“The ART” of the Warm-Up

6 Min Read  •  Behaviors

Recently, I was talking to an old friend, who has been a teacher for 6 years, about the difference between classroom management and behavior management strategies she uses in her science classroom.  (I should note that she teaches in a multi-cultural urban environment, with over-crowded classes to very bright yet sometimes disengaged students) We define classroom management as a set of procedures and systems that teachers use to guide student attentiveness and learning and to prevent misbehavior, while we define behavior management as strategies to eliminate difficult or unwanted behaviors that are preventing students from learning. Yet, the education community hasn’t clearly and fully defined the powerful role, or as I like to say, “The ART” of the daily Warm-Up. Let us simplify it for ourselves now.

It is no big secret…

Successful teachers not only possess content-area knowledge but they have also acquired a set of effective classroom management strategies and techniques that ensure they will have a safe classroom environment where meaningful learning can take place.  But “The ART” of the Warm-Up is a lovely way to transpose academic concepts into interactive learning!

Classroom vs. Behavior Management is often overlooked as necessary, yet two very different components for new and even sometimes veteran teachers to grasp. However, mastering both concepts create a much more conducive environment for learning, no matter the age of students. This sounds really great… Right? Dare I say…easy? But, let’s be honest, creating effective classroom management strategies is so complex it can take years for a teacher to develop a system that actually works in their classroom.  There are 3 basic components every teacher strives to have in their approach to effective classroom management techniques including: class rules & consequences, daily routines & procedures, and engaging & interesting lessons. 

For this conversation, I would like us quickly to focus on the routines and engaging lessons portion-spearheaded from the start of any class period.  Ask any impactful teacher and they will tell you the “Warm-Up” can set the tone for how a particular class period will go. As Educators, marrying ourselves to the Warm-up creates a vehicle for educational change, critical thinking skills in students and higher percentages of success with classroom and behavior management. While any passionate Science teacher would and probably should believe that biology class is literally the most interesting class a student can take at school, the mature and prepared teacher realizes that not all of their students may share a passion for science.  I was then asked, by my friend, for some suggestions on how to make class more engaging for her non-science loving students and I offered to her, “why not try integrating arts into her classroom lessons?”

Needless to say, her face went blank and she looked at me with what I can only describe as sheer fear, horror and confusion.  She quickly proceeded to tell me how she only has 52 minutes of classroom time after students get settled, and she didn’t want to waste any of it on art and music.  While I certainly understood her viewpoint, I could only assume she became so defensive because she doesn’t consider herself proficient in art and music and the idea of integrating any type of art into her science classroom felt like an overwhelming task she was unqualified to carry out.  After inquiring on her comfort level in implementing art integration modalities into her classroom because she isn’t artistically inclined, she confirmed my assumption. I simply said to her, “relax, you’ve heard of and utilized warm-ups, right? Well let’s make the warm-up your ART!”

After calming her down I explained to her that she could easily integrate art education into her daily warm-ups.  I asked, “Are warm-ups are given to students when they walk in the classroom, to help them focus and relax before daily instruction starts?” She agreed. I explained to her some of her non-science loving students may possibly enjoy completing a warm-up that additionally connects to other subjects and topics.  It may even help improve classroom participation from other students that do not normally connect to the content she teaches.  Most importantly, it wouldn’t really take any time from her instruction because it is done at the beginning of class to draw students into the lesson for the day and that it could literally take 5 minutes! I further explained that in instances where arts integration appears to be a difficult task for a purely academic teacher, “The Warm-Up” becomes an ART! The interactive nature of warming students up prior to a lesson creates an engaging and collaborative energy, (very similar to a Theater Arts class) which in and of itself allows your Warm-Up to become ART!

Nevertheless, she committed to creating Warm-Ups with artistic intention and implementing them at the start of each class.  One week she even found a song that had to do with Mitochondrial DNA and asked the students to watch and annotate the video.  To her surprise, she had students ask to complete projects where they could create their own songs. Wow! The students became totally enthused and interested in the lesson! During her introduction to the human body system she had students investigate the artists that painted the first internal and external portraits of the human body during the Renaissance period.  During this lesson, students were able to make connections to various disciplines in school, which she found out from colleagues, they later shared with their history teachers. Big Score! Students actively engaged in learning.

Well, if you’re reading this, you are already aware that Integrating Arts Education into your classroom helps to spark students’ creativity and imagination, while also helping them make connections to other content areas. However, in the absence of a song, or poem, or visual art piece…creating solid Warm-Up opportunities before the start of each class promotes creativity in the student and encourages learning! Warm-ups are conduits to Arts Integration lessons.

So, how can you integrate arts education into your classroom? Even if, as an academic teacher, you feel that you aren’t proficient in any particular art form, begin by always remembering that “The Warm-Up” becomes an ART! A few quick suggestions on 5 components each Warm-Up could have:

  • Physical Interaction
  • Content Review (tie into lesson)
  • Sparks Discussion or Feedback
  • Flexibility & Creativity
  • Practical Application or Social Relevance

Utilizing the Warm-Up as ART, while ensuring inclusion of these components for any warm-up, for any academic subject, will certainly aid in creating an Arts Integrated learning environment for students… even for the non-artistic educator!

Be Innovative! Be Creative! Be Great!

Yours in Service,

Dr. D. Brunson

About the Author: Dermell Brunson was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. He graduated from Baltimore School for the Arts as a Theatre Major. Dr. Brunson is a Founder of Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center, Inc. (LTYC) a non-profit organization that develops social, academic, and artistic skills in youth through performing & creative Arts, life skills training, summer and after school programming. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Counseling, is an active Alumni of Camp Dudley, YMCA in Westport, NY, a member of the Rotor-act Club International, and currently sits on the Alumni Advisory Council for the Baltimore School for the Arts. Dr. Brunson’s primary goals in life are to influence youth to make relevant decisions in their lives, to maximize their gifts & strengths and to build stronger families.