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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Workshop for Elementary School Teachers

Watch the Program

(60 minutes)

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

(50 minutes)

Making a Case for the Arts (20 minutes)
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)
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)
 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?