Dyan Branstetter | October 2019

How to Teach a Student Teacher to Integrate the Arts

I love working with student teachers. The enthusiasm and cutting edge ideas always rub off on me and I end up learning a lot! My most recent preservice teacher was no different. She was excited to take on a class of third graders! 

My student teacher was fantastic at lesson planning but, as most student teachers, hadn’t had a great deal of experience leading a classroom of learners. At the time, we were about to begin a unit of study on Ancient China. She mentioned that she thought about to do some Chinese ribbon dancing with the students, but opted not to. 

When I questioned why, her response was this: “If they’re out of their seats, I can’t control them.” 

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There are infinite studies that support the concept of movement increasing student learning, amongst other positives. In her case, she just didn’t have the experience to help her manage a class of movers. But this made me wonder… How many other teachers have a similar thought? – That it is easier to manage students when they are performing a quiet task versus a (most likely) chaotic one? 

Part 1: Supporting Student Teachers with Classroom Management Needs

The Basics: 

In general, I believe that a well-planned lesson or unit with a real-world connection that gives students voice and choice drastically cuts down on typical behavior problems that crop up. However, I also believe that every learning experience is an opportunity to teach social skills and appropriate behavior. 

Restorative Discipline vs. Punitive Discipline: Know the Difference

It is important to fully realize the difference between restorative versus punitive discipline. Some students simply have not learned certain behavioral skills, so we need to teach them. As Tom Herner, NASDE President, said, “If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach. If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach. If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach… if a child doesn’t know how to behave, we… punish?” 

Therefore, when helping student teachers quickly grasp classroom management, I find it is helpful to make sure they understand the “why” behind their procedures, rewards, and consequences. Start with a well-designed lesson that can generate student buy-in, and teach expected behaviors along the way. Don’t assume anything. If something goes wrong, stop, demonstrate the desired behavior, and proceed. Repeat this procedure, without blame, until everyone understands. 

Managing an Arts Integrated Classroom

Managing an Art-Integrated class comes with its own unique challenges. If you’re interested in gaining more tips and strategies for managing Arts Integrated lessons and activities, check out EducationCloset’s Classroom Management in Creative Classrooms Online Class. Even if you’ve taught with this approach for years, you’ll be sure to gain some new tricks for your toolbag!

Consistent, Non-Evaluative Feedback:

It is helpful to allow the student teacher to demonstrate leadership in the class. I refrain from jumping in to rescue lessons when they start to go the wrong direction. Instead, I keep stream-of-consciousness, non-evaluative observational notes on a Google Doc that is shared in with the student teacher. After the lesson, we reflect and chat together. I guide her in deciding how, in hindsight, she would have handled certain situations. We discuss her reflections and set little goals for how she would handle a similar situation in upcoming lessons. 

Keeping it Positive

Student teaching can be a stressful time, especially when someone is critically watching you teach every moment of the day- I find these casual chats to be much more effective than the official evaluative observations. In addition, student teachers have the Google Doc containing suggestions and ideas to refer to if they encounter a similar situation. 

Just like our students, student teachers will thrive on positive encouragement. Make sure to point out their strengths frequently! I once heard an instructional coach state that many teachers burn out because they work really hard on the wrong things. Teach student teachers your effective time management tips and tricks. Help them distinguish between critical elements of the teaching profession (instructional design, management, and relationship building) and non-essential elements (bulletin boards, contests, lunchroom gossip). Help them to work smarter, not harder. 

Part 2: The Basics of Arts Integration and STEAM

Many pre-service teachers come to their student teaching experience either having no experience with Arts Integration  or not realizing the difference between Arts Integration and Arts Enhancement. Since I use this approach heavily within my instruction, I like to share a crash course with my student teachers so that we are on the same page. 

A Crash Course in Arts Integration for PreService Teachers

EducationCloset has many free resources to help teachers wrap their minds around Arts Integration. Here are some of my favorites for sharing with teachers who are just beginning their journey as an Arts Integrated teacher.

Start at our page title What Is Arts Integration? It includes a perfect video introduction from Susan Riley, EducationCloset Founder and CEO. It also shares a list of best practices and the steps of the Arts Integration Process, as follows:  

Arts Integration Process From EducationCloset

  1. Pick the topic/idea you want to teach.
  2. Collaborate with arts educators to align naturally connected standards and develop a lesson that interweaves both standards equitably.
  3. Teach the lesson ensuring that there is integrity to both subjects.
  4. Assess student work in both content areas.

After watching the video together, we discuss the process. I share these articles and resources to help me answer questions and to provide further explanations: 

  1. The Arts Integration & STEAM Implementation Guide expands upon the steps in the process. It also provides a great visual for Accelerator members.
  2. To answer questions about the difference between Arts Enhancement, Arts Integration, and STEAM, I share this information. The infographic provided is a fantastic resource for student teachers to tuck in their binder so they can refer to it as they plan. If they are overwhelmed with the basics, they will have it to refer back to as they grow. 
  3. As I plan arts-integrated lessons with student teachers, these resources help support us. The amount that I introduce really depends on the student teacher. Some need immense support in the area of classroom management or lesson design, so we only get as far as step 1, described below. However, sometimes, a student teacher is ready to fly on their own, and he or she may be ready to digest all of the information, even up to designing assessments. Just like with our students, we need to identify strengths and needs and differentiate instruction from there.

    Ready to Implement?

    1. Step 1: Arts Integration strategies are a great way to tiptoe into Arts Integration. They are nearly foolproof! Student teachers love them because they can simply follow the directions for the strategy and they can lead an effective activity. Find a pdf them here: Arts Integration Strategy Cards 
    2. Step 2: We talk about when we should integrate the arts with the resource How to Find a Natural Fit
    3. Step 3: When I feel my student teacher has a solid understanding of the Arts Integrated approach, we move from strategies to lesson planning. I share this information to help support this step. Strategy to Lesson Professional Development Printable.
    4. Step 4: For student teachers who have really mastered the basics, delve into the world of standard alignment. This resource has directions on how to align standards and comes with sample lesson seeds as examples. This is a great follow-up to step 3 as student teachers are revising and refining their newly written lessons.
    5. Step 5: Many times, depending on how long the placement is, student teachers aren’t with you long enough to really dive into creating assessments. However, part of arts integration is “…content that is taught and assessed equitably in and through the arts.” This resource is a great next step to provide for once they have a classroom of their own: Tips for Creating Integrated Assessments.

The Importance of Student Teachers

Supporting and training our preservice teachers is such an important job. Indeed, the future of our profession depends on it. Advocate for our craft and the skills, combined with passion, that it takes to be effective. Identify the gaps that you had as a preservice teacher and strive to fill them as you share your expertise with future teachers. My hope is that these resources and suggestions make that job easier for you. Just think about the exponential number of students you will reach through your protégés!

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.