Hi, I am Susan from Lopez Land Learners. I want to share you with engaging and entertaining ways to integrate art into all of your curricular areas. If your school is anything like our school, we don’t have an art teacher, so any and all art projects come from me. Budgets, along with the demands and pressures on testing, have taken that scheduled time out of the majority of classrooms in my state.
When I started teaching 20 years ago, I knew I had to make sure I allowed time for art. My own children’s projects always hung proudly on our fridge, walls, or prominently displayed on top of the entertainment center. I wanted my students to have that same experience. As a new teacher, I was fortunate to teach 6th grade and was able to expose my students to art from the very first weeks of school as we started our Early Man study. Cave paintings quickly turned into Greek and Roman columned buildings and pottery designs that soon followed into Egyptian obelisks and King Tut masks.
I begin by having pre-made portfolios ready to go in August. I cut the large construction paper in half and then spiral bind them on a machine we have at school. You don’t have to do this, but I do it for several reasons. The book serves as my students’ portfolio, where all of their finished projects, including writing selections, will be housed once they are taken off walls and bulletin boards.
I used to become frustrated when students would stuff their beautiful masterpieces into their backpacks, where they would not only get crunched and ruined but usually would never be seen by anyone in their families. To eliminate that, the portfolio was born. My students watercolor or chalk a picture for their front cover. The day they create their cover begins the ownership that this book is full of their creations.
My fun really starts here! I begin easy pieces geared toward creating a comfortable classroom family. Many of our first pieces are “get to know you”-type activities with very little art skill or fanciness needed. Soon after, I match art pieces to activities that relate to a curricular area. We have divided our curriculum up into integrated units that focus on language arts skills while reading and writing about science and social studies passages and standards. We have our units mapped out from August through June; that makes looking for art possibilities endless. I have a supply of markers, colored pencils, crayons, tempura paint, oil pastels, oil chalks, low grade water colors, high end water colors, and an assortment of paper styles and textures with which my students can create. We use Q-Tips, straws, marbles, organic bleach, real flowers, bubble wrap, leaves, and our creative minds, as well.
I incorporate centers in my room daily. I have 31 students and use five center rotations, one of them always being art. At least 12 students are artists daily in one form or another during our 60-minute block. There are also days where I demonstrate or guide an art lesson, whether it be a lesson in mixing colors, adding texture, directed draw, free sketch, etc. These days are far too few, but I schedule one at least once a month. I have had fellow teachers wonder how I have time for art. I make the time. I can’t explain to you the energy that starts our day off every morning once centers begin. My students, past and present, live for art time! There are never behavior issues during centers; one main reason is because they know if they have to be pulled from another center for any behavioral issue, they won’t be participating in art with their teammates. They will get their time at a separate table, but there is magic that happens at a center where everyone is creating, collaborating, and communicating. In 20 years, I have only had to remove a student once.
Art allows for every child to find success. It doesn’t matter if the lines are crooked, the British soldiers’ jackets aren’t 100% historically correct, or the fruit is painted purple instead of orange. What matters is that every student, whether they be in a Resource class, a Speech class, a Gate class, just arrived in our school yesterday, or has been a student since the first day of kindergarten, will be successful and know they fit in. Art is the one area where students can express themselves and not have to worry if their lines were drawn straight or if they used enough texture. No one cares; everyone else is focused on their masterpiece, and every single student of mine shines!
I often use the I am Poem, found in the watercolored photo above with the soldier, as an assessment to determine how well my students understood the point of view from a fictional character or a historical figure. It is available for free for you by clicking on the link above. I am poetry was not created by me. I simply modified different versions into one that fit my needs for an assessment.