This year I have the privilege of working with a school testing out an arts integration approach to educating their students. I was talking with a music specialist planning on working with the educators. We discussed giving monthly arts “tools” to the faculty in an effort to explore in their classrooms. The question we wrestled with was how to give teachers a clear understanding of the basic elements of the arts. All while, refraining from overwhelming them or their students. The principal wanted to ensure each teacher had lots of choices about how s/he would approach streamlining integration to make it more accessible.
Our answer: streamlining integration. He would streamline the integration process by choosing elements from the various art forms serving to inform one another. It would deepen the understanding of each element. And, give teachers more choice in terms of how to explore the concept in the classroom. Here are a few examples,
Streamlining Integration Examples
The music specialist wanted to start the year focusing on beat. A really easy connection to beat in music is beat in dance. Any exploration of beat in music can by expressed through movement. Beat is an important component of rhythm. Rhythm is basically a pattern of long and short notes supported by the steady beat of the song. We create rhythm in visual art with patterns of line, and the juxtaposition of complementary colors. In theatre, rhythm exists in monologues or dialogue. We’ve all used that expression “she didn’t miss a beat” when describing a perfectly timed witty comeback. Actors must find a rhythm in their speech to serve the lines they speak, and express the meaning effectively.
Level is an important aspect of space in dance.
Dancers use levels of space (high and low) to convey meaning, and create visually interesting moving pictures. An element of music is pitch. This refers to the distance between sounds like moving your voice from a high to a low pitch. Visual art might use the terms high and low in reference to a color’s intensity. In theatre, actors use level to show the relationship between characters. For instance, positioning a character with power at a higher level than one with less power.
Line is one of those basic ideas in visual art with the ability to be connected to all art forms. Music melodies can be mapped out using line like a straight ascension up a scale or a gentle curving melodic line. In dance, line can refer to the shape of a dancer’s body or the pathway the dancer creates through the air or through the performance space. Similarly, an actor may use body line to create a character or create blocking using a specific pathway through the performance space.
Of course, these are just a few examples of elements from various art forms that can illuminate and inform one another to lead to a deeper understanding of the element. Just as there are endless possibilities for integrating an art form with core content so there are endless possibilities for integrating the art forms with one another. By exploring aspects of different art forms across the various forms the teachers and students may not only have a better understanding of those aspects or concepts but they might also more naturally make connections to the core curriculum.
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.