Whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a high school history teacher, art integration can be a very powerful way to help your students interact with the subject matter, widen their understanding of a topic, and engage in active learning. Just what are the benefits of art integration, and why should you consider incorporating more art time into your instruction? In the article below, I’ll highlight five different ways your students can benefit when you integrate art into the subjects and topics you teach.
1. Students Will Be Engaged with Learning
One of the biggest benefits you’ll notice once you begin integrating more art into your instruction is that student engagement will increase. Many students have a natural interest in music, art, and dance. From a young age, children learn to explore their world through drawing, singing or listening to songs, and moving to the beat.
When you begin incorporating these concepts into your instruction, it is only natural that students will want to participate in the activities and, thus, the learning process. And, when students are engaged, you will be better able to meet them and teach them. Disinterested students are much more likely to tune out what you’re saying and walk away from a lesson with little to no new understanding. Conversely, students who are actively engaged in your lesson will be learning the concepts you are teaching.
2. Higher-Order Thinking Skills and Problem-Solving are Encouraged
Higher-order thinking skills include analysis, evaluation, synthesis, application, justifying and creation. These are essential skills that students need to learn and develop as they progress through their schooling career. Higher-order skills encourage independent thought, innovation, discovery, and so much more that is essential not only in a school setting, but as students progress with their lives and careers. Without these skills, students won’t be fully prepared for their future.
Integrating art into your instruction can be a very powerful way to help your students develop and improve their higher-order thinking skills. Below are a few different ideas to help you see how you could foster the development of higher-order thinking skills through incorporating more art into different subject areas.
This article shares some of the many ways that using comics in your instructions can benefit students and help them develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity (the 4 Cs). Having students both read and create their own comics can be very powerful.
Reading comics can require students to work on skills such as analysis and evaluation. When discussing the comics with the teacher or other students in the class, they will also be improving their communication skills and can work on justifying as they explain why they interpreted something in a particular way.
Having students create their own comics is another way you can help them build on their higher-order thinking skills. Creating a comic is much more than simply drawing a picture. Students will need to develop their storyline and analyze their text to identify which aspects are most important to focus on in their illustrations. With comics, much of what is communicated to the reader happens in the illustrations, and students will need to identify the most effective ways to share messages with their readers.
Having students create comics in the language arts classroom can also help encourage collaboration, another essential skill. Rather than having each student make their own comic individually, consider having students work as a team to create a joint project. Not only will students need to use effective communication skills, they will need to work together to decide which details of their narrative are most important to highlight in the words and images they choose.
Many aspects of math are very visual. Many students can benefit from integrating art into the math classroom. One idea for incorporating art into an elementary math classroom would be to give students the opportunity to create a mosaic piece using different colors and/or shapes of cutout paper. Students could then create a graph to show the different components of their artwork.
Flipping this activity and having students work backwards would be a good way to incorporate more critical thinking skills into your lessons. Rather than having students create their art piece first, have them make the graph first. This way, they will need to work on visualizing to determine approximately how many pieces of each color they will want to use. They will also have to work on synthesizing, as they try to create their finished piece using the different tiles they indicated in their graph.
Encourage students to collaborate to create a dance or movement to show a scientific concept you are working on. In order to create their movement, students will need to use a variety of critical thinking skills. They will need to analyze the steps in the scientific process and think about how they are all related. Next, they will need to create a visual representation (through dance or movement) to demonstrate how the different steps in the process occur. By going through this process, students will deepen their understanding of the process, which will increase the chances that the learning will stay with them.
Art is such an important piece of history and can be used in a variety of ways in the history classroom. One way you can incorporate art into history while encouraging students to use high-order thinking skills is to start a new unit off with a gallery walk. Include pieces of artwork that highlight some of the key events, struggles, or other important aspects of the period. Have students analyze each image and make predictions about what was happening that led to the event or idea depicted in the artwork.
3. Collaboration is Enhanced
Integrating art in your classroom is a great way to add new opportunities for students to collaborate and help students improve on their cooperative learning skills. Teams of students can work together to create a piece of visual art, a dance, or a song to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.
As students are creating their finished product, they will need to use effective communication skills and make sure each student is participating. Students will need to rely on each other’s strengths as they tap into their different learning styles. For example, a student who is a visual learner, can be instrumental with planning out the layout for a finished art product. Or, a physical learner could help the group develop motions to share their understanding through dance.
After students have collaborated to create a dance, song, or visual art piece, having them share these creations with the rest of the class can be very powerful. Students can see how other groups tackled the same task and the creative ways they were able to share their learning. This can also help benefit students with different learning styles. For example, an auditory learner may pick up something new by listening to another group’s song about the concepts.
When having groups present a piece of visual art, a document camera can help make sure all the students in the class can see all the details of the work. A document camera will let the presenters highlight different areas of their work, allow everyone to examine and discuss the work at the same time, and minimize the time needed to pass the finished product around so everyone can see it clearly.
4. Responsibility Shifts from the Teacher to the Students
Art integration is one strategy that can be used to move the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the students. With traditional lecture-based teaching, the brunt of the responsibility rests on teachers. They present the information to students, share examples, model problem solving, etc. With this format, students take a more passive role in their education, and often miss out on important concepts.
With art integration, the responsibility of learning can be shifted to the students. Students are actively engaged in their learning process as they analyze different pieces of art and create their own pieces to demonstrate their learning. When students spend more time ‘doing,’ what they’re able to learn and comprehend will increase.
This article helps to further highlight how the integration of arts (and science, technology, engineering, and math) in the classroom can put students in charge of their own learning and improve their performance.
5. Students Retain More of the Information They Learn
When you start incorporating art into your instruction, you’ll likely notice that in addition to being more engaged and improving their performance, your students are also better able to retain the information they learned. How many times have you taught a lesson and had students show they understood the concept only to revisit it a few weeks or months later and be greeted by blank stares?
When students are more engaged with the content and creating artwork to show their understanding, it can greatly impact their ability to retain the information they learned. Creating songs, dances, and visual representations helps cement the learning for students and allows them to make more connections to what they learn. When you revisit a topic, students can draw on these connections to help them remember the information they learned.
Meg Richard, a middle school science teacher, has seen a dramatic improvement in student performance after incorporating music and dance into her instruction. She identifies key concepts that students need to learn and creates songs and accompanying movements to teach these concepts to students. Meg shares that providing students with the sensory input of music and dance helps students derive meaning from their learning, which can help them remember concepts.
Art deserves to be much more than an elective or a separate class. When art is integrated in the classroom, students will be more engaged with learning, improve their collaboration and critical thinking skills, take more responsibility for their learning, and better retain the information they learn. Once you start integrating art into your instruction, you’ll be amazed at how well your students respond and the differences you’ll see in your classroom community.