Brianne Gidcumb | July 2015

But I’m Not an Artist: Tips for the Arts Novice

Tips For The Arts Novice

“But I’m not an artist*!” (*Substitute singer, dancer, or actor.) This is one of the main concerns I hear from classroom teachers with fears about integrating the arts into their classrooms. The concern is valid! As teachers, we are extensively trained in our content area(s). Stepping outside this curriculum comfort zone is scary. And the arts can be particularly intimidating. The arts are, at their core, a means of self-expression and something that can be deeply personal for many of us- opening that up to a classroom full of students can make even the most confident teacher experience some insecurity.

But have no fear! Today, I am sharing just a few basic tips to help you, the arts novice classroom teacher, take that first step into integrating the arts in your classroom!

Remember- your job is to facilitate!

The purpose of arts integration is not to put the teacher in the spotlight. The classroom teacher’s job is to facilitate students’ understanding of concepts through artistic processes. Because arts integration works best in settings where students have devoted general arts instruction to teach them the skills and practices they need in the arts, the classroom teacher doesn’t need to be the “expert” in the arts. The arts are a means for students to demonstrate their understanding through artistic processes. You, the teacher, facilitate this process as you would in any content area.

Start with big ideas and small steps.

If you are an arts novice, having a working knowledge of the “big ideas” in the arts will help you start to make connections. In addition, take small steps in integrating those big ideas into your classroom. As your comfort level and confidence with the arts increases, and you’ll find the walls between content areas begin to crumble away.

You can find free posters for download HERE on EdCloset, outlining the elements of the various art forms, including dance, drama, visual art, music, and design. Look at the poster for the Elements of Music– what connections can you make? Right away, I would see that one of the big ideas in music is form, which I could connect to patterns in math. I also see examples of timbre, including “light, airy, dark, mystical, etc.,” which are words I might use to describe mood or setting in a piece of literature. Go through these elements of the arts and jot down any big connections that jump out at you!

Find your comfort zone.

Have you always had a knack for drawing? Were you in a play in high school? Love music? Start with the art form you already have some level of comfort with. If you’ve always had a knack for theatre, start by incorporating some reader’s theatre, script writing, and tableau activities. Love dance? Then, have your students create choreography to express their understanding of content, such as plot sequencing or scientific processes like the water cycle. Download this free Arts Integration Strategies Toolkit for ideas in each arts area.

Want to learn more about how to integrate the arts with Common Core content? Check out our Common Core through the Arts self-paced, online class and receive 3 graduate credits or 120 CPU hours- 20% off registration for a limited time!

We’d love to hear your ideas about how to get started as a classroom teacher integrating the arts! Comment below with your great ideas!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: