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What comes to mind when you think of art class in an elementary classroom? Most people would think of students painting, drawing, cutting, gluing, or creating some project. Few people realize that art instruction includes much more. Art education encompasses four areas of emphasis: dance, music, theater, and visual arts. Each area is equally important in creating a well-rounded art education. This essay will explore the four areas of art emphasis, their content, and examples of how to teach academic skills using the four areas.
“Dance Education is a kinesthetic art form that satisfies the human need to respond to life experiences through movement of the physical being” (Pennsylvania Department of Education [PDOE], 2014). Dance allows for expression of feelings, thoughts, and ideas as well as improving motor skills, coordination, and promoting physical fitness. It also promotes basic skills such as following directions, listening, and sequencing. Dance education content includes teaching about movement (locomotor and nonlocomotor), rhythm, and elements of dance such as space, time, intensity, and body articulation.
It can include activities such as dancing with scarves, ballet, tap dancing, square dancing, hip hop dancing, or just moving to music. Dance can be integrated into other academic content areas as well. For example, when teaching students how to turn a mixed number into an improper fraction, having them get up and step through the movements of the actions taken can increase retention. Research shows that “Students who are kinesthetic learners do better in the classroom when they are given the opportunity to move or learn through movement.
Students who are taught to use movement to learn their alphabet or math facts are better able to remember them” (McDoniel, 2009). “Music Education is an aural art form that satisfies the human need to respond to life experiences through singing, listening and/or playing an instrument” (PDOE, 2014). Music allows students to express themselves through sound. It can promote basic skills such as self-discipline as with learning to play an instrument.
Music education content involves teaching elements such as rhythm, harmony, melody, intensity, and tone. It can include activities such as playing instruments, reading music, singing songs, and listening to music. Music can be integrated into any academic area. A prime example of using music to learn in other academic areas is children learning the alphabet through singing the “ABC” song. Research shows that “Music instruction helps students develop the ability to understand and use mathematical ideas and concepts.
Spatial reasoning and spatial-temporal reasoning skills are integral to the acquisition of mathematics skills-and inherent in the study of music" (McDoniel, 2009) “Theater Education is an interdisciplinary art form that satisfies the human need to express thoughts and feelings through written text, dramatic interpretation and multimedia production” (PDOE, 2014). Theater allows students to express their thoughts, feeling, and opinions by acting out the emotions.
Theater education builds on one of the most primary ways that students begin learning - pretend play. Theater promotes understanding of and respect for others’ feelings as well as teaching self-control. It also promotes better listening and social skills. Theater education content involves teaching about elements such as script, writing, acting, designing, and directing. It includes activities such as acting out characters in a story, acting out different emotions, learning about parts of a play, and puppetry.
Theater can easily be integrated into other content areas such as learning about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by dressing up and acting it out. Research shows that “In language arts, for example, drama can help children speak and write more clearly, increase vocabulary, improve reading comprehension skills, and extend their repertoire of good literature” (Gelineau, 2012, p. 119). Visual Arts Education is a spatial art form that satisfies the human need to respond to life experiences through images, structures and tactile works” (PDOE, 2014).
Visual arts education allows students to express themselves through creation of visually concrete objects. It can promote development of motor skills, problem solving, critical thinking, and cultural awareness. Visual arts content involves teaching elements of line, space, patterns, shape, symmetry, color, and texture. It also involves exposure to the different genres, such as painting, architecture, and sculpture as well as exposure to different media. It can involve activities such as painting, sketching, pottery, sewing, and collaging.
Visual arts is also easily integrated into other academic content areas. For example, creating a visual art depiction of the phases of the moon to promote learning in science. Research has shown that “young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate” (Lynch, 2013).
Art education involves so much more than students painting a picture or creating a collage. Art education includes self-expression through dance, music, theater, and visual art. It is important that students be exposed to and encouraged to explore and develop their interests in all areas four of art emphasis. Research clearly supports the benefits of exposure to a good art education.
References: Gelineau, R. R. (2012). Integrating the arts across the elementary school curriculum (2nd ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/
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