CPR for Creative Classrooms

By |2021-03-01T09:01:15-07:00March 9th, 2021|

Sparkchasers Episode 26 | Show Notes

CPR for Creative Classrooms

Today, our show is going to be a little different. Instead of just chatting about a specific topic, I want to lead you through a training that you can use to immediately impact your classroom. AND give you PD hours for it.

In this episode, you’ll learn how to save time in your curriculum and increase success with arts integration and STEAM. It’s called the CPR framework and we’ve used it with hundreds of schools.

Here’s what we’re covering in this episode:

  •  The 3-step framework that takes the guesswork out of arts integration and STEAM…
  •  Why arts integration and STEAM efforts fail – the secret that most people won’t tell you…
  •  A simple creative strategy that will immediately boost student engagement and deepen understanding…
  •  And how to save time by embedding creative methods in your curriculum

PD Certificate

Once you listen to episode, just head over here for your PD certificate. You’ll answer a short 5-question quiz and get a personalized PD certificate for 1 hour. It definitely pays to listen this week!


Prefer to read instead of listen? Or maybe you want to follow along while listening for maximum impact. Either way, here’s a full transcript of today’s episode.

I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re a passionate educator who is committed to helping all your students thrive. You know how I know that? Because you wouldn’t be here otherwise. You’re not doggy paddling your way through teaching – you’re the seasoned swimmer dedicated to taking positive action and you know the power of creativity.  

Now…here’s a little bit about me. I’ve been an educator for almost 20 years at this point. I’ve worked with thousands of educators around the world to use arts integration and STEAM for the past decade, so I can tell you without a doubt that creativity changes the game in education. I’ve seen the results myself: increased student achievement, positive social-emotional development, and teachers who are more joyful in their teaching.  I’m a mom to a beautiful girl named Emma and I’m her biggest fan.  My husband Kevin is a concrete construction project manager who tries really hard to understand my educanese when we chat at the dinner table.  And I love the ocean, good food, and reality TV. 

That last bit gets me in trouble because I always have to remind myself that those reality shows on TV aren’t real, right? As much as I love a good Real Housewives binge, I know in the back of my head what I’m seeing isn’t reality. The producers create a character for each person. They might decide that this one person needs to be the villain in the show. And then, as they go through hours of film, they use only the segments that fit that role as the villain. Everything else gets lost on the cutting room floor. 

This happens with us as educators all the time. We begin to filter our teaching through a set of storylines and other possibilities get dropped along the way. We scroll our social feeds and curate our expectations. We begin to give ourselves unrealistic expectations for a perfect, color-coordinated classroom (whether that’s in person or the latest Bitmoji craze) and forget that photos can be cropped and edited. Or, we read others accounts of their insane schedule navigating both face-to-face and remote learning simultaneously, or the principal who makes them read word-for-word from a pacing guide when we’re just over here trying to figure out how to connect with students in front of a screen. And we begin to buy-in to the story that this is how schools are now. We begin to see that reflected in our own school. And then, we shut down any possibility for something different.  And when that happens, things get dangerous. 

We start to feel overwhelmed, stressed-out, and unsupported in our jobs. We sacrifice our weekends to lesson planning and we can never seem to catch up. And when someone suggests trying to incorporate something creative or fun into our curriculum, we think to ourselves “yeah right – when would I have time for that?” 

But here’s the thing. Creativity isn’t canceled. There are schools and classrooms out there that are using creative approaches like arts integration and STEAM or PBL and they are seeing success – even right now in this crazy time. They are still able to get through their curriculum. The students are creating and processing and learning– even at a distance – and the teachers enjoy logging in or going to work. Yes, it’s work, but these educators truly love their jobs and feel supported by their colleagues and administrators.  

It may sound like these are unicorn schools or teachers – that they don’t really exist. But that’s only because this possibility hasn’t come into your filter yet. As an arts integration specialist who has worked in and with schools for almost 20 years, I can tell you this is a reality for many educators. Yes…even now during the Pandemic. The only question is how to make it a reality for you. 

And the answer is simple. Look for a different story. Seek out the teachers who use arts integration and STEAM and PBL. Ask them questions. Explore a new strategy or two and see if it works for you. Be open to the possibilities and see where that might take you. Because you deserve better than stressed-out and overwhelmed and feeling like you’re bracing for impact all the time. We need creativity now more than ever. And that’s what we’re covering in this training. Here’s my promise to you: by the end of this training, you’ll learn how to save time, make progress and see success with arts integration and STEAM, no matter where you’re teaching from this year.  Ready? Let’s dive in.

