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!