I’ve taken a break from a major blog series and found myself talking about conversations this week.  This is mostly due to EduCon 2.3 – a conference that took place over the weekend in Philly.  I was fortunate enough to present with other wonderful educators (@doremigirl, @michellek107 and @kylepace) on arts integration.  Lucky me!

In my first post about conversations “Get in the Conversation,” I was adamant about how important it is to talk with others about the topics that are important to you and your teaching.   Having a conversation with others who are like-minded and who also challenge your ideas is an incredible part of focusing and forming your beliefs, making you a stronger advocate for what you are passionate about.

I am living proof of this.  Years ago, I considered myself a teacher who integrated music and other arts in the classroom.  (I think I was doing it well. ) But now, I feel so much more confident in what I do.  I am better equipped with knowledge, research, and practices.  This is not just because I have years under my belt, but also because I have talked to dozens of people, presented my ideas to other teachers and chatted with amazing educators online through Twitter and my blog.

Having a conversation about educational practices is all part of the process and you have to trust it.  But the problem is you can get to a point where you feel you are “preaching to the choir.”  In other words, your conversations start to go stale or get heated just because you have talked about a topic for so long.  That’s when you know you are ready to get to the next step: Doing it!

Hopefully the “doing it” is a positive thing and for the case and point of this post, I’m going to keep it focused to implementing arts integration strategies.

Many of my wonderful readers are in this process right now.  Some of you may be in the beginning part of this journey: reading about the positive effects of the arts and arts integration, surfing this and other sites that discuss integration practices, mentioning it here and there to your families and colleagues…  Maybe you attended the “Getting Started with Arts Integration” because you are just now getting your feet whet with research and ideas, or viewed the live stream of the conversation about arts integration at EduCon 2.3.  If this is you, you are ready to try something out in your classroom, or to try something new!

Here are a couple of ideas:

~Add Sound to a Story~ A fun way to enhance the reading experience of a story is to add sounds to it.  The sounds could be made by small hand instruments, objects found around the room, or by vocals and body percussion.  I’ve had students take a story from their reading anthology and add sound effects to various parts of the story or take an important excerpt from the story and focus in on that.  This is a great way to get students to look back in the text and reread for understanding.  Not to mention the process of finding the right sound effects to input will help with their understanding as well.  For an added bit of fun, have the students record their work using Audacity or another recording devise and make it into a podcast.

Class Amoeba~Move a Little in Science~ For some reason, movement seems to go well with whatever I’m teaching in science.  Years ago, when I was teaching the parts of an amoeba, my class became an amoeba.  There was a nucleus (in a party hat), food vacuoles (each wearing lei) and a membrane.  (And the reason why I can recall all those terms, is because of that lesson!)  The last couple of years, I have been teaching the water cycle.  For this, my class transformed our room making the front of the room a lake, the desks the mountains and the back the clouds.  The students transformed into water molecules and danced their way through the water cycle: moving in the lake, floating up to the clouds as they evaporated, collecting in the clouds and precipitating back to the earth.  (I wish I had a video to share…that may be forthcoming when we study it this year. 😉 )

These are specific examples of science content, but so much of science can be performed kinesthetically.  Let your mind imagine the possibilities…

~Storytelling Through Time~  Let’s face it, history is one big story.  And it wasn’t until I figured that out (after I started teaching) that I started to understand, appreciate and actually enjoy history.  After learning about a concept in history, allow your students the opportunity to tell the story of what they have learned.  They (and you) will need to consider audience and purpose for this and you may even add a bit of theatrics to your assignment.

You may ask them to simply tell the story of an historical event (as a modern student to peers), tell the story first-hand from a historical figure’s point of view, or as a bystander to the situation at hand.  You may even let your students design how they tell the story, giving them some creative freedom within structure.  This type of work will deepen the student’s understanding of the content in ways you may not have imagined.  Everything the student says will need to be well thought out and if they add the theatrical piece to it, it could prove to be something really great!

Continuing the Conversation Remember, what we do is a process and just because you are doing something doesn’t mean your time to converse with others is up.  Not at all!  Once you are putting the ideas into practice you need to have two kinds of conversations: conversations that inspire others and those that challenge yourself.  Sharing what you know and do with others just starting their journey (whether is it in arts integration, technology use, or education in general) is pertinent to to our profession.   We also need to keep our own flames going by chatting with others who are traveling side by side with us or are further along in the journey.

So, there you have it…  Start with a conversation, do it and continue the conversations. It’s a fantastic way to grow as a professional!