This is the second guest post by @michelleK107 about “Making Connections Through the Arts”.  Here she walks you through a unit she does with her students to illustrate just how she puts theory into practice.  You will surely be inspired by what she does and the ideas she gives!  Please be sure to check out Michelle’s blog for more of the great things she does!  EMP

How do you help students make connections? Here’s an example of how I structure one specific unit with lessons and activities in my music classroom:

When my 4th and 5th graders learn about drumming in Ghana, I first ask them to make assumptions about Ghana, based upon what they know at that moment in time. I’ll ask them questions:

  • Where is Ghana?
  • Can you locate Ghana on a map? What online tools will we use to get a map?
  • What is the land like?
  • What are the people like?
  • How do they live?
  • Why do you think drumming is an important part of their culture?

Our next few lessons include activities that help us locate Ghana in Google Earth, view photos and video of life in Ghana (I select photos from a search in the Creative Commons), review and discuss visual art examples, communicate via Skype (or in person!) with a special guest who lives/lived in Ghana, and sing and play traditional music from Ghana.

Throughout the year, my students will share what they have learned through podcasts, wikis, or blogs. We also will discuss how they are to write podcast scripts and blog posts– How will they consider their audience when writing? How can they grab the attention of their audience?

All of these activities add to their understanding of life in Ghana, which in turn, changes the way they perform the music of Ghana and the way they think about that music. For my classroom, this unit helps us to meet several of the National Standards for Music Education.

These kinds of activities do not have to be limited to a music or art classroom. Although my curricular objectives are obviously different than a general education classroom, teachers can transfer and adapt these activities for any other subject.

Planning a geography lesson? Find photos of the art from that location. If possible, ask your students to re-create their own version of that art. Ask questions, such as: What materials were used to create this object? What does this tell us about this geographical location? Network with the other teachers in your school. Do you have an art specialist? If not, do you know someone who does?

Planning a history lesson? Find songs from that time period to share with your class. Ask your students: What do you think this song tells us about this time period? Are there songs from other time periods that are similar to this song? If music isn’t one of your strengths, enlist a music specialist for help and collaboration.

There are many approaches to integrating the arts into your curriculum. Not sure where to start? Make this an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers.  If you don’t have arts educators in your school, look to an online network. Searching for #artsed and #mused on Twitter is one way to find arts educators who enjoy sharing and collaborating online.

Arts education helps students to make connections to the world around them. By creating engaging learning activities infused with the arts, you can help your students understand that life is not broken into isolated subjects. Their educational experiences shouldn’t be either.

Thanks again to Elizabeth Peterson for asking me to be a guest blogger!