Putting the Arts into Every Classroom

The Arts Go To School: Classroom-based activities that focus on music, painting, drama, movement, media, and more
Edited by David Booth and Masayuki Hachiya
(Stenhouse/Pembroke Publishers, 2004 – Learn more)

JennyJankowskiReviewed by Jennifer Jankowski

The Arts Go To School aims to provide guidance to classroom teachers or schools who wish to develop an arts program. As arts programs are cut, this book can give teachers ideas of how to incorporate arts into their curriculum and not leave it only for art class. This book would be especially helpful for upper elementary teachers.

the-arts-go-to-schoolThe book begins by discussing the importance of the arts. Subsequent chapters focus on a specific area of the arts: visual, music, drama, dance, media, and partnerships with artists. Each chapter explains the importance of a genre and gives examples of it in use.

As a math teacher, I found the section on Arts as Thinking and the chapter on Problem Solving in the Visual Arts interesting. The authors suggest that an art project requires students to observe the problem, formulate a strategy, predict the outcome, observe, and finally evaluate and assess their work.

This kind of thinking lends a nice comparison to solving a math problem. I like the idea that a classroom teacher or an art teacher can bridge those two subjects with the use of problem solving. I could imagine a nice collaboration between an art teacher and a math teacher where students go through the problem solving process while creating art that requires them to apply math. This could be the creation of scaled drawings or a mobile, for example.

Drama and Dance

“Drama is experiential, active learning.” The chapter on Drama has many ideas for language arts teachers to incorporate into their classrooms. Storytelling and improv are great activities to push students to understand characters in a story on a deeper level.

Drama games can help students connect as a group and they encourage social interaction. I can see how these activities could be incorporated into any classroom teacher’s launch of a new school year.

As more studies are showing the importance of movements in child development, I appreciate that the chapter on Dance suggested ways that dance can be included in math and science classrooms. Groups of students can demonstrate changes of state – solid, liquid, and gas. In math class, they can demonstrate the Pythagorean Theorem or measure the perimeter of the room using their bodies.

The Arts Go To School is a great book for school leaders or classroom teachers interested in expanding our students’ access to art. The book offers suggestions for a variety of content areas and can inspire teachers to come up with their own ideas on how to use dance, visual arts, music, drama, or media to teach a lesson.

Jennifer Jankowski taught middle school math for ten years. She is currently working for the University of Chicago Center for Elementary Math and Science Education on curriculum development. This fall she will be returning to the classroom. She lives in Chicago, IL.

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