The Arts Connect to Everything

Digital-artThe amazing thing about the arts is that they can be integrated with nearly any other topic.  Sometimes you have to just let your mind go and imagine all the possibilities and once you get started, it can be hard to stop.

I’ve been approached in person and through email by so many people who are connected to education about the Teacher Art Retreat and many have the same question: “I am the school (fill in the blank with the person’s educational position).  How can I use the this stuff?”

Sure, being able to use the arts in specialty areas such as occupational therapy, guidance and technology as well as in general ed content can take a shift in your mindset.  But once you work towards that, you may wonder how you ever compartmentalized the areas in the first place.

Let’s take the workshops that are being given at this year’s Teacher Art Retreat: puppetry, listening to music, movement and decoupage and see what we can come up with.  I’ll start a brainstorm here and encourage you to add to this list in the comments! 🙂

Puppetry – Judith O’Hare will be leading a workshop in shadow puppetry.

  • Literacy: storytelling, reading (stories and scripts to use), writing (and adapting stories to use)
  • Therapy: acting out situations, talking/acting through a puppet, creating the puppet (identifying emotions and as a calming activity)
  • Occupational Therapy: fine motor skills (creating puppet, maneuvering puppets)
  • Technology: typing scripts, storyboarding, recording performances
  • Music: adding soundtracks and sound effects
  • Speech Therapy: talking through the puppet, memorizing short or longer parts

Movement – Deirdre Moore will be leading a workshop that focuses on its integration with science concepts.

  • Science: to be explored at the workshop
  • Occupational Therapy: fine and gross motor skills coupled with dance vocabulary
  • Literacy: moving like characters in a book, moving through a storyline
  • Math: illustrating vocabulary with movements
  • Social Studies: learning period dances, memorizing placement of areas on a map

Listening to Music – with ME, Elizabeth!

  • Social Studies: learning about history and historical events through period music and song
  • Therapy: listening to and describing a variety of emotions, the calming and motivating effects of music
  • Literacy: Storytelling, describing characters, studying beginning, middle, end
  • Writing: describing music, writing stories, opinion pieces, comparisons

Decoupage – Dara Merz will be leading this creative workshop.

  • Therapy: calming activity, expressive outlet
  • Literacy: deciding on and illustrating theme
  • Writing: descriptions, how-to process
  • Occupational Therapy: fine motor skills

So there’s my 7 minute brainstorm list.   See? You don’t have to be an artist to think of these ideas and you don’t have to be a classroom teacher to utilize the arts!  I hope you add to this list now and I hope to see you at the retreat!


Teacher Art Retreat
The Teacher Art Retreat is a three day experience for you to relax and work within the arts. Each workshop is built for you to try new methods and reinvent previous skills, all while integrating different art forms into what you do with students. Participants always remark about how amazingly good they feel during and after the retreat. This is teacher-centered PD - Don't miss out! All educators are welcome.
Price: $275.00

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. What a great list … and it is only the beginning of the many connections that can be made!!

  2. Jessica Moody says:

    Just to expand on your idea of using puppetry in therapy to talk and act out different situations, I have found success in using puppets to help problem solve. If there is an individual or group of students going through a particular problem I might bring it up to the whole group or class as a problem the puppet is having. For example, if I say the puppet doesn’t have any one to play with at recess, it’s much less embarrassing then singling a student out. The whole class can help think of ideas and then we can talk about how this happens in real life too and what we could do to help someone who is in that situation. It’s a lot easier to talk about the puppet’s feelings of loneliness then our own. The puppet makes it okay to talk about. I would imagine that puppets would be useful in the same way for classroom teachers who do morning meeting or are trying to build a sense of community.

    • Great ideas! I can see how puppets can really help with this. Do you find that kids tend to shy away from puppets as they get older or does it have the same effect?

      • Jessica Moody says:

        Sometimes, it depends on the kid. I am sometimes surprised when I have a group of older kids who ask to use them. I think it might be nostalgic, like even as adults it’s sometimes fun to color or play with play dough with your students or your own kids. At first many of the older kids will act goofy with the puppet, I believe as a way to make it acceptable to use them in front of their peers. Once that dies down though they are then able to use them in a more productive way.

        • Jennifer Daileanes says:

          I haven’t tried puppetry in and of itself, but I have found older students (high school age) willing to do a lot of arts activities deemed only for younger students. Older students love clay, paint, collage making, music, acting, storytelling, etc. I can’t believe how willing they are to create “like little kids.”

          • I’m so glad you said that, Jen! I come across so many educators and other adults who think the arts and especially arts integration is good only in elementary school. I say what I can to them to advocate for it in MS and HS, but because I’m an el ed teacher, my voice does not carry much weight on the matter. I usually reference your work as well as Dara’s and yours too, Jessica!

