When I first began teaching, the arts were part of elementary school students' daily curriculum. However, tight budgets, high stakes testing, and a heavy focus on literacy, science, and math have brought an end to that. These days, teachers tend to incorporate the arts around the holidays or when there is "extra time" But the abandoned arts can help students to master Common Core standards: enhancing creativity, increasing self-confidence, promoting collaboration, and offering alternative ways to assess learning.
When Benjamin Bloom identified what he called the taxonomy of the cognitive domain, he ranked synthesis (creativity) as one of the most difficult skills to master because a person has to use all of the other cognitive skills in the creative process. Since, according to Bloom, creating is the highest order of thinking, it should be in the forefront of all learning environments and an end goal. When students create what they imagine, they are operating in their driver’s seat.
When I taught students with disabilities, I loved incorporating art in most of the assignments I taught. I realized that the students also loved participating in art assignments and they actually were motivated to complete their work. There are two main areas of art that I planned weekly and the students and I enjoyed them immensely. The areas are Visual Arts and Drama.
Visual Arts encourage speaking, listening, and vocabulary development skills. Art is particularly powerful when it allows students to communicate learning when students cannot express it through writing. For example, when I incorporated art in my lessons, my English Learners and Students with special needs making connections to historical figures (Martin Luther King, Jr, & Cesar Chavez) and each other through drawings and spoken words. Their work provided evidence that they were able to effectively communicate with each other to understand and complete the assignment.
Drama encourage role playing. Students are able to better understand a story, character, or event if they are able to physically act it out. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are part of the process, but all students can participate to gain understanding. For English learners, I use pictures and retell the story orally, while they act it out physically. Students can also work collaboratively to write their own stories and act them out for friends. Students can take turns in the "hot seat" to understand character. Students take on the role of a character (fictional or real) and sit in the "hot seat," where they answer the questions of a curious public. Students ask the wolf, "Why did you eat the little pigs?" They question Ruby Bridges, "Were you scared when people yelled at you when you walked to school each day?"
Try using art with your students who are having problems writing or difficulties understanding the lesson. Normally students with reading difficulties enjoy art.
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