The Arts In Every Classroom: A Workshop for Elementary School Teachers
Watch the Program
As you watch, think about these focus questions:
- How did the three Learner Teams connect the arts with other parts of the curriculum?
- How are they planning to build on and expand their work?
Activities and Discussions
Making a Case for the Arts (20 minutes)
Facilitator: Lead a mock debate about the importance of the arts.
Realizing the power and promise of arts education is a first step toward changing instructional practice and finding a new role for the arts in your school.
To begin your mock debate, divide into two groups. Give everyone an index card with a role — teacher, principal, parent, or student — to assume while debating. In each group, there should be at least one person playing each of the four roles.
In the debate, one group will make the case for an arts-rich curriculum in every classroom. The other group will counter with arguments against arts education. The debate may begin with stereotypical claims and put-downs, but it should work toward deeper discussion of real issues. Begin the debate with these questions:
- Do you consider the arts to be extraneous to traditional curriculum — at best merely an enrichment?
- Should the arts be an essential part of the core academic curriculum?
- What makes a subject “academic”?
When everyone has spoken, end the debate. Come out of character and talk about any points that did not have a counterargument. Is the case stronger for or against the arts?
Preparing to Build on New Ideas (25 minutes)
Facilitator: Lead a discussion envisioning the expanded role the arts can play in your school. Consider several comparisons, such as:
- How is a classroom like a blank canvas or an empty stage?
- How are the arts like a magnifying glass, bringing out details and deepening understanding in all subject areas?
- How can the arts be used as a glue to hold together many parts of the curriculum?
Divide into pairs, each pair collaboratively creating a work of art — such as a drawing, sculpture, poem, song, dance, and/or scene — that communicates your vision of the arts in your classroom. Combine two or more art forms if possible.
Reassemble as one group and share your works of art, pointing out and discussing similarities and differences.
Begin laying the foundation for your shared vision of the arts in every classroom by discussing these questions:
- What changes in curriculum content and instructional practice will need to be made?
- What assistance will you need from administrators, fellow teachers, and others outside the school?
- What expertise do various teachers have, and how can you employ this expertise in team-teaching situations?
- What additional knowledge and skills do you and other teachers need to make arts instruction meaningful and effective?
Reflection (5 minutes)
Facilitator: Use the following observations and question to focus a closing discussion:
- Artists look at things in different ways, experimenting with various approaches and changing patterns.
- Professional educators engage in a similar process, continually assessing and improving their curriculum and instructional practice.
- What are you going to do next as you work to bring an arts-rich curriculum into your classroom?
workshop 1 What Is Art?
The Learner Teams and students explore the nature of theatre, music, dance, and visual art as they consider their own definitions for each art form. They watch an excerpt from Quidam, a surrealistic performance piece that combines the four art forms in unusual ways, and begin to explore connections between fantasy and reality.
workshop 2 Responding to the Arts
Learner Team members and students compare two multi-arts performance pieces from different eras, Quidam (1996) and Parade (1917). They discover how our perception of a work of art is influenced by what we know about the time and place it was created. They also explore how music can establish a mood, create their own vaudeville acts, and learn a process of critical evaluation.
workshop 3 Historical References in the Arts
Learner Team members and students examine costume designs for Parade, focusing on how the designs help convey character. They interpret works by painter René Magritte and choreographer Alwin Nikolais, discovering influences on the creators of Quidam. They also conduct research into the history of street performance and report their findings, in the role of art historian.
workshop 4 Creating a Multi-Arts Performance Piece
Learner Team members and students examine the elements of the classic journey as identified by Joseph Campbell. They then create a multi-arts performance piece that represents a journey story. They apply what they have learned in previous lessons in order to rehearse, critique, revise, and perform their work.
workshop 5 Designing a Multi-Arts Curriculum Unit
Learner Team members are introduced to a curriculum design process that asks teachers and students to focus on why rather than what — sometimes called backwards design. The teams begin to construct their own arts-based units of study, identifying enduring ideas and constructing essential questions that lead to carefully planned unit objectives and performance tasks.
workshop 6 The Role of Assessment in Curriculum Design
As the Learner Teams continue working on their own units, they examine strategies for determining how well students meet unit objectives. By revisiting the lessons in the first four programs, they discover how to build formative and summative assessments into the units that they are developing.
workshop 7 Three Schools, Three Approaches
Documentary segments filmed during the next school year show the Learner Teams planning and teaching arts-based lessons that grew out of work in the first six programs. Discussions at the end of the school year, facilitated by one of the workshop leaders, give the Learner Team members a chance to reflect on some of the developments in their teaching practice.
workshop 8 Building on New Ideas
More documentary segments show further work by the team members with their students, among themselves, and with colleagues. The end-of-year discussions continue, with team members reflecting on how their new initiatives in the arts have affected them and their schools, and offering advice for other teachers who want to bring the arts into their own classrooms.