Creativity vs. Test Scores

Now let me ask you something. Have you ever felt torn between creativity and test scores? Of course you have. We see it every day in our classrooms and at our core, we have a feeling of unease. Even with everything going on in this season, test scores are still sitting in the back of our minds. And here’s the thing: We know that creativity isn’t a soft skill –  it’s essential to navigating and experiencing the world. But at the same time, we have a tough reality as educators that test scores matter more than they should. So we hold off on creative approaches like arts integration and STEAM because we’re worried about time and resources. We’re concerned that if we spend time on planning or teaching an arts integrated lesson, we won’t be able to get through the curriculum – which is tough enough to get through in a normal year, much less now. And that curriculum is what we’re measured on. So we typically do one of two things: 

  1. We hop online, scroll our way through mountains of worksheets, downloads and videos, collecting resources for someday. Someday…when we finally have time for something fun.  Or 
  1. We dismiss this idea of arts integration and STEAM as nice to have, but not something we could do at MY school. 

And neither one of those things sits right. But we can’t find a way around it. We continue to feel overwhelmed and stressed out by everything we have to cover, all while trying to manage student behaviors, support a rising need for social-emotional learning needs, and sift through mounds of grading, IEPs and paperwork.  We’re passionate educators who love teaching, but are so frustrated and disappointed by the realities of the job. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We are facing an epidemic of unseen proportions of teachers who are feeling unsupported. Teachers who want to infuse more creativity into their classrooms, but are exhausted from fighting the battle between test scores and creativity.  

Here’s what most people won’t tell you: the more creativity you infuse, the better your test scores will be. The more students will show up – even if they’re online – and engage with the content and with each other. Schools who use arts integration intentionally see increases in student test scores, increased student attendance and decreased negative student behaviors. They also see increased teacher retention and higher levels of teacher satisfaction. The best part is the opportunity to integrate that creativity is already there, hidden inside your curriculum. You just need to know how to find it and use it with intention. 

Arts integration and STEAM are approaches to learning, not a set curriculum. These are simply ways of meeting the access points for all learners in your classroom. And if you think you’re not creative, think again. As humans, we were creating art and music and dance before we learned to feed ourselves. Every human has an artistic access point that gives us a way of experiencing the world. Whether it’s singing in the car on the way to work or doodling during a staff meeting, YOU have a unique way of processing and moving through life. The same is true of your students. Integrating the arts into your curriculum is a way you can connect with and teach your students that makes learning relevant and engaging. 

I know you’re worried about time. Me too. It’s the only resource we can’t make more of. But arts integration and STEAM actually save you time in the curriculum. These approaches take your bulky curriculum and condense it to direct instruction of a topic, followed by an arts integrated experience that allows students to apply their learning in a meaningful way. So instead of teaching, reteaching and reteaching some more, you can streamline your content, make it more fun and see students make progress faster. What once took you 4-5 lessons can now take you 2-3.  

But how do we do that? In just a minute, I’m going to show you how to turn your lesson planning on its head. Before we get to that, there’s something about arts integration and STEAM that most people won’t tell you: most arts integration and STEAM efforts don’t work on their own. 

And that’s unfortunate because the benefits of these approaches are nothing short of extraordinary. Even still, many educators get frustrated when they first try arts integration and STEAM. They spend a lot of time and money working on curriculum or buying items for a new makerspace. They get a lot of buzz around their school for being innovative and might even get some good attendance at a parent night or a spread in the local paper. But then…everything stalls. There might be some cool 3-D printed projects or a fun use of music to help remember math facts. But when we look at the data, scores remain stagnate. Students are engaged, but they aren’t making progress. Teachers are feeling more overwhelmed than ever because it feels like they are constantly planning or creating more resources or buying more materials. But what’s the outcome? More stressed teachers and students who are stuck. So what gives? 

Context and Content

This happens when we don’t provide context and content. Let’s talk about the first component: context. The truth is that arts integration exists on a continuum. There are 5 shades of integration: enhancement, theme-based, inquiry-driven, co-taught and finally arts integration. It’s important for teachers to recognize where they are on the continuum before jumping into implementation. If I’m using arts enhancement, it will be nearly impossible for me to jump all the way over to arts integration. Knowing this continuum provides context for where your school is in the process and helps everyone take next steps based on where they are. 

The second component to more successful arts integration and STEAM efforts is content. You’ve got to have foundational content in arts integration to use as a starting point. This includes arts-integrated strategies, standards-based lessons, connected assessments and PD. That sounds like a lot and it is. But, you can use a simple strategy that takes very little time to begin shifting to this kind of approach. It’s called the CPR framework: Curriculum, PD and Resources. THIS is what’s going to shift your lesson planning and get you results from using arts integrated methods. Here’s how it works: 


Start with your Curriculum. Look for 2-3 places in your current curriculum where students STRUGGLE. These 2-3 areas are perfect for an arts integration lesson. You’ll begin by looking at your lessons in those areas and replacing your reteaching lessons with an arts integration lesson instead. You’ll still provide direct instruction on the concept, but instead of spending days reteaching and extending that topic, you’ll substitute in an arts integration lesson to help students apply the concepts. That means you’re not adding one more thing to your plate. You’re simply swapping what doesn’t work for something more engaging and relevant. That’s step one.  

