Incorporating Art in the Classroom

In an era of high stakes testing, art is sometimes the first thing to go but we as teachers need to find ways to continue providing art experiences for our students. Not only is art just plain fun, and let's face it, kids do need fun, but it's much more than that. Art is beneficial in so many ways!

Benefits of Art in Education:
  • Helps children think creatively - outside of the box
  • Increases critical thinking skills 
  • Improves decision-making skills
  • Helps kids express their feelings
  • Builds confidence
  • Allows kids who struggle academically to excel in another area
  • and more!
How Can We Incorporate Art Into an Already Busy Day?
One of the ways I like to incorporate art is to tie it into the core subjects that I'm teaching. Art is a great way to add variety to the activities that you're doing in the classroom and it's also an easy way to motivate most of your students. It can also reinforce the concepts that you're teaching and sometimes it can even be a good assessment of what has (or hasn't...ugh) been learned.

Incorporating Art in Subject Areas:
After reading a book, kids could do a watercolor painting of one of the settings from the story, or they could do an oil pastel of a favorite character. If you've done a read aloud, art projects can be tied to that. Like when we read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (great book if you haven't read it about a proper young girl who accidentally travels on a pirate type ship, with twists and turns and even mutiny....I love it), your students could do a pencil drawing of a tall ship like the one in the story. Besides doing book-related art projects, it's great to read about a variety of artists as part of your curriculum. My Art Adventure unit actually features 10 different artists with passages and comprehension questions, if you're looking for this type of material.

Narrative writing is an easy fit for an art project. Drawing a picture of a scene from the story a student has written is a great way to add art. You can also add it to Opinion Piece/Persuasive Writing by doing an Andy Warhol type cartoon art. When learning about techniques that marketers use to persuade us (see my Opinion Piece/Persuasive Writing Unit for ideas), kids can draw a simple food packaged item in bold colors using markers and then write about which type of persuasive marketing techniques were used to market the item. If your class is working on Language Standards, kids could make interjection posters (like the old Batman series...POW!...BAM!) to reinforce interjections with WOW! or OOPS! and so on. Doing idioms? Kids can make a picture of what the idiom sounds like it's saying (literal meaning) vs. what it actually means.

Here's an area you may not think of when you think of adding art to your day but actually math and art are a great fit! Doing geometric shapes? How about doing a watercolor of a geometric robot or a geometric animal (great bulletin board for a Geometric Zoo!) or even a self-portrait using a variety of shapes. One artist that is great to use during a geometry unit is Piet Mondrian. Kids love to mimic his bold style. Another math activity I love is from Literacy Loves Company. As a follow up to geometric lessons on lines and angles, simply cut polygons from white construction paper, pass out rulers and sharpies and kids follow your step by step directions of drawing lines and then finding obtuse angles, right angles, perpendicular lines and so on. Then kids can add color to these, making it a really fun art piece. Besides geometry, how about painting Wasily Kadinsky styled arrays? Or making a pop art drawing for fractions?

Social Studies:
Here's an area that seems like a perfect fit for subject matter combined with art. When we learned about Native American groups, my class followed up by making weavings. Learning about landforms? Make a torn paper landform gallery. Studying about a particular country? Make carp kites for Japan, elephant paper sculptures for Africa, and sponge painted pyramids for Egypt. If you're focusing on a specific time period in history, find art pieces kids can complete which relate to your theme. When we studied The Thirteen Colonies, we made Hex Signs, which could be found on colonial barns, back in the day. We also made quilt pieces from paper, that we put together into a class quilt. This is one of my favorite subject areas to incorporate art.

In science, I always try to think of ways to add a little bit of art. When my 4th graders studied water in California, we made watercolor pictures of different types of water, from deltas to bays, to dams, lakes, aqueducts, rivers, and more! When my fifth graders learned about the digestive system, they worked with a partner to draw a diagram of the system, using a cutaway view. When studying weather and learning about hurricanes, we made crayon resist hurricanes with mixed colors. Doing food chains? How about having kids draw pictures of the animals and then hole punch and chain it together from the top predator on down, using some doorbell wire (one of my favorite wires for art projects) from Home Depot.

If we know in our hearts that art is beneficial for our students, then we should find a way to keep art in our classrooms, regardless of testing pressures and budget cuts. To me it's that important!

If you're looking for more art materials and ideas for your classroom, I do have a week-long unit (has way more materials than for a week though) that you might be interested in. It has reading, writing, math, social studies, and science activities for each day plus lots of extra artist reading passages. It's great for an end of the year concentrated unit or it can be used throughout the year for grades 3 - 5.

Click here to see the Art Adventure Unit:

I also have a few Pinterest Boards you might like to follow if you love art as much as I do:
Art Adventure: End of the Year or Any Time Unit

Kid's Art

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