6 Reasons I Want My Kids to Learn Through the Arts in Schools
Schools are changing, by necessity and through driven educators, but is happening s – l – o – o – o – w – l – y! I’m really itching to see changes occur at a much faster pace at this point in my life! My own children are at an age where I’m incessantly looking for something significantly different. I continuously explore the variety of alternatives available. This post will discuss learning through The Arts in schools — not as a side activity, but actually using the arts as the method to teach. Teaching math, reading, writing, science, social studies, etc. through music, movement, drawing, theater, poetry, etc.
Will teaching through the arts fix everything that is missing in education? It’s not likely. But it can vastly improve the experience and results for kids and our communities. According to Linda Crawford in her book Lively Learning: Using the arts to teach the K-8 Curriculum, there are 6 powerful reasons for integrating the arts into the daily curriculum and I will explore each of these below.
1. The arts make the content more accessible
The idea of teaching the school curriculum through the arts to make content more accessible seems to be the most obvious reason for making it a part of our classroom. The arts are able to reach all different types of learners simply because the arts in and of themselves have stemmed from our human desires over the centuries. We weren’t told we had to dance or draw, we were simply given the materials to explore them naturally. We weren’t forced to tell stories or listen to others tell stories, we were just naturally drawn to doing so. In using the arts, drawing might provide students with a jumpstart to writing or math. Students who learn most powerfully through their bodies, kinesthetic learners, might first act out a fairy tale or a story problem to better access a deeper understanding of each. When a teacher provides the opportunity to use the arts within the content area it not only reaches more students’ learning styles but it also enhances the depth of learning for each individual student. It provides them the opportunity to explore through a wider range of experiences. This not only engages more of the brain for easier learning, but it allows students to discover naturally their own strengths and most powerful interests, thus leading to more powerful learning and growth.
2. The arts encourage joyful, active learning
If I were to ask you to remember some of your most joyful learning in elementary school, you’re likely able to easily remember some. When our learning is connected with joyful authentic purposes, it literally changes the chemistry of the brain and has the potential to open up the gateway to our long-term memory. Emotions are powerfully connected to our learning. Learning in a drab, emotionally-devoid environment takes so much more work and energy as compared to learning in a joyful way. It would seem obvious to most that integrating the capacity of the arts, including the positive emotions often elicited through them, provides greater opportunity for learning and growth.
3. The arts help students make and express personal connections to content
When I meet someone and learn their name I do my best to remember it – at least for the time period that I’ll be spending with them. I have found over time that if I make a connection (relate it to something I know) right away I’m more likely to remember. If her name is Mary, I connect it to my sister, etc. If it’s a name I’ve never heard of, I connect the parts of the name to something familiar. Last week I met a guy named Artiaysa (ART-I-ESSA). It took me a moment, but I made three connections to remember it. “Art”, of course. “Eye” in the middle and my niece Tessa for the end. Making connections from the know to the unknown is necessary for learning.
If I was in the classroom and learning new vocabulary, I could draw a simple sketch of the parts of the words. Students could also use poetry, songs, theater/videography to make and express these personal connections to these new words and to their understandings of each. If I can connect it to my life, I can remember it. Additionally if it interests me, it adds extra potential for greater depth of understanding. The arts can add to the interest level of subject matter simply by providing additional avenues for expression of the new concepts. If I have the chance to write a song about photosynthesis, for example, it instantly ups my interest level.
4. The arts help children understand and express abstract concepts
Abstract ideas are those that need to be visualized or imagined as they cannot be illustrated through concrete examples. Learning letters and their sounds is an abstract concept for children. But teaching the alphabet through the arts naturally allows for a deeper level of understanding and use/expression of the letters… aka reading.
One example of using the arts to learn the alphabet is using music, movement and sounds along with the visible letter to transform the abstract shape of the letters to a more concrete understanding. As students repeatedly connect the abstract letters to the concrete experiences they gradually move toward reading… turning those abstract letters and sounds into words and sentences with real meaning.
5. The arts stimulate higher-level thinking
According to Linda Crawford, in the above mentioned book, there are three kinds of thinking we want to encourage in our kids: attending, discerning, and inventing. She says that attending and discerning are more analytical skills, but inventing takes students a step further to building upon what they’ve learned to make new meaning. This, she says, required imaginative understanding.
The arts are a natural way to encourage all three types of learning within our classroom. They can help children move from a more-in-depth understanding of the world as it is, as well as encourage children to imagine the possibilities of what it can be.
6. The arts build community and help children develop collaborative work skills
The benefits of integrating the arts into the content areas is multiplied when students work together to create and learn. When we work in a creative manner and throughly enjoy the process and the final product, the depth of learning and experience is enhanced dramatically. In my kindergarten classroom one simple collaborative creative activity is making up movements to our songs. The movement, music, fun, and collaboration combined work beautifully together to help the children not only remember the song lyrics more easily, but also provides a deeper understanding of the subject matter being shared within the song lyrics.
Learning the arts through a specialist is critical to learn each “art” in greater depth. At the same time learning our content through the arts allows us to deepen our learning of all subjects! Our children greatly benefit from both! So let’s work together as educators to begin giving the arts a try within our curriculum in addition to the critical learning that occurs through the specific arts classes with a specialist. Thank you to Linda Crawford for sharing the basis for this post in her book Lively Learning: Using the Arts to Teach the K-8 Curriculum. And if you’re interested in giving it a shot, this book is a nice resource.
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This entry was posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015.
Posted in Education, Parenting, Yoga in Schools.
Tagged: kids yoga, learning through the arts, music and movement, sing song yoga, teaching through music and movement, the arts, the arts in school, the arts in schools, the arts in the classroom, yoga for kids, yoga in schools, yoga in the classroom