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How Arts Integration Differs from Arts and Crafts

What do you think of when you hear the words arts integration education?

Not exactly clear on the concept? You’re not alone.

Many have a vague notion of an arts-integrated curriculum. They think it consists solely of learning traditional subjects through a series of art classes.

That’s not, of course, the case.

Yes, aspects of science can be taught through visual art. Or math might be more easily grasped through a discipline like music.

But how arts integration differs from arts and crafts comes down to this:

There Are Basic Guidelines for Educators

Teachers who educate through arts integration

are specifically trained in this modality. And with each lesson, they adhere to the following set of guidelines:

1. Connect with Common Core Standards

The Common Core are a set of educational standards for teaching and testing math and English between kindergarten and the 12th grade.

Essentially, they are learning goals that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The intention behind the standards is to ensure that students graduate from high school with the necessary skills to succeed in life.

Now, the seeming rigidity of such “standards” might seem counterintuitive to the free-flowing creativity of the arts. But in the hands of trained educators, these standards actually lend themselves quite well to arts integration.

Teachers may use the arts to merely draw interest from students. Or they utilize them to assign a project that will ultimately assess the student’s knowledge. Whatever the case, it’s essential to have this standard alignment.

To further facilitate this, educators have access to museums, centers and education sites that help them to explore ideas and ways they can tie these standards into their arts-integrated lessons.

2. Make Student Choice Essential

One of the most powerful ways to make learning relevant and personal is to allow students to express themselves.

But just as with other learning models, arts integration is not one-size-fits-all. One student may prefer visual art. Another may be more inclined toward performance such as dance or theater. A third may prefer to write poetry.

Arts integration educators understand the importance of offering options for self-expression. They encourage students to explore what makes them tick. In fact, it’s not unusual for students to propose their own projects.

These same teachers also have the vision to recognize when students can bring their strengths together to collaborate on projects. For example, those who thrive in the spotlight may want to perform dramatic skits. But the skits could be written by other students. Another student may even direct the pieces.

3. Ensure That Projects Reflect Learning

Yes, it is powerful for students to express themselves via the creative venue that most speaks to them. And it keeps them engaged.

But if they’re not really grasping the lesson, then it becomes more of an arts and crafts venture.

So along with aligning their teaching with the above-mentioned standards, arts integration educators focus on clearly communicating to students the desired learning outcomes before the creating begins. This way, this student understands that ultimately, the end goal is to learn.

Teachers then continue to dialogue with the student throughout the process; helping them to view the desired content from as many different perspectives as possible so they get the most from the experience.

4. Have Students Share/Perform Projects

Providing opportunities for students to exhibit their work or performances gives them a chance to shine. But it also creates a situation whereby the student showcases learned information.

It’s the classic “student becoming the teacher” scenario. And it happens to be one of the most effective ways to learn.

To provide students with this opportunity, arts integration teachers regularly exhibit projects in the classroom, throughout the school and even at open houses or other special events. Or they schedule performances at local performance venues, coffee shops or any other civic-minded businesses.

5. Create Specific Grading Rubrics

Because it’s so subjective, grading art is always difficult.

So educators in the arts integration field are encouraged to create a specific grading rubric to lessen the anxiety and uncertainty that goes with putting a letter on learning through creativity.

There are generally three basic categories used for assessment.

The first is content. A project should reflect a solid understanding of the content that was taught.

The second is process. Teachers consider how well the student applied critical thinking to plan and organize the project, and how much effort was asserted.

And the third is the actual finished product. Educators must decide whether the student fully grasped the lesson, as well as objectively assess the quality of the work.

In an effort to keep the student fully involved, some teachers will ask for a student’s input for this third part to get a better read on how well the product connects to the content.

The ultimate goal, once again, being that the student has learned through his or her unique self-expression.

Clearer on How Arts Integration Differs from Arts and Crafts?

Clarifying how arts integration differs from arts and crafts is not the easiest distinction to explain. It can be subtle at times.

In a nutshell, arts integration educators use relevant and individualized creative projects to engage and motivate students while teaching them critical thinking skills.

And it all starts with the guidelines these skilled instructors follow.

If you’re interested in seeing how arts integration works in action, contact us to take a tour of our arts integrated academy. It might surprise you to see just how effective this model of learning is.


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