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Connecting With the Arts: A Workshop for Middle Grades Teachers

What Are Connecting Concepts?

This program presents strategies for planning lessons that integrate the arts with other subjects. Participants will see how teachers organize instruction around themes and concepts.

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Learning Goals

The goals of this workshop are for you to:

  • Identify and discuss themes and concepts that can connect curriculum and instruction
  • Practice creating activities that support common concepts and help bridge different disciplines

This workshop session focuses on one of the keys to planning good integrated units—finding concepts that can connect learning in different disciplines. In the program we see how teachers organize their instruction around common themes and concepts.

See Related Teaching Practices Library Programs:

Making Connections
Finding Your Voice
Creating A Culture – The Story Begins

Getting Ready

Read and discuss the following definitions of the artistic processes of creating, performing, and responding: (15 minutes)


Creating is the process of generating original art. Creating involves the artist expressing unique and personal ideas, feelings, and responses in the form of a visual image, a character, a written or improvised dramatic work, or the composition of a piece of music or a dance.

Performing is the process of presenting a work in dance, music and theatre or exhibiting works of visual art. During the performing process, the artist is engaged in interpreting the artistic work and must not only have the skills, but the contextual understanding of both the work and the audience, to successfully perform the dance, musical composition or play. This need for contextual understanding is also true for exhibiting in the visual arts.

Responding is both the process of artists reflecting on their work and the process of an audience member reacting to a work of art. Response is usually a combination of affective, cognitive, and physical behavior involving a level of perceptual or observational skills; a description, analysis or interpretation on the part of the respondent and sometimes a judgment or evaluation based on some criteria.

Discuss these questions:

  • Which area do you tend to concentrate on most with your students? Why?
  • Are there ways to engage students in the other roles more often? If there are barriers to doing so, how might these be overcome?

Watching the Program

Consider the following questions as you watch the program. If you are part of a professional development group, consider stopping the video to discuss each question with your colleagues.

  • How can you broaden the variety of artistic roles students assume in your classroom?
  • How can you help your students understand the importance of the revision process?
  • How can you help your students constructively respond to the work of others?

Activities and Discussion

Activity: Responding to Works of Art


Many teachers ask students to critique their classmates’ work. Many non-arts teachers, however, may not be familiar or comfortable in guiding students to respond to works of art, whether student work or professional work.

Set up (Prior to Session)

Ask one of the school’s arts specialists (dance, music, theatre, or visual art) come to the session prepared to share a work of art with the group — and her/his procedure for helping students respond to it.

Respond to a Work of Art (15 – 20 minutes)

Have the art specialist lead the group in analyzing a work he/she has brought in – e.g., a video clip of a dance, a music recording, a clip of a theatre performance, or a drawing/painting/sculpture — following the same procedure she/he uses with students in the classroom.

Discussion (15 minutes)

Afterwards, talk about similar or different procedures participants use with their own students.

For more information and practice with responding to artworks, go to the Responding to Works of Artinteractive on the program website.

Additional Resources

Web Resources

How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive
An article highlighting the benefits of arts education in today’s classrooms

The Kennedy Center Arts Edge: National Standards for Arts Education
Standards that outline what every K-12 student should know and be able to do in the arts

Print Resources

Greene, Maxine. Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change. Indianapolis, IN: Jossey-Bass, 2000. ISBN: 0787952915

A set of essays that defines the role of imagination in general education, arts education, aesthetics, literature, and the social and multicultural context.

Jackson, Philip W. John Dewey and the Lessons of Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0300082894

An examination of John Dewey’s thinking about the arts and exploration of the practical implications of that thinking for educators.

Palmer Wolf, Dennie., & Balick, Dana (Eds.). Art Works! Interdisciplinary Learning Powered by the Arts.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999. ISBN: 0325001162

A sophisticated analysis of what makes for an effective partnership between the arts and other forms of knowing.


Produced by Lavine Production Group, Inc. in collaboration with EDC/s Center for Children and Technology and the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts. 2005.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-754-1