Professional Development

Step 2 is Professional Development. This doesn’t have to be a full PD day – though it can be if you’re further along on the continuum. This can actually just be learning one or two effective arts-based strategies that you can integrate into your curriculum. One or two strategies that you can use as a hook or as an exit ticket that begins to weave arts-focused content into your curriculum. A great example of this is the “What makes you say that?” strategy. Every time students observe a piece of artwork or illustration, ask students to describe something they notice. Then, ask them “What makes you say that?” It encourages students to stop, consider their reasoning and provide evidence. This can then be used in ANY content area when students share their thoughts on a topic. 


Step 3 is Resources. At this point, you’ll begin pulling in some resources to support your efforts. These can be simple items like common vocabulary word walls with terms that are in both content and fine arts areas. Words like tone, color, movement, and expression can be shown in multiple content areas to provide an instant access point for integration. Or, you could have arts integration placemats that are available for all students as a reference for all elements and practices across content areas.  

I want you to go back through our CPR framework: curriculum, PD and resources. What do you already have that you can use for this process? Pause for a minute, jot that down and then when you’re ready, hit play again so we can start to pull this all together.

Ready? So far in this training, we’ve seen the impact integrating the arts can have on students and teachers, and you’ve learned how to use the CPR strategy to begin infusing more creative approaches into your curriculum without adding more to your plate. But there’s one ingredient missing from this process. It’s a single word that literally will make the difference between continuing to feel overwhelm and pressure through a testing mindset and experiencing the joy of teaching you set out to achieve. 

It all comes down to the word AND. You see, it’s not either/or. It’s not either we focus on the tested content or we integrate creative experiences. It’s and. It’s both. You don’t have to sacrifice your curriculum or your time to integrate the arts. You can have more time. You can not only get through your curriculum – you can see your students thrive in it. You can see test score rise AND focus on creative approaches. Because the more you integrate the arts with intention into your curriculum, the more success you’ll see. The more we can focus on the process, the better the product becomes. And if you don’t believe me, go back and look at the research we talked about at the very beginning of this training. It’s all there. We just have to make the shift. 

Luckily, you now have the CPR framework to help. Remember: Curriculum and PD and Resources are the 3 things any successful arts integration or STEAM effort needs. It’s not enough to have just one of these elements. You need to have all 3 in place in order for it to work. 

Now, when schools and teachers use CPR, they begin to see momentum right away. Students get excited about their learning. Teachers light up watching their students be fully engaged in their classroom – either online or in person. Behavior issues are minimized because students want to participate. And administrators start to see the data that helps them buy-in and support the work.  But this doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s important that you implement this in the right sequence to have the maximum impact. Sequence is key here. If you try to hop in with a single PD day that demos a bunch of strategies, but don’t offer continuous support or lessons, what happens? We might use one of those strategies every once in a while, but nothing with consistency. Or, let’s say we give teachers a bunch of lessons or even a full curriculum suite. But then, we don’t have time for PD that breaks down how to use the lessons and assessments. What happens? Overwhelm and frustration. So implementing this in the right sequence: curriculum, continuous PD, and relevant resources is going to be THE thing that sets you up for success.

Now let’s not forget that concern about time. What if you don’t have time to write an arts integration or STEAM lesson that can replace an outdated reteaching lesson?  What if you need more than just some strategies in your PD? What if you need to see how this works in other classrooms with other teachers?  And what if you don’t have the time to create those resources that can be shared with other teachers and students?   

Honestly, that’s why our organization exists. You DON’T have time to do that. You need to be spending your valuable minutes actually teaching. One of the things I loved about being an Arts Integration Specialist for a large district was creating the lessons, resources, and PD that my teachers needed, when they needed it. They would call up my office and say “hey…I need a set of posters with common vocabulary terms” and we would create them and send them out.  But, that’s a luxury most teachers don’t have access to.  I mean – do YOU have an arts integration office that can do that for you?  If you do, you’re really lucky and I’m super excited for you. 

But if you’re like most educators I know, you don’t. So our organization created an online platform called the Accelerator that you can use to address all of these needs. We’ve taken our decades of work with schools, gone through the research, and figured out the process you need to use to see the best results for using arts integration and STEAM, and then placed it in a simple platform that educators can access from anywhere. AND we provide a streamlined process to implement the CPR framework the right way. There’s a full K-12 curriculum supplement with done-for-you lessons and assessments, a set of professional resources, and accredited online courses for PD built right in. 

The Accelerator makes integrating creativity into your teaching so much easier and takes away the stress of time and overwhelm. So you can see both student success AND enjoy more creative teaching experiences.  If you’re not already a member and this sounds like something you’d like to explore, I invite you to join us in the Accelerator. We’d love to welcome you to the Creative Classroom movement with the thousands of educators in our program! Just head over to artsintegration.com/accelerator for all the details. 

No matter what, I hope this free training has given you some helpful tools and a clear framework to use with arts integration and STEAM. We need creativity now more than ever. This is a challenging time for education, but we can and will rise – together. Because that’s what educators like us do. I’m so excited you’re a part of our community and can’t wait to connect with you further to unlock the power of creativity for every child, every day.

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