Today, a colleague of mine has offered her own reflection on her school year as our school librarian and teacher.  She works hard to integrate the arts into her lessons and shares some of what she has done with the readers of The Inspired Classroom.  ~EMP

I have been taking professional development with a PLAIC (Professional Learning Community with a focus on Arts Integration) group for the last three years and I have to say it is a breath of fresh air. As a library teacher I strive to find ways to engage students and meet curriculum expectations. Using the arts is a strategy that engrosses the majority of students while allowing for differentiated instruction. Everyone works at their own pace and within their own skill level. I find this not only invigorating for me as a teacher but it also allows students to own their learning.

It is very interesting that I came into this position at a time when art and music weren’t in the school schedule because of budget cuts. The thinking behind my employment as a library teacher was to incorporate the arts into literacy. Little did administration realize that they had created a new model for information literacy, but had a willing partner who believed that library was a lot more than book check-out and reading stories.

I have been in my present position for several years and including the arts as a method of instruction has been a journey, one which I struggle with at times and in other instances, ideas come easily. I have used illustrations from books to teach beginning, middle and end of stories, songs to teach cultures and landforms around the world including the continents. The use of book binding techniques (room books) has been a great way of allowing students to illustrate information from non-fiction books. It also makes grading them more entertaining. Story quilts have been used to retell folktales; pictures have been used to explain why authors write the stories that get published. Origami boxes have been used as diaries.

These are just a few of the units I have done this year with my Kindergarten to fourth grade students, all to support classroom teachers and curriculum. If you are looking to revitalize your teaching and energize your students, regardless of what subject you teach, then Arts Integration is the way to go.

Mary Ann McGrath is the Librarian and Library teacher at the Cashman Elementary School in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

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