          • Holly Gray says:

            I agree. When I work with the 8th graders, they seem pretty willing to do more acting, especially since my performing arts classes with grade 7 are completely drama workshop based. I like the idea of implementing the puppetry with them this year. I know our Art teacher uses puppets and story telling at the 5th grade level, I believe, and she has great success. I do play reading and set design models as an extension activity of the one act play. Maybe this year I will have them do a collaborative play writing activity where they write dialogue around a theme and then create the puppets. I can see a myriad of possibilities for this kind of thing where they can interact with the lower grades in mentoring on subjects like tolerance, bullying, outreach and so many others.

          • Karson says:

            My hat is off to your astute command over this tobic-pravo!

  3. Mary Linda Krikorian says:

    What great puppetry ideas, ladies! I vow to utilize the fabulous assortment of puppets I have at school on a more regular basis. Everyone wants to check them out and make them come alive in their own way! (I need to let go of these in many ways!)
    Imagination is a beautiful thing. This class, these articles, you wonderful creative teachers, are all playing a huge part in helping me keep tapped in to my imagination!
    By simply asking the students to close their eyes during various lesson segments in my (Music) classroom…it allows them to really let go and let their minds strengthen.

    • You know, I bet a LOT of teachers have artsy things in their rooms they barely use. I have some instruments, art materials, small puppets…. Sometimes we just need a little spark to take ’em out, dust ’em off and get to using ’em!

      • Holly Gray says:

        It is interesting how so many classroom teachers are fearful of using music in their classrooms. I know that they will ask for art materials fairly freely to create more visual projects, and many use music as background white noise. I know others who use songs for interpretive writing and poetry. Last year I collaborated within the Fine Arts department of our building with my colleague of 15 years. She and I utilized our Chromebooks with 7th grade to kick off a positive behavior program that we were members of a team of educators spearheading the program. We designed a project where we were able to utilize Common Core writing with visual arts and music in creating music videos. Teams of 4 and 5 kids wrote, designed, created, filmed, edited and produced short music videos. We would love to do this again and collaborate with our classroom ed colleagues. Common planning time is problematic where we are their special subject and therefore, planning/prep for classroom discipline teachers. I believe that integration is the BEST practice for making concepts and learning relevant to our students. The basic research in the brain and learning is supporting this completely given the basic characteristics of rhythm, repetition, mnemonics, visualization and semiotics. It is so cool to see the results!! One of my greatest joys was seeing some of our least motivated kids producing in this kind of venue. They tap into aspects of themselves that they didn’t trust in differently structured learning approaches, yet get it with less struggling.

  4. Becky Reese says:

    I find that using collage is a great way to illustrate a theme in the classroom. Many times in science or social studies there is a themed concept that needs to be developed. Sometimes kids have experience with a theme or concept, but at other times kids do not have prior knowledge. As a classroom teacher, I sometimes need to create a familiarity with an idea. For example, “the sun” is a science theme I teach, so I might create a collage with pictures and/or words as we progress through the unit. In addition, we create pictures of the sun using different media, such as paint, sand, clay, or other materials. I can also assess what they have learned at the end of a unit by having students create their own collages.

    • Becky, Do you mean you build the collage little by little throughout the unit over the course of days or weeks? What a cool idea! I bet it’s a great way for students to see the progression and depth of their learning. I also like how you use different media to illustrate the same or similar concepts. We need that when we are just learning a new concept. I can see myself doing a similar thing having my fourth graders explore the half by using clay, collage, paper, and other materials. That way they could really grasp the concept!

      • Becky says:

        To answer your question, I use collage for different aspects of a theme. Most times, I use it as a brainstorm in the beginning of a unit, but a couple of times the project grows as the unit progresses. I have also used it as an assessment. This is exactly as example of collage, but a recent example is when we did our school wide read aloud on Charlotte’s Web. Many of the kids didn’t understand the farming vocabulary/setting of the story and how the barn was described. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I decided that we all needed a little more “background.” I got out my son’s old farm house, went to the store and got a few more “animals,” and set things up as they were described in the story. As the story progressed, we added more and more animals and details to the scene. Read aloud soon became their favorite part of the day as they literally visualized the story.

  5. Elissa Bellerose says:

    I feel so lucky that I work in a preschool/infant setting – I can use art in so many ways! We focus on ABC’s and 123’s – there are almost unlimited ways to use art to reinforce these basics.

  6. MaryLinda Krikorian says:

    Taking these marvelous Retreat Workshops with you, Elizabeth has helped me stay tapped into my creativity. Being an Elementary Music teacher, it comes naturally…
    to put a percussion instrument in my student’s hands, & have them echo my rhythm patterns or improvise along with music chosen to be played in the background.

    Reading these articles and all the other comments made by you folks, sparks all sorts of new & exciting ways to include history, language arts, math, and science. The possibilities ARE endless. I just need to dive in and swim around more. Call, or text or email you ladies (and gentlemen from years previous)…for your input. Plugging into the energy that flowed in the room August 10, 11, & 12…does my spirit GOOD!

    It’s a shame that collaboration with the Arts does not seem to be of much interest in the schools I teach at. So, I carry on the best I can with the knowledge I gain from You! And JUST DO IT!

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