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

Historical References in the Arts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.

Learner Team member Jan Adkisson, also known as the principal of Drew Model School in Arlington, Virginia, explores how the hat she created affects the way she moves.

How does art history inform and influence contemporary works of art? How do individual art forms affect or inform each other in a multi-arts work?

In this program, you will learn to recognize the use of historical references in a work of art, investigate the many ways that historical references can affect a work of art, interpret and use historical references to convey important information, and see how art continues to shape history today.

After watching the program, you will design and construct your own costume elements to portray characters from Where the Wild Things Are, a children’s book by Maurice Sendak.

Key Concepts/Vocabulary

These definitions will help you as you watch these lessons.

  • Costume: clothes or accessories worn to look like someone else, to evoke a specific time or place, or to fit in with a group or occasion
  • Fantasy: a creation of the imagination; unlikely to exist in real life
  • Historical precedent: a previous act, event, convention, or custom
  • Reality: something that exists or could exist in real life
  • Street performers: entertainers who perform in public areas, including musicians, mimes, magicians, puppeteers, dancers, acrobats, and daredevils
  • Surrealism: an early- and mid-20th century movement in the arts that explored the subconscious to create fantastic imagery; an example is juxtaposing recognizable objects with things that seem to be the opposite (contrast)
  • Symbol: something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible

Teachers Notes

Ideas and observations to help you apply the lessons from Program 3 in your classroom.

Viewing Video Examples
If you are using video examples in a lesson, show them several times so students have sufficient opportunity to watch for details and focus on different components.

Space and Sound
Students working in collaborative groups can be noisy, and limited space can contribute to behavior problems. If you are planning to use group or movement-based activities, you may wish to find an alternative space, such as a gymnasium or cafeteria, and to advise teachers in nearby classrooms what you will be doing.

When students improvise scenes, they need the opportunity to reflect and refine their work. It takes time and experimentation to create multi-dimensional characters. Stopping with the first performance of a scene is like accepting the first draft of a writing assignment.

Creative Work
When students are asked to make creative decisions and collaborate on creative tasks, it is important for them to know what outcomes are expected before they begin their work. Use a rubric to clearly outline the assignment criteria. Be specific about time allowed for completion.

Lesson Plans

Complete Lesson Plans: Lesson plans, handouts, and readings needed to teach the lessons from this program in your classroom.

Classroom Demonstration MaterialsUse the audio and visual materials on this video to teach these lessons in your classroom.



Look for opportunities to apply the ideas from this program in your own classroom. For example:

  • Ask your students to create costumes for familiar characters from history or literature that they currently are studying.
  • Engage students in discussion about artistic elements and historical facts that influenced their choices.

Classroom footage in this program models a team approach in which classroom teachers and arts specialists work together. You may wish to try this approach in your own classroom.

If you apply these ideas in your classroom, please be prepared to respond to the following question at the next workshop session:

  • How effective were your students in representing artistic and historical elements in their design choices?

If you are unable to explore these activities with your students at this time:

  • Think about how you could adapt this lesson for your classroom.
  • Prepare a lesson plan in your journal.


Reading Assignment


The following required readings will support your understanding of the Program 3 workshop:

To prepare for Program 4, review this reading:

In addition, read the complete illustrated children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Ongoing Activities

Here are some other activities that can boost learning between workshop sessions.

Watch some or all of these programs from The Arts in Every Classroom: A Video Library, K-5:

Explore other books by Maurice Sendak.

Research resources on fantasy, symbolism, surrealism, and street performance at your school or public library or on the Web.

Attend a show at a museum, theatre, dance company, or orchestra in your community. Research the historical references that apply to the performance. If possible, share the experience with students in your classroom.