Listen. Can you hear it? someone is knocking. It's the art teacher inside you attempting to escape. Let him out! "Me, an art teacher?" you ask. Yes! "I already have enough disciplines to cover, do I need another time slot for this? What am I going to have to give up to have art?" you ponder. Integrating art across your grade level curriculum enhances EVERY discipline covered and you do not sacrifice academic Lesson Plans time.
For the last eight years I have taught grade levels K-1 in both a bilingual and mainstream setting. Art has enriched the lives of students that have experienced my classroom. It has been the "spice" to my language arts, math, geography, science, and ESL Lesson Plans; it has created many memorable closures to exciting thematic units presented throughout the school year.
What follows is but one way of integrating art into your daily teaching in the classroom. Try it. If it doesn't work for you as is, change it and make it your own. Remember, for anything to be effective, it must flow within your schedule and mode of teaching.
During the summer months I decide on the thematic units I'll be using the coming year. Each month is assigned a unit, for example: September—apples, October—fall/Halloween, November—Native Americans, etc… Since I'm currently teaching in a bilingual setting, I decided that my weekly art lessons would be part of my ESL component. Every Thursday after lunch, my children were exposed to and expected to manipulate new vocabulary in a meaningful context through a carefully planned art project.
I organized four art lessons (one per week) related to the month's theme. The focus of the lesson varied from one week to the next. For instance, for the month of September I decided to do the following activities: fruit prints, color mixing/painting, straight line and curved line design. The focus of the first activity was math. We talked about whole, one-half, one-quarter, counting (they had to count so many prints with the half, quarter, whole apple. They were asked to make four red prints, six green, eight yellow, etc.).
Color mixing enhanced my science and language arts the second week of school. Students made predictions as to the new colors they were going to obtain by mixing two together. We wrote in our group journal, individual journals and then proceeded to "measure" paint into containers using non- conventional means like capfuls and scoopfuls. First grade students experienced the scientific method the second week of school as they made predictions, tested them out, recorded data and shared their results during circle time.
As students shared their final project with the group, I explained to them that every week I would select six to eight prints to add to our classroom gallery. I had decided to do an art expo later in the year and I needed art work for each of the categories being exhibited. It was rewarding to see how much pride they took in completing their pieces to have them appear in the art gallery. Every child ended up with three to four projects in the art expo.
The classroom gallery crew, of course, creating a visual time line originating the first week of school. It was difficult giving up the art pieces once the art expo was over.
Students utilized the skills and concepts covered in a particular unit as they developed their art work. In the process, they were exposed to various art techniques and styles. I shared prints from famous artists as we went along with our art lessons. There was an array of finished products for our art exhibit. From September to March we experienced: mask making, paper mache, painting, fruit prints, cool/warm colors with pastels, water color painting, clay sculptures, still life, several crayon projects, and collages.
Integrating art across the curriculum brings novelty and breaks the daily monotony of "classroom work." Students enjoy exploring and tapping into their creative side. Art unifies teaching lessons and is the accent to classroom Lesson Plans.
Jesus M. Lopez, Gadsden, AZ School District