The other day, while presenting to a group of teachers in Michigan via Skype, I was asked, “How can a teacher get started on creating an arts integrated lesson?”  My presentation was on this topic, but there seemed to be a need for more of a step by step approach.  So, for those of you who are just getting started or need a jolt to add more arts integration into your repertoire, here are the four steps I recommend.

  1. Think about what lessons, projects or units of study you teach.  (content vocabulary, science or social studies unit, literary devices, math concepts)  What lessons are getting tired and need more life?  What do you do well and want to make even better?  What is something new that would lend itself well to the arts?
  2. Brainstorm art forms that may work for this particular lesson. Look for the “elegant fit”.   In other words, don’t force it.  Sometimes an idea just comes to me, other times I have to think things through or bounce ideas off of someone else.  Is there a song that can be composed?  (Think lyrics, instruments, or sounds.)  Is there a visual piece of art that could be created?  (Think illustration, diagram, 3 dimensional figure, etc.)  Could your students tell a story or act out a concept?  Could your students move in a way that would deepen their understanding of what they are learning?  (Consider movement in science or interpreting vocabulary.)  Think about your own interests/talents and those of other teachers you can work with.  If there is an art form with which you are more comfortable, start there.  Otherwise you can experiment a little bit with another art form.
  3. Check out the art’s standards. See what speaks to you in terms of what may work and fit with your lesson. The language of the standard may lead you in the right direction. Also check in with an arts teacher to see what your students are learning with them.  If, for example your art teacher is teaching your students about shading, maybe your students could create a still life of something you are learning in science.  If your music teacher is teaching your students how to play the xylophone, allow them to use that musical instrument to create an ostinato of a song to express their understanding of concepts.  Remember to place both the content standard and the art standard at an equal level.  When I create arts integrated lessons, the two standards are displayed side by side.  Here is an example:
  4. Go for it!  Just do it.  Implement the lesson and allow yourself (and your students) time for reflection on how things went.  Make a few mistakes if you need to.  It’s no biggy. It’s all part of the process. 😉

Two real life examples:

Erosion Blues – This is a lesson I have already done.  For a full explanation of it, please go to this post.  Basically, my students learned the form of the blues and wrote original lyrics containing science vocabulary from our unit on land and water.  Want to hear our recording?  Go HERE!

Erosion Art – This is a lesson in the making.  Again, I would be integrating with the concepts learned during our land and water unit, but the art form would be visual art instead of music.  I recently learned about a British artist named Andy Goldsworthy who, “is interested in the ‘movement, light, growth and decay’ of nature. He exploits its vital impermanence: changes in season, weather and terrain.”  (Source)  I know there is an elegant fit here – a great lesson that needs to be created, a wonderful experience that my students should have.  I am still in the research and standard finding stage with this one.  I’m not sure if I want my students to study his work, create their own artwork or do both.  There will be more to come with this one.

In my next post, I will discuss much more about arts standards and how to choose ones that will work for you.  (Consider this part 1 of 2.)  For many more articles on the topic of getting started (or staying the course), please click the “Getting Started w Arts Int” tag.

In the meantime, please share how your ideas on how to start creating your own arts integrated lesson.

~EMP

 

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