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

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.

Fourth-graders made their own ceramic houses as part of a unit on colonial architecture that combined art, technology, and history at Drew Model School in Arlington, Virginia.

This program features visits to the schools of each Learner Team during the year following their summer workshop training. It also includes reflective discussions between each team and workshop leader Susanne Burgess.

  • At Ridgeway Elementary School in White Plains, New York, team members worked all year planning and teaching a sequence of instruction leading to a multi-arts performance piece.
  • The team from Drew Model School in Arlington, Virginia, invited other interested teachers to work with them on a variety of lessons and units that integrated the arts with other subjects.
  • The entire faculty at Kingsbury Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, participated in schoolwide planning to make good use of community arts resources.

In this session, you will reflect on the work of the Learner Teams and discuss how your school might act similarly or differently. You also will think about specific ways that you and your colleagues might increase the role of the arts in your classrooms.


Key Concepts/Vocabulary

These definitions will help you as you watch these lessons.

  • Enduring ideas/understandings: big concepts about a topic (subject) or theme (idea about the subject) that students should comprehend and retain after they’ve forgotten many of the details
  • Essential questions: questions that guide teaching and engage students in uncovering the important ideas at the heart of a topic of study
  • Performance tasks: activities that allow the learner to demonstrate his or her understanding through a scenario, employing a goal and a role to create a product or performance for a given audience
  • Process-centered learning: the experience of students actively engaged in exploration and problem solving, learning through firsthand experience
  • Standards of Learning (SOLs): criterion-referenced tests in Virginia that compare a student’s mastery of specific curriculum against a test standard
  • Team teaching: an instructional approach in which two or more instructors are jointly responsible for course content, presentations, and grading; they may interact in front of the class, discussing specific topics from divergent perspectives, and take turns presenting material appropriate to their individual areas of specialization
  • Unit objectives: knowledge and skills necessary for students to demonstrate their understandings of essential questions


Homework Assignment: 

Talk with other teachers about what is being taught in your school. Look at curriculum maps if they are available. Consider possible connections among and with the arts, and think about how you might collaborate with another teacher to meet common learning objectives.

Explore the Developing Educational Standards Web site, a repository for information about national, state, and local educational standards and curriculum frameworks.


Reading Assignment

The following required readings will support your understanding of Program 7 for the for-credit workshop:

The following articles can add to your understanding of this material:

  • “Fads and Fireflies: The Difficulties of Sustaining Change” by John O’Neil, Educational Leadership, Volume 57, April 2000. Educator and historian Larry Cuban, co-author of Tinkering Toward Utopia, reflects on why reforms are proposed and what happens when they are brought to the complex laboratory of schools.
  • “Creating a Knowledge Base for Teaching: A Conversation with James Stigler” by Scott Willis, Educational Leadership, Volume 59, March 2002. James Stigler discusses how we can improve professional development by helping teachers learn to analyze classroom practices and accumulate professional knowledge. Stigler, author of The Teaching Gap, advocates professional development that is site-based, long-term, and directly related to teacher practice.
  • Monica Bermiss’ Year-Long Arts Outline (PDF) is a summary of her class’s multi-arts work.

To prepare for Program 8, review these readings:

Ongoing Activities

Here are some other activities that can boost learning between workshop sessions. Time permitting, you might share what you have learned before or after your next workshop session.

Learn more about arts education by exploring the National Standards for Arts Education. The opening paragraphs for each art form provide a snapshot of what successful teaching of the arts looks like at various grade levels.

Examine the Model Standards for Licensing Classroom Teachers and Specialists in the Arts to learn more about what all teachers — both classroom teachers and arts specialists — should know and be able to do to teach the arts effectively.