Winter 2010 was an exciting time in my life because I was able to start taking classes for the Elementary Education program that would lead me on the path towards graduation and teaching. That first semester was known by past students of the program as the “arts semester.” The purpose of this semester was to give pre-elementary teachers an idea of how to integrate common curriculum subjects, such as: math, reading, writing, and science with music, dance, drama, and visual arts. Integration is key in teaching for the 21st century and it can also serve as a motivator for students to learn new ideas through creative means. I am glad for the experience the arts semester gave me and the classes that showed me how to integrate the arts into my classroom.
One of the four required arts courses was TMA 352: Drama in the Elementary Classroom. Coming from a family where I grew up around theater, I felt at ease in this class as we read, discussed, and taught each other how best to use drama in our classrooms. I’m grateful for the perspective that class gave me about being animated as a teacher and allowing students to express themselves in multiple ways through drama activities such as using puppets or read-alouds as a means of assessing content understanding in the main subjects we will all teach: math, science, history, reading and writing.
The next course that gave me more ideas for integration was Music 378: Music for the Elementary School Teacher. Not only was I able to sing and learn some songs to teach to my future students, but I have a whole packet that contains hundreds of songs and other activities I can incorporate throughout my curriculum in any grade I teach. I am definitely not a music teacher, but this class gave me more confidence about using song to teach other subjects or even to use as a fun activity when the students need a break from the daily tasks that school can require.
A third course that broadened my horizons about the arts and core content was Dance 326: Rhythm and Dance. This was a fun class for me to be in because of the two sections it went over: movement dance and folk dance. The movement section of the class required that I twirl, jump, and move to express myself and not worry about what others thought. This carefree skill helps me use dance and movement to help students understand core content. For example, students can gather together as a group and make a shape like a trapezoid and as the teacher calls out for the trapezoid to change into a square, students move and squeeze so they can change their shape. The lessons I learned from the class helped me incorporate dance into my own courses, thus helping my students learn to embrace it as I do.
However, the last half of the dance class, folk dance, was helpful because it teaches students to move to a rhythm and watch their footwork. This form of dance integrates well with motor skills and mathematics because you have to count the beats in your head and follow certain patterns. While both were helpful, I loved the movement half of the class the most because I can see how to use movement to teach various concepts, and students don’t have to be worried about what others think of their representations.
Finally, even though I struggled with this class, VAEDU (Visual Art Education) 326: Art for Elementary School Teachers, was probably the most beneficial because visuals get the most attention in the classroom during the school day. Whether using it to color graphs, make a colored background for a poem, or make a card for a holiday, visual art is used in multiple subjects, multiple times during the day. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn how to become a better artist so I could then teach the skills and activities for my own students to learn.
As I look back, I know I preferred some of the arts semester classes more than others, but all were equally important concepts to study so I could learn in greater depth about each and then make a fairer judgment as to why they are important to use in the classroom, and actually how I will incorporate them in my class.That is what I liked most about the arts semester: the different options and lessons I learned from each course that will help me become a more versatile teacher.
For those of you who have participated in the arts semester, what did you like the most? Likewise, for those of you who are just starting to take some of these classes with the new program, which ones sound the most beneficial to you as a teacher?