This summer I have been sharing arts integration strategies I learned while participating in professional development at the Maryland Artist Teacher Institute (MATI) This week I would like to share two strategies for building vocabulary. We know from the research of Robert Marzano, a leading educator and researcher, that learning vocabulary has to involve much more than just reading and memorizing definitions. His Six Steps to Learning Academic Vocabulary reconfirm the value of an arts integrated approach, especially in Step 3: Students construct a non linguistic representation of the word (visual arts) and Step 4: Students engage in activities to deepen their knowledge of the word (dance, drama, music).
Here are two AI strategies that can help with both steps.
Setting Sculptures by Karen Bernstein (Dance):
This kinesthetic activity meshes movement with tableau. Small groups of students communicate understanding of the setting of a story by building a “frozen” human sculpture. They dance into and out of the sculpture and place their bodies into the negative space created by other bodies in the sculpture.
Here are the steps:
1. Prior to this activity, explore the element of shape and space with the students. Play while students locomote about the space creating different shapes with their bodies as cued (curved, straight, angled, etc.). Have them freeze in position when signaled. Prepare for the human sculpture by asking pairs to create different shapes together, such as becoming a human triangle.
2. Brainstorm a list of setting words and phrases associated with the text. Students might brainstorm what they would see, hear, do and feel in a Kikuyu village in Kenya, for example, after reading the story Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli.
3. Divide students into groups of 5-7 students. Each student in the group selects (or is assigned) one of the words from the list and creates a locomotor movement and a shape that would communicate the word.
4. Each student in the group stands in a line or a circle and counts off.
5. Call each number in order. The first student announces his/her word to the audience and then in five seconds, performs his/her movement. He/she ends by freezing in a position in the middle of the stage. Call out the rest of the numbers to have each participant join previous student(s) in order to form a human sculpture. Each student freezes and attaches themselves to the sculpture. They should be encouraged to occupy negative space in or around the previous dancer. The idea is to create an interesting human sculpture with a variety of levels when all participants are in place.
6. Break the sculpture apart by counting backwards. The process is reversed as each student backs out of the sculpture one by one, and repeating the word or phrase.
There are lots of cool variations to this strategy:
Students could create sculptures to communicate any content vocabulary. For instance, elements of music, themes or main characters of a story, types of economies, or even the order of operations. The really powerful part of this strategy is the collaborative conversation students have when trying figure out which movements will best show what a word means, not to mention the muscle memory they develop when performing the word and seeing others doing the same.
Power Word Art by Tara Holl (Visual Art):
Students illustrate important words and ideas found in the text by creating haiku and using these to create mixed media visual compositions.
The steps are:
•Begin by exploring the color wheel and the types of color used in visual art. Provide background information and discuss the ideas and feelings associated with different colors.
•Brainstorm and identify a list of power words and phrases (main ideas, theme, setting, or key vocabulary) for a selected story or an informational text. Discuss colors that would be associated with any of the words.
•Have studens select one or more of the power words and phrases from the brainstormed list. They use these to write short free verse or haiku poems incorporating the important ideas behind the words and phrases selected. They create a colorful mixed media artwork to communicate these ideas from their poems on 11×17 inch sheets of paper or cardboard. Also, they incorporate color, texture, and images that connect to the words. Depending on materials available, students might paint a background and then add layers of printed papers, ribbons, twigs, stamps, buttons, fabrics and any variety of materials to create a visual image of their power words. They add the printed word(s) onto the work as the last step.
•Create a mural by arranging the individual works in a pattern (quilt) decided by the students.
I hope the wheels are turning about how you might adapt these ideas to your curriculum. Let me and our readers know how you used them if and when you do. We want to know!
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.