Integrating art into your classroom

By | 2017-08-18T14:39:42+00:00 July 26th, 2017|For teachers|0 Comments

Arts integration might seem like such a daunting task to introduce to your classroom, but it truly is not a new concept. Since preschool, and throughout higher learning, teachers have tasked students to sing songs and dance, create models and structures, draw and design replicas, perform plays, take photographs and complete many other creative assignments. We took at look at 3 essential rules to remember when integrating art in your classroom.

1. Find a theme

Teachers should remember not to reinvent the wheel and first, consider the lessons that they are already teaching. For example, a teacher might be interested in introducing drama into their history class. They should focus on the events, political current, arts movements, literature and society of the timeframe already being discussed in class. Now, students can easily script and play out a historical event within the context of the lesson, recreate an act from an existing play or create their own based on a historical character of the time. Solidifying a theme will help students focus and formulate a deeper connection between the arts practice and the core lesson.

2. Focus on learning content deeper

When students learn and use information is different ways, more of the new information is embedded into their brain. Aside from the simple fact that students better perform with lessons that they are motivated by, learning through arts integration is actually linked to increased retention. So, teachers not only see a significant increase in engagement and participation, but also an increase in achievement. Projects that involve art organically empower students to problem-solve creatively, approach the material from many different angles, gain a unique understanding of the lesson and metaphorically, bring their projects to life.

3. Be brave enough to relinquish control

Relinquishing control is a scary thing for most teachers — but comes with the territory of allowing students to learn and perform creatively. A common concern for teachers is on how to assess students’ work that involves art. There is a set rubric for grading formal essays and multiple choice tests. But, there isn’t a customary way of teaching through art or grading the outcome. Open-ended arts projects need more careful evaluation, trust in students’ capabilities, room for exploration, discovery and excitement, and the ability to take a step back and watch students flourish on their own.

Kindergarteners can learn about the science of Color Theory in a fun way. “Kindergarten Watercolor Pumpkins” was shared by teacher Mitchellart in the USA. For this project, kindergarteners used 3 primary colors to make secondary colors. Take a look at Mithellart’s page to see more of their students’ creations.

What happens when teachers relinquish a bit of control?

Novel studies is incorporated in the standard language arts curriculum for schools in Winnipeg, Canada. Traditionally, a class of 20 some students is tasked to read a novel of the teacher’s choosing and individually complete the same assignment, focused on character development and other literary devices.

One teacher librarian decided to ask the students what they wanted to change about novel studies and how they’d like to be involved in the decision-making process. Together, with a bit of negotiation, the students decided that they’d like to work in small groups and choose their own novels. The teacher provided the class with mandatory criteria for the projects, but allowed her students to represent the artifacts of the various novels in their own ways.

In the end, all of the groups’ projects greatly exceeded expectations. Two groups completed their assignments using Minecraft. Another group wrote a sequel to their book. The final two groups took makerspace approaches, creating a physical model and a plasticine one. Whereas novel studies previously called for a standardized way of learning and responding, it now elicited 100% engagement, excitement and collaboration between students. It also allowed students to problem solve in their own creative ways, gave them the responsibility of researching and creating their designs by integrating art, and let them trust and nurture their own intrinsic creative curiosities.

Oftentimes, teachers tend to underestimate the creative capacity of students. Quite honestly, there is a kind of safety in worksheets, guided lessons and prescribed lectures. And besides, relinquishing control inevitably elicits more work for teachers. However, the benefits of allowing students to exercise their own creativity through self-guided, autonomous approaches outweighs the convention of formal lecture methods of teaching.

A great example of this was carried out by two male students in the class. At this particular time, the students were reading a novel in which trench warfare was at the core of the story. The students decided to create their own models of these trenches on Minecraft and share it via a Wiki page that the teacher created. The students visited a nearby war museum to research trenches and soon found out that their designs were flawed. They learned first-hand that trenches were created in a zigzag pattern instead of a straight line, as they initially thought. The students were so eager to correct their mistake, they took to Minecraft as soon as they got into the car on the way home.

Minecraft is a great educational tool to nurture students’ creativity while teaching core subjects, like engineering, math, art, history and more. This episode of the Creatubbles Minecraft Minute explores how to launch fireworks with a redstone detector rail. Visit the Creatubbles Minecraft Minute gallery for more STEM-based Minecraft challenges for your students.

Integrating art, providing autonomy, nurturing student creativity, providing a platform to spark curiosity — all while acting as a guide…

That’s a mouthful! But, it can be easily done through the Creatubbles platform. Teachers of any subject can create engaging, arts-integrated lessons over Creatubbles, like art algorithms, or a collaborative mural project to celebrate athletes. Students can write and illustrate their own stories to record over, make a short animated film exploring space, create their own music scores for history lessons, or insert their own unique artwork into a Minecraft build. Students also have the autonomy to find other creations that excite them, get inspired and connect with other schools around the world to send encouraging feedback, ask questions or collaborate.

Of course, teachers are wary of giving students free reign when using external tools — for good reason. Everything shared on Creatubbles (including messages) is monitored by our team. As well, teachers can act as a guide, creating dedicated galleries for student projects, facilitating collaboration between classes and managing each of their students’ accounts.

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Tish Seabrook. Copywriter at Creatubbles. Writer and former university lecturer. Interests: edtech, STEAM, arts integration.