This is the second post in Susan Riley’s mini-series for getting started with a school-wide arts integration program.  She is focusing on how she was able to lead her teachers in MD to make change school-wide. This post has great ideas and info, so please read on and be sure to catch all the guest posts by Susan!  ~EMP

school-wide arts integration program nut and bolts

Do you remember playing around in your dad’s toolbox when you were little?  Pulling out each individual tool was like a treasure trove for the imagination.  What does this one do?  Why does this thing have a point and the other one is flat?  If I put this clip thing on the step over there, will it fall over?  My dad was never such a big fan of me getting into his toolbox, but I can clearly remember all of the drawers with the labels that said “pliers”, “screwdrivers” and “bolts” in white raised letters.

As I got older, my dad taught me what each of these tools did.  More importantly, though, he taught me that in order for the tools to do their jobs properly, you also had to have the right hardware.  A drywall nail is not the same thing as a finishing nail and you shouldn’t just use one willy-nilly.  The same thing applies to arts integration.  You have to understand the tools, sure.  But just as importantly, you have to understand which hardware is going to be used at which time.

Curriculum Maps – The Bolts of Your Program

Bolts are these neat little contraptions that slide between two items and join them together.  Curriculum maps do the same thing within a school-wide arts integration program.  These maps join together the content objectives and the arts objectives so that they naturally align.  I can’t tell you enough how important these curriculum maps are.  These are an absolute ‘MUST HAVE’ for your arts integration program.  With full disclosure, I will tell you they take a ton of time to create and hours of patience to ensure that the curricular objectives in both areas are found and are a natural fit.  However, the benefits are tremendous.  By having a curriculum map that shows objectives from both areas side-by-side, you are instantly sparking ideas just by looking at it.  In addition, it saves many hours of looking up objectives for both the classroom and the fine arts teachers.  Finally, it ensures that whatever lesson is being written and taught is measuring both areas at the same time so that it is a truly authentic arts integration lesson.  Really, you can’t beat these maps.

So, what does one look like?  Well, here’s an example from our kindergarten 4th quarter curriculum map:


Math Objectives Arts Objectives


Objectives – The students will be able to:

a. Select and apply appropriate strategies to solve a problem.

b. Justify solutions to problems with logic and evidence.

c. (Representation): Represent mathematical concepts in a variety of ways including visual, concrete, and abstract.


Identify and use sources for ideas and procedures in order to create personal works of art.

Drawing – Use drawing to express a complex idea from personal experiences.

Experiment and use a variety of media, tools and techniques to apply the formal qualities of art in order to visually represent personal ideas.


b. Model addition by combining sets of concrete objects and describe the results using words and pictures.

c. Model subtraction by separating sets of concrete objects and describe the results using words and pictures.


Rhythm 1.1: Students can demonstrate long and short sounds.

Rhythm 1.2: Students can create an ostinato with long and short sounds.


a. Compare activities in terms of which takes more or less time to complete.


Demonstrate a variety of the basic locomotor movements of walking, running, hopping, jumping, galloping, sliding, and skipping.

Demonstrate use of movement concepts to directions, levels, pathways, and effort while performing locomotor skills.

It’s a fairly simple design, but the links are immediate and long-lasting.  It took me and a team of 4 other teachers in the building a year during professional development meetings and a couple of hours here and there along the way to create maps for all 4 quarters in every grade and content.  We would gather together in our conference room, look over the objectives in a certain area and grade, and compare them to the fine arts objectives for the same level.  When we found a match, we’d write them down and once the list was compiled, we’d type it out onto our simple form.  Tedious, I know.  But the results were well worth the time.  Teachers now write and teach an average of 2-3 arts integration lessons a week, compared to the 3-4 a year they were doing before these maps.  Just think about what an impact that will make on your students!


Lesson Banks – Your Nuts

Now once you have a bolt in place, you’ll need a nut to hold it on.  Otherwise, the bolt will slide off and the two pieces will become separated once more.  Lesson plan banks are the nuts for your school-wide arts integration program.  Once you have aligned your objectives using the curriculum maps, you’ll need a place to store the lesson plans that will naturally occur from the maps’ use.  An online lesson plan bank is what holds all of these wonderful ideas, plans, and assessments together.  Simply create a folder for each grade level and place it in a central location.  We use our county’s email system to create a conference to store these.  However, you could do the same thing in a wiki or a blog for your teachers.  Once the file folder is there, house all of their lessons within the file so that everyone has access to them.  When people read the lessons, they have a “safe” one to try to get their feet wet, or they get their own ideas churning.  Whatever you do, find a spot where you can build this wonderful portfolio of learning.


Peer Reviews – Nail It All Together

Nails are the indispensable tool of any carpenter.  They can be used to hang up pictures or to join together walls.  Peer reviews work in much the same way for a school-wide arts integration program.  These versatile observations can be used as a professional growth tool, as simple feedback for a teacher or as a way for lessons to be tweaked and perfected.  What’s so great about peer reviews is that they are done by colleagues that trust one another.  If an administrator walks into a teacher’s room to observe and assess an arts integration lesson being done for the first time, it is mightily intimidating.  However, if another teacher or even an instructional assistant comes in with a peer review sheet that clearly outlines what to look for in the lesson and then provides space for comments or feedback, it is suddenly a friendly tool for growth.  The teacher doing the lesson can learn from their colleague and be open to the feedback.  The person providing the peer review learns about the arts integration process and gains ideas through watching.  And the lesson itself becomes documented and thereby can be changed and molded into the best possible lesson for future use.  It really is such a fantastic way to measure arts integration and its progress within a building.

school-wide arts integration program paintbrushes

Your Toolbox as a Paintbrush

So there you have it: three essential pieces of hardware for any school-wide arts integration program.  And when you house them within your overall toolbox of strategies, you’ll soon be painting a successful program that will engage students and teachers in thoughtful and exciting learning opportunities.

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