Lauren Hodson | July 2017

The Importance of Starting Small

Teachers love their summer breaks.  It is a time to relax, recharge, reflect, and for many of us, reboot.  We take the necessary time we need and then begin thinking of the next year.  We may attend a professional development opportunity or a conference. We might fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole for hours at a time or scour the internet for new lesson ideas.

The good thing about this, is that it can energize us for a new year of teaching! The less attractive result is “information overload.” All of these new techniques, approaches, ideas, and lessons sound amazing and we immediately want to implement ALL of them! This can simply be, however, way too much at one time. I have fallen victim to over preparedness before.

I have some advice… Start small.

This might sound as though you are taking it too easy on yourself, but with small successes come large victories.

Getting Started

When I first started researching Arts Integration I was ALL IN! I loved everything about it. I don’t even teach at an Arts Integration school. Some of the teachers were doing Arts Enhancement, but in a middle school, it was less prevalent than in the elementary setting.

I wanted to do a total overhaul. I wanted everyone to see all the wonderful benefits that I did and buy-in with everything they had, like I did. This was a little too much. I was a little too much. So I dialed it back and started small. I used the Arts Integration “Jumpstart Your Efforts 30 Day Plan” found HERE.

Starting Small Action List

1. Limited Venue

I focused on my own visual arts classroom at first. I asked classroom teachers what they were working on in their content areas and began incorporating those ideas in my lessons. I made small connections and because I was not assessing the content areas, I was not attempting to teach through the arts, but incorporate common ideas that aligned with both content areas. Though this was more Art Enhancement, it encouraged teachers to reach out to me. When they saw the artwork made by their students, they had ideas of their own for future collaboration.  

2. Shared Arts Integration Strategies

I created a collection of Arts Integration Strategies that would be easy for content area teachers to implement, typed up easy to follow directions including examples, and I demonstrated these strategies during a professional development choice session. All the teachers were able to take something away from the experience. My personal favorite is the “See, Think, Wonder” Strategy. You can find out more about it HERE.

3. Collect Resources With a Vision

Understand the climate of your school. If your school is not ready for a full Arts Integration overhaul, it does not mean that you cannot introduce some benefits of Arts Integration in your own classroom. Find a few resources that you think fit your situation the best and focus on those.  This could be a collection of 3 lessons that you teach throughout the year, or make a routine of the “See, Think, Wonder” Arts Integration Strategies in your own classroom. You can browse Education Closet Lessons HERE. The results will be infectious and others will be interested in what you are doing. They just might want to join in.

Some Helpful Education Closet Links

  • Think Like An Artist HERE
  • From Pictures to Tableau HERE
  • Strategy Cards HERE

This summer, while you are diving into the planning process for the next school year, collect all the great ideas you can get your hands on. Though your collection might be huge, pick your favorites to try out in the fall. If those don’t work out, then you’ll have a treasure trove of others to pick from, but don’t forget to start small.

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.