Arts Integration often begins with simple strategies. This is great because it gives teachers and students a quick-win and encourages more in-depth lessons later on. We often recommend starting with these 75 arts integration strategies. They are short, effective and easily weave into any content area.
Another technique is to use the Masterpiece approach. Each week, choose a masterpiece of visual art, music, writing, dance, or theater. Each day of the week, explore it in a different way. Not only does this give students structure and routine to rely on, but it provides the teacher with a venue for integration, highlighting the connections (and blurring the lines) between subject areas, and teaching traveling vocabulary words that apply to multiple subjects.
Vocabulary tip: Dr. Isabel Beck categorized highly specialized words, such as vocabulary words from specific subject areas (i.e. octave, democracy). Academic vocabulary is not included in a tier. Instead, these words are labeled as “traveling words”, because they include terms students need in order to be successful on a test, and they also cross disciplines through common vocabulary terms. These are words such as “determine”, “analyze”, “judge”, “elements”, etc. Find more information here.
These can be used in the activity portion of your morning meeting, but they can be used as a stand-alone activity or warm up each day.
A Week at a Glance:
Each Monday, project a famous (or curriculum connected) piece of visual art, famous architecture, writing, music, or video clip from a famous dance or theater performance. There are so many that it can be overwhelming, so below, you’ll find resources to help focus your search. Of course, your first step should be your school’s art and music teacher. They may be able to provide you with everything you need to get started. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert on the masterpiece, you simply need to help the students explore it.
As a follow-up, share background information about the artist in the form of a thumbnail sketch. If possible, discuss how they (or their creation) made a difference in the world, and see if students can identify character traits that the artist possesses that they can connect to.
On Tuesdays, highlight one of the technical aspects of the masterpiece. You can analyze a specific technique that an artist, musician, writer, etc. has done through their work. If you have a specific pacing guide, strategically choose a Monday Masterpiece that demonstrates a skill, technique, or element you need to teach. This can be extended by allowing students to experiment with the technique found in the masterpiece. To help with your background information, use resources such as MetKids or Composers for Kids.
Wednesdays are an opportunity to reach outside the walls of the classroom. If it is important to the work, use technology and maps to explore the location where the masterpiece took place or where it was created. Google Earth is a fantastic resource for this, as well as Google Expeditions and Google 360.
Alternatively, this day could be a chance to connect to others around the world. You can do this through Seesaw Connected Blogs, which are quick and easy to set up if you use Seesaw. (Which is also quick and easy to set up!). Through the blog, classes can connect to an interested class of the same grade level in another state or country. Students could share what they are learning, see what the other class is learning, and interact with other students’ posts by commenting. Or, students can simply communicate with one another to learn more about life in a different community or culture. This same type of outreach can be completed through an educational Skype.
Thursdays are a chance for your students to express themselves, in turn, interacting with the masterpiece more deeply. Students can act out the scene in a painting, or interact with it using a strategy such as Step Into the Painting. Students can create a soundscape. Additionally, students could role-play, create a reader’s theater based on the masterpiece, or even participate in interpretive dance to enhance their interaction with the piece.
Fridays are a culmination day to help students stop, reflect, and retain new knowledge. There are many options for a cumulative review. Choose what works best for your students and the amount of time you have.
Flashback Friday Activity Choices:
- Quick Write: Have students complete a quick write (10 minutes or less where you write as fast as you can) that shares everything they remember about the artwork and historical event. (Allow students to look back at notes, maps, or the painting to help jog their memory if they’d like. You’re not trying to “catch them” not remembering, you’re trying to see what stuck with them, and sometimes a visual sparks a memory. Remind them that the goal is not to copy directly, but to free write, kind of like a brain dump.)
- Vlog it: Have students record a video of everything they remember. They can do this on Flipgrid or Seesaw and interact with each other’s posts.
- Draw it: Have students draw a narrative picture, using this as a mentor piece, to depict a memorable event at school. Then, have them write a brief artist’s statement to explain what aspects of this painting (similar composition, dramatic effects, etc.) they used in their own work.
- Carousel: Have students sit in groups of 4 – 6. Give each person a piece of paper. Have them write one fact they remember from this week’s exploration. After writing the fact, pass the paper clockwise. Next, they should write a new fact on the new paper, however, it can’t be the same as the one they already wrote, and it can’t be the same as the one that is already written. Continue this process until the group runs out of things to write about.
- “Yes, And…” Try the “Yes, and…” strategy. Have the class sit in a circle. Have one student make a statement about something they remember. Another student should say, “Yes, and…” and add a new fact. Continue this process until the whole class runs out of ideas. Find this strategy on page 3 of EducationCloset’s Arts Integration Strategies.
Ready to Try It?
To get started, find the above slides with accompanying teacher directions and links here: Sample of a week of no-prep theme days. I created them based on the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. The slide deck is designed for a social studies class, but depending on the activities you choose, it could be more personalized for your specific content area. In the presenter notes, I have included the mini-lesson that accompanies each day.
Ready to customize your own? Here is a free Google Slides template that you can customize with masterpieces that match your content. It does take a little time each week to strategically choose a masterpiece, but if you revise and save a new slide deck each week, you will soon have a library that lasts for the whole year.