic percussive instruments (borrow from the music department, make some, or use vocal or found sounds instead) that convey an image of a place, mood, or feeling.
You can find oodles more resources on the web to help you learn the basics in each of the four art forms.
Every arts integrationist needs to start with a very basic repertoire in each of the arts: to even begin to imagine the connections to your content you have to know something about the art! Use the resources above and get to know and develop relationships with the arts teachers in your building and community—they are the experts! You will probably find them most willing to provide tutorials and other Arts 101 resources. If scheduling permits—having artists come into your classroom and co-teach with you is the best learning scenario!! In any case, start with one of the arts you are familiar or comfortable with and then branch out and build!
Resource: Saphier, Haley-Speca and Growler, The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills. Research for Better Teaching, 2008.
Pat is an arts integration specialist in Anne Arundel County, MD. Having been a mentor teacher and instructional coach, she passionately believes that integrating the arts is the best approach to teaching: it enriches the classroom environment with art, engages students and motivates learning. Her mission is help all teachers realize that they can teach through the arts with a little know-how. Pat appears every Monday. Email Pat.