In my last post, on Engagement, I was responding to a post by Jessica Wakefield called, “Learning In and Through the Arts.” The title reminded me of a text I was reading for an “Arts and Learning” CAGS course through Plymouth State University a few months back titled Arts and Learning by Merryl Goldberg. In it, Goldberg shares what it means to learn with, through and about art and as I was looking back at some notes I had takenwhile reading it I thought it might be beneficial to reflect on what it means to learn with, through and about the arts. (And of course, I will provide some example activities to try out in your own teaching!)
The easiest one to speak about is learning ABOUT art. This would also be known as Arts Education. In our systems, this would be when students have the opportunity to learn the art themsleves alongside a specialist. Unfortunately, these are the opportunities that seem to be the first to go when budgets are cut. Horrible!
Learning about art is so important to a child’s education because ART is CULTURE. We need to know about the art around us because that helps us to process the world around us. We think more critically about our surroundings when we create visual art, compose poetry or develop a story to tell. Learning about art also helps us to become more cohesive as a society. Creating and performing music together parallels the skills needs to work collaboratively with others and being able to appreciate and interpret art allows us to become more insightful and able to see perspectives other than our own.
Learning WITH and THROUGH art are venues of Arts Integration and can happen in any classroom at any grade level.
Learning WITH the arts happens when you observe and artform and make connections to it. In our case as teachers, we would encourage students to connect the arts to areas of our curriculum. For example, if you are teaching your students about parallel and perpendicular lines, you may want to introduce your students to the works of Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondriaan, a dutch paiter whose works are filled with strong lines and bold color. Having students observe and question his artwork would enage them and help them to internalize the meaning of parallel and perpendicular lines. (Here is a link to a collection of Mondrian images from Google.)
Another example of learning WITH the arts is, my favorite, by listening to music. When I teach declarative and interogative sentences, I help my students to internalize the concept by having them listen to question and answer phrases in music. The pitches in a question phrase of muisc go up, just as our voices do when we ask a question. And vise vera: answer phrases end on a lower pitch in music just as our voices end lower when be state a declarative. The following video is a piece by Frederic Chopin, a Polish composer who wrote solely for the piano. The begining of his Waltz in Eb contains two pairings of question and answer phrases.
Learning THROUGH an art form means that you are an active participant in the art making and through that art you are learning more deeply about a concept. For example, if you are a history teacher you may ask your students to become a person in the time period you are studying. This doesn’t just mean dress the part, but become the part: talk, act and deal with situations as that person would. Through this dramatic play, students can get a better understanding of the person as they begin to think and act like them.
Language arts teachers can do this too, asking their students to become a character in a story. Kristina Peterson, a high school LA teacher and guest blogger on The Inspired Classroom, has asked her students not only to become a character but to interact with other students as they take on a persona as well. This is an excercise where, through drama, students truly gain an understanding of the characters.
Arts education and integration is so much more than adding a visual here and there or creating lyrics to a song. When thinking about how you might want to infuse the arts into your classroom and your teaching, think about ways to do so so that your students can learn with, through and about the arts.
Do you have ideas or activities you have used that help students to learn with, through and about arts? Please share!
I just read your post on learning with, through and about art and was happy to see your comment that learning about art is so important because art is culture. I am not an educator but I have a master’s degree in culture, ecology and education and have spent the last 10 years studying the links between the arts and environmental sustainability. My focus has been on using the arts to shift our cultural perspective toward sustainability so that the positive changes we need to make in our relationship with nature will happen quicker and become permanent. I live in Portland, OR where there is a lot of environmental awareness but very high unemployment and no money for arts ed. I contrast that with southern California where I have been for the last month and although I am excited about the wonderful arts energy down here, I am stunned about the difference in attitude and activism regarding the environment. I’m looking for a place that welcomes both. I’d love to talk to anyone interested in or currently working on bringing these two elements together to get us moving in a positive direction.
