According to Scholastic Instructor, “a learning center … provides students with exciting and interesting experiences to practice, enrich, reteach, and enhance their learning.” Doesn’t that sound like what we accomplish with arts integration lessons? Why not marry the two? Create a lesson plan which targets arts integrated or arts focused station activities.
There are many times when it is not feasible or desirable to implement a full arts integration lesson for the whole class. Or, perhaps there several arts integration approaches that could help students connect with a topic or a standard and you may not have the class time to cover them all. There are times when you want to differentiate learning by including multiple intelligences type choices. This is when you will want to take the opportunity to develop arts integrated stations.
Again this week, after watching a great lesson video which incorporated the arts strategy of tableau in a station activity on the Teaching Channel (Literary Analysis through Interactive Stations), I was reminded of how valuable learning station activities are for classrooms at all levels. Stations (or centers) provide students with variety (a.k.a. multiple intelligences), choice, interaction, and makes them accountable for their learning. It also provides the teacher with time to work with students who need individual attention.
I have used learning stations very successfully at both the middle school and elementary levels. The Teaching Channel lesson example shows how engaging and useful the strategy can be at the high school level as well.
How can you use station activities in an arts integrated classroom? Once you have identified the purpose of the station activities (to build background knowledge for a topic or a theme, to explore several aspects of the current topic or theme, or to help students review for a unit of study) try to create one or more station which focuses in an art form. In one seventh grade social studies classroom starting a unit on Russia, for example, the teacher developed a full day lesson which included multiple stations to build background knowledge on traditional Russian culture. In two visual arts focused stations, the students viewed examples of Russian architecture in one station and handled cultural artifacts in another (such as matroshka dolls and pysanky eggs).
They described, analyzed and drew the buildings and the artifacts by focusing in on the elements of shape, texture, pattern, and color. They watched video clips of traditional Russian dances and identified the most prominent elements of dance before trying a few steps. They listened to examples of traditional Russian folk music and identified the tempo, texture and dynamics using an Artful Thinking routine, I Hear, I Think, I Wonder.
In a sixth grade Language Arts classroom, the teacher created stations to explore mood and tone in the novel the students were reading. In a visual arts station she asked students to categorize art images that connected to scenes in the novel with mood words using Artful Thinking. In another, they created an art piece with oil pastels connecting color with mood. In the drama station, the students created (and photographed) a tableau in order to show their understanding of a selected quote from the novel. Another station asked students to select music clips that could serve as part of the soundtrack for an imaginary movie of a scene from the novel and then write about how the music conveyed the mood of the scene.
Focusing on arts integration activities in your stations will engage your students in the arts as well as provide them with a variety of pathways to understanding the content. Station activities in your classroom are short, but sweet!
A New Approach to Learning Centers http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/new-approach-learning-centers
Literary Analysis through Interactive Stations https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/increase-engagement-and-understanding
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.