Are you wondering how to teach through the arts while making curriculum connections and covering academic standards successfully?
I teach Prek-4 in Aldine ISD in Houston, Texas. Over the years, I have developed a fondness for integrating the visual arts in my lessons. It is through the use of well selected pieces of art that children’s learning is facilitated and their minds are enabled to think critically and creatively.
Learning Through the Arts (LTA) prints are used as a tool for the interdisciplinary approach I use in my lessons. At the beginning of each unit of inquiry, I select the prints that will be helpful for the development of the lessons. These prints were purchased from the Houston Museum of Fine Arts by my school. If prints like these are not available at your school, you can use prints from calendars, post cards, art books, posters, interesting art artifacts, pictures and art images from internet. Think about the interdisciplinary teaching possibilities you would have when integrating an art print like this from Wassily Kandinsky, Russian, 1866–1944.
As you show the art print to your students, be prepared to write down questions and comments students come up with. Be prepared with teacher questions (provocations) to enhance students’ learning and interest according to the lesson.
The following are a few examples of questions (provocations) you can ask the students based on their observations, interpretations and when trying to make connections with the lessons: “What do you see…? Why do you think…? Did you notice that…? How would this work be different if the artist only used two or three colors? Do you notice any recognizable figures or objects within the work? What clues does the artist give you as to what the objects are?”
LTA prints are an easy and highly engaging way to teach inquiry, to extend children’s vocabulary, and to trigger their curiosity and imagination.
The importance of creative arts and the use of LTA prints is essential in my lessons because they lead students in search of knowledge and to the understanding that the process of completing a final product is more important than the product itself. It allows my students the opportunity to revisit prior subjects of interest that were explored and it allows them the opportunity to obtain multiple perspectives at a higher level of understanding.
I personally believe that children who are exposed to a curriculum with visual arts are taken to another level of understanding of how to appreciate their world and surroundings and, perhaps most importantly, how to think critically and creatively.
Through the use of LTA prints as a hands-on learning provocation, children become explorers and inquirers and show interest every time they are presented a new print.
“LTA prints bridge disciplines and curriculums to enable students to explore key concepts in the real world context of the art museum while teaching literacy and writing skills, math, science, and social studies. Integrate higher level cognitive skills, such as observing and organizing information, making predictions, and communicating ideas and thoughts with art inquiry methods to ultimately promote the students’ development of 21st-century skills that are needed to succeed in the world.” (Museum of Fine Arts of Houston)
My students started wondering about shadows in my classroom the moment this print was presented to them.
Here are a couple of question provocations from the LTA print: “What do you see?What else do you see? What is happening in this print? Why do you think she’s standing next to the plant? Is she inside or outside? How do you know? Do you see light? Where is it coming from?”
Some of the students’ answers:
“That is a girl when she was little.”
“I can see a mouse and two doors.”
“She is standing on bricks.”
“There is a tree shadow.”
“There is light.”
Students were engaged in the conversation about the LTA print. We then went outside to continue with our lesson. This fascinating activity sparked the most amazing conclusions and understanding from my inquirers!
“When it’s sunny, your hand makes a shadow.” -Hayden
“The sun makes you be the shadow.” – Colin
“The shadow is coughed out of people’s bodies.” -Ariyah
“Have you seen my shadow, Mrs. Abrego? It went away.” -Colin
“When you are in the light, it makes a shadow.” -Derrick
Join me in integrating art into your classrooms and inspire creative thinking like this in your students, too!
Authored by Maggie Abrