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Connecting With the Arts: A Workshop for Middle Grades Teachers

Why Integrate the Arts?

This program explores how integrating the arts with other subjects raises the level of student engagement, helps teachers address diverse learning styles, establishes the relevance of learning for students, and provides alternative ways to communicate.

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Learning Goals

The goals of this workshop are for you to:
  • Identify the benefits of arts integration for early adolescents
  • Communicate using various art forms, and reflect on their differences for you as a learner.

This workshop session explores how integrating the arts with other subjects can benefit middle school students. The program shows teachers working together to increase student engagement, address diverse learning styles, and give students alternative ways to communicate.


See Related Teaching Practices Library Programs:

Can Frogs Dance?
Revealing Character
Exploring Our Town
Constructing a Community
Finding Your Voice

Getting Ready

Read and discuss the following statement. (10 minutes)

“There are seven key developmental needs that characterize early adolescence:

Positive social interaction with adults and peers
Structure and clear limits
Physical activity
Creative expression
Competence and achievement
Meaningful participation in families, school
Communities, opportunities for self-definition.”

— P.C. Scales, A Portrait of Young Adolescents in the 1990s: Implications for Promoting Healthy Growth and Development

Think about a unit you teach that does not typically include the arts.

  • Which of these adolescent needs are met through your unit?
  • How might integrating the arts allow more adolescent needs to be met?

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 might the arts help you engage your students physically, mentally, and emotionally?
  • Why is it useful for your students to explore curriculum content in multiple ways?
  • How does integrating the arts help students connect learning with their emotions and interests?
  • How might integrating the arts help your students connect to the world outside of school?
  • Why is it important for your students to explore multiple means of communication?

Activities and Discussion

Activity: Communicating Using Different Art Forms

Set Up (5 minutes)

Form pairs or small groups. Randomly distribute cards to each group, so that each group has one of the four Mode of Communication Cards (PDF) (dance, music, visual arts, theatre) and one of the 24 Topic Cards(PDF) (e.g., conflict, competition, or freedom).

Develop a Group Product (10 – 15 minutes)

Give the groups 10 minutes, more or less, to develop a dramatic, visual, musical, or choreographic product that communicates their idea. Groups should use only the art form they were given, and no extra words of explanation.

Note: A visual art group will need the following basic set of materials:

large paper or poster boards pencils
construction paper markers
scissors crayons

Perform and Discuss the Productions (5 – 10 minutes / group)

Have each group take a turn performing its production.

Afterwards Discuss:

  • How did the different tasks either challenge or support the learning styles in each group?
  • How might these activities either challenge or support your student’s learning styles?
  • What teaching strategies could be used in social studies, language arts, math or science to reach additional learning styles?

Additional Resources

Web Resources

Curriculum Integration: Middle School Educators Meeting the Needs of Young Adolescents,-Emotional,-and-Metacognitive-Growth.aspx
A Web site on curriculum integration including concise overviews of major developmental and applied theorists

Living With and Teaching Young Adolescents: A Teacher’s Perspective
An article from the National Middle School Association on characteristics of adolescents

Print Resources

Applebee, Arthur. Curriculum as Conversation: Transforming Traditions of Teaching and Learning. Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN: 0226021238

This book suggests that curricula should be seen as ongoing conversations, with teaching and learning as processes through which students become active participants in those conversations.

Barrett, Janet., McCoy, Claire., & Veblen, Kari. Sound Ways of Knowing: Music in the Interdisciplinary Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0534250882

The book presents ideas for music educators who want to connect music with other areas of the curriculum in valid and imaginative ways.

Belcher, Sharon., & Jaffee, Kathy. Weaving in the Arts: Widening the Learning Circle. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998. ISBN: 0325000328

Drawing on the work of Howard Gardner and Elliot Eisner, the book looks at a curriculum where the arts are viewed as a “methodology” for helping students interpret what they know and understand.

Cornett, Claudia E. Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts: An Integration Resource for Classroom Teachers(2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. ISBN: 0130977772

Here are dozens of daily routine ideas, integrated unit ideas, and adaptable classroom structures that set forth solid, dependable “how to’s” for using the arts throughout the curriculum.

Hammel Garland, Trudi., & Vaughn Kahn, Charity. Math and Music: Harmonious Connections. Palo Alto, CA: Dale Seymour, 1995. ISBN: 0866518290

This is a valuable resource for teachers who want their students to understand the connections music has with math, nature, science, history and art – connections found in many cultures and eras.


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