Marsha, I also share your interest in using art to explore environmental issues. My website http://www.charlesmcquillen.com shows some of my installations. You might find the Silent Suburb, Stacking a Line, and Storm Drain Stenciling Project of particular interest.
i love your paintings they are awsome jsut to let you know
I’ve read your comments and prior to today I wasn’t really sure about the difference between arts education and arts integration. I suppose I thought they were one and the same. I am a classroom teacher and now feel like I have a better understanding. I also feel more empowered to add my ideas for arts integration into the classroom. It’s great to hear from all of the specialists out there about about ideas for integrating the arts. I also enjoyed hearing that the arts are for everyone. As a generalist teacher in the lower elementary grades, it is gratifying to hear that an integrated approach to learning helps to develop that well rounded education we all strive to develop.
I just read my comment from the other day again. Now that I’ve had a few more days in your course, I feel like I have an even better understand of arts integration. I can now say that I often use learning with the arts in my classroom, but have never really use learning through the arts. I’m excited, but also a little nervous to try this approach. Although, I know that I definitely have to brush up on my own knowledge and do a little learning about the arts on my own before I develop my lessons!
It was enlightening to read about the differences between learning about, with and through the arts. I have never consciously made this distinction in my work as an early childhood classroom teacher. Because there is so much emphasis on process at the early childhood level – or should be – I feel most of my students are working through the arts.
When considering learning about the arts, it brings to mind the book Alphabet City. I often hesitate to use this book with my students because it does not necessarily present the letters of the alphabet in a clear way…the reader has to look for the letters in the photographs of various cityscapes, and they will seem very different with curls, metal grates, blocks or within wooden structures, for example. The letters will typically look much different than the simply formed block-type letters we would usually show, sort and make in the classroom. Now I have a different view and would be more apt to use this book without fearing that it would be confusing…it’s all in the explanation after all. We could process it together and have a rich (hopefully) discussion.
I also can imagine sharing more professional art work. The Mondrian pieces would lend themselves so well to our noticing and comparing of shapes and the Rockwell works would fit in with the social-emotional curriculum goals…talking about emotions and problem-solving.
Thanks for helping to give me some clarity…
I have also been very enlightened on the difference between teaching with and through the arts. Recently, I have been trying to flush out my own art passion and have been trying different art techniques. As I think about teaching with the arts, I realize how important it is for me to keep up this journey; along with building upon my knowledge of art history! What is that old saying…something like “you don’t know what you don’t know!” I feel like I am on the road less traveled and there are just so many new journeys and roads yet to travel; from a personal and teaching prospective. How exciting to have all kinds of new adventures ahead of me!
It’s amazing how really thinking through these concepts makes implementing arts integration much more clear. THe understanding alone is a process for sure!! I am so happy to hear things are becoming clearer. I really think changing your teaching begins with your mind set and then great things start to happen. All you wonderful ladies in this class are surely showing so much growth. It’s exciting!
I have also become more and more aware of art education and art integration. Being a specialist of the visual arts, I have solely focused on the visual arts in my classroom. I have had the idea to play music in the background that relates to what they are doing but I never really made it meaningful. I have had my younger students do some brain gym because they were antsy but I never connected it to the actual project. I know how important it is now to make everything meaningful and by incorporating more than one way of learning for one concept can enhance their learning greatly. I can’t wait to use some ideas I have learned this week and see how my students respond!
Each time I read an article on arts integration it clears some thoughts for me. I have always integrated art into my lessons as an early childhood teacher. What I think was missing was that extra piece of helping my students make the connection between the art and curriculum content. Then I ask myself can I do that? Do I know enough? I can see why teachers shy away from arts integration. Knowing what I need to do to truly make the connection between art and content is a goal worth working on. I keep remembering that first article I read, JUST DO IT!
I agree with Becky’s statement that I didn’t realize the difference between arts education and arts integration. This course is helping me to recognize how important including both of these is to learning. This course is giving me great ideas for doing that!