3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.
3.3 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students
Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.
There are many avenues a teacher can take to help students that have difficulty in a school setting. Integrating the arts into an elementary curriculum may enable students to make important academic connections to other areas of their personal lives. By broadening a child’s education, providing a deeper meaning to the academic content provided in class, the educator helps serve many of those that may be otherwise struggling to gain an understanding of the importance of obtaining new knowledge. By increasing student involvement with visual arts, music, drama, and dance, imagination and a deeper understanding of culture can be also be integrated into a curriculum.
While the arts have considerably diminished from many district budgets, some school districts are beginning to refocus on ways to again promote the arts within their already busy curriculums. For example, The Katy School District located outside of Houston, Texas has a page on their website communicating the importance of art education in the development of human beings (Bryant, n.d.). Figure 1 highlights their findings as reported in Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning.
Many sources recognize the impact that the arts have on learning, especially when in regard to lessoning student drop-out rates. In addition, many districts have parent volunteers that devote their personal time to teaching art lessons in public schools. However, the question therein is, how can the classroom teacher begin to provide this education themselves? There are so many educational goals that need to be reached in one academic school year, this objective may be very difficult to accomplish. One strategy is to integrate art lessons into an already packed curriculum by designing the artistic task to the standard and learning objective.
For example, a second grade social studies standard requires that students obtain certain mapping skills by the end of the school year. Students should understand how to read maps using a key, scale, compass rose, and symbols and how to construct maps utilizing knowledge about their local communities. Students can be introduced to mapping skills in a language arts lesson, perhaps during read-alouds and when constructing classroom word walls. As the foundations of map knowledge are introduced through a scaffolded learning pattern, students can further develop knowledge about how and why people use maps. Following this base knowledge, students can also be introduced to map designers within their local community, understanding that this is a legitimate career field (people actually draw these maps and make a living doing so). Abstract artists can also be introduced such as Jasper Johns and Piet Mondrian. Within these artistic introductions, students can then design their own maps; these can be pieces of fine art (such as the works of Jasper Johns and Piet Mondrian) or designs that are to be utilized by citizens within their communities (such as those created by graphic designers). Either way, students can develop a personal connection to maps and a deeper understanding of their significance in their own lives.
When integrating art into a curriculum, the key goal is to provide an education with a deep and memorable value behind it. While we can present students with activities that “tell them” what a map is, we can also have students “discover” maps by providing mapping activities that provide deeper meaning. Memorable artistic activities can pull other classroom activities together to make them more relevant to the real world.
Having a fine arts and design background, I do plan to integrate the arts into my classroom. While this will be a challenge due to time constraints (and in many districts an already pre-designed curriculum), it is something that may help my students value and remember their learning well into their adult lives. Drake and Burns (2004) state that there is clear evidence that art is correlated with success in mathematics and reading. If these activities help us meet standards, perhaps we should obtain strategies and bring in help to provide these activities. While this mapping concept is merely a personal reflection based on my own background experience with creating many maps in my previous career, there are many methods of incorporating all areas of the arts into education, including visual arts, music, performing arts, culinary arts, and more.
Bryant, B. (n.d.). The importance of fine arts education. Retrieved from http://www.katyisd.org/dept/finearts/Pages/The-Importance-of-Fine-Arts-Education-.aspx
Drake, S. M. & Burns, R. C. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.