Deirdre Moore | December 2014

Arts Integration: It May Be Closer Than You Think

Recently, I was admiring a collection of  “Winter Cards” made by a colleague’s 2nd and 3rd grade students.  It turns out the teacher was inspired by something he’d seen on Pinterest. (construction paper pine trees spattered with white paint “snow”).   He wanted the students to practice their friendly letter writing. He thought the Pinterest-inspired winter cards would give the students both an authentic audience and an opportunity to create some art.  If you are a classroom teacher looking for a comfortable way to dip your toe in the arts integration pool, and this activity sounds comfortable to you,with a little research and planning you could easily upgrade it from an arts enhanced language arts lesson to an arts integrated lesson.

You may feel comfortable creating the language arts objective of the lesson plan and finding an art idea. But, how do you make it an arts integrated lesson?  You’ll need an art objective, too.

So, how do you determine that?

First, take a look at the art sample you discovered.  What do you notice?  When I look at the image supplied by Mrs. King on “A Day in the Life of This Art Teacher” I notice several things. Collage utilizing construction paper and paint; trees all different shades of greens, blues and grays. Trees created by folding paper in half and cutting a zig-zag line; some of the trees are slightly raised off the paper; some trees look like they are in the background because other trees are layered on top.  Any one of these observations could lead to a great arts integration lesson.

Now, you need an arts objective.  If you are lucky enough to have an art teacher at your school, try asking them if they have an objective that might work for your project and might also relate to something the students are studying in art class.  If you are not so lucky to have such a resource in your school, take a look at the visual arts standards your district uses to see if any of the things you noticed in the model art piece are mentioned in the standards.

For example, using the California state standards I might choose:

2.1 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of basic tools and art-making processes, such as printing, crayon rubbings, collage, and stencils.

If your district is already adopting the new National Arts Standards, then you can visit their website,, and customize your search looking for your grade level in the Visual Art section.  You might decide to use:

Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.

Once you’ve found the standard, than you can set an objective about making collage. With your objectives for language arts and visual art determined, you get to shift into what you do best – breaking down the steps needed to help your students reach the stated objectives.  Show them examples of collage you find on-line,  introduce them to the term “collage”, ask if they can use evidence from the examples to create a definition, etc.  When you determine they understand what constitutes a collage, then you can model the process for your particular project.

Like trying to reach any new destination, designing an arts integrated lesson takes more time, research and planning in the beginning.  Eventually, however, the arts may likely become such a familiar and favorite destination that you could get there with your eyes closed and really enjoy the trip.  So pull out the map and check it out.  Arts Integration may be closer than you think!

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.