During your group discussions, you will need to determine a starting point. Start by looking at your curriculum and the needs of your students. If you have a wiggly class you may want to look at a kinesthetic approach through movement or drama. If you have a class that loves singing or making music, you may want to work with the music teacher. If you have a class that loves creating drawings or paintings, you may want to work with the art teacher for ideas. Or you may choose to use a combination of approaches.
Whatever your approach, your starting point could begin with a unit from your reading text, math problems, science concepts, or other curriculum material. Once your group has chosen a starting point, and taking your goals into consideration, you will need to discuss with the arts and other specialists how their subject area can enrich your lessons. We have provided you with forms which may be used in this process but feel free to create your own.
Following are a few access point options to get you started.
Sample: To enhance understanding of stories in the reading text, have students:
- illustrate aspects of the stories
- research music and dance of the time period of the story
- read or perform sections of the stories in dramatic fashion
For further discussion of arts integration based on reading themes or stories, please see Arts Integrated Reading Units.
Selecting a Content Area
Your team might decide to start with a content area such as Math or Science to begin the arts integration program. It may take a little more imagination, but by talking to your art and music teachers you will find they already have many suggestions and are probably already teaching math and science through their lessons.
Another option is to start with your favorite art form (Visual Arts, Music, Drama, Theater, or Dance). Scan through the arts curriculum. You may be surprised to find correlations that you didn't expect. Florida teachers can click here to find the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Visual Arts, Music, Dance, and Theater.
One teacher explains:
A fifth grade teacher at my school was teaching additive color theory in her classroom while I was teaching subtractive color theory my art room. When I met with her to discuss why our students were having such a hard time understanding the lesson, I discovered that she was having the same problem. Once we both changed our lessons to include both color theories, the students gained a better and more complete understanding of the theories of color instead of the confusion that resulted when two teachers gave seemingly conflicting information.
Selecting a Unit
Selecting a unit of study can also be successful. For example a unit on polygon shapes will become clearer when a student is making an abstract collage using only polygon shapes, developing a dance by using polygon shapes, or learning a new polygon song.
Sample: To expand understanding of geometry and measurement, have students:
- create an abstract tissue paper collage by using only quadrilateral shapes
- learn Peter Weatherall’s “Polygon Song”
- create shapes with their whole body, with body parts, with a partner
- read aloud The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burn
View a sample interdisciplinary unit plan about polygons.
Establishing a Theme for the Year
Perhaps your team will decide upon a global theme that will continue throughout the year such as ecology, a study of other cultures, or children around the world.
Choosing an Experience to Kick-Start Your Program
Attend or produce a play, invite a visit from a community arts group, attend or create a musical or dance performance, go on a field experience to an art museum, sculpture gallery, or ecological park.
For further discussion of arts integration based on a cultural/arts field experience, please see Partnering with Cultural Organizations.