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Budget cuts have been happening for quite some time and when programs are axed, the arts are usually the first to go.
We live in a time when the arts aren’t appreciated as much as they used to be. Students are not given the chance to form opinions about art, music and theatre simply because exposure is not a priority.
I still believe the arts are important and students need to be exposed to different types of art in order to form educated opinions about it.
Mondays and Fridays are dedicated ‘art days’ in my classroom. We talk about elements of art, art history, artists and technique throughout the year. My first and second grade students have already formed opinions about Picasso, Pollack and Van Gogh. Even if students come out of the year not liking one particular artist more than another, they have still come away with an opinion about this type of art form. And they have been exposed to masterpieces that they might possibly get to visit in the years to come.
So what do you do if your school doesn’t have an art program or if you, as a teacher, feel like you can’t teach ‘art’?
Art integration is a great solution. Tying art concepts, such as primary colors, lines and texture, into a science or social studies unit is easy to accomplish, even in the tightest of schedules. Most kids, especially younger ones, are tactile. They love to experience things with their hands. Tying art in with a unit not only reinforces information because students are ‘doing’ it also works on other developmental skills such as hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Art stretches across all subjects. We talk about lines and shape in math. We discuss color and using recipes in science. And remember there are genres of art and individual artists to go along with every piece of history we teach.
Music appreciation is also easy to implement along with history units. Social studies, after all, is about introducing different cultures to your classroom so of course music should be a part of that learning experience. Teaching the regions of the United States? There are a variety of music styles that are indigenous to each region. Discussing the Civil War? Several styles of music served that era.
Theatre is a bit more of a challenge to introduce. Most school districts have discontinued field trips so the classroom must become the stage. Getting creative with assignments is one way to approach this. For example I require book reports each month and will work through each book genre. I have a different format for each of these reports and several times I have grouped students together and had them write a scene from the book. We have also read a classic novel as a group then watched the screenplay and compared the two. No matter how it’s done, if teachers view the arts as a critical part of education then they will find a way to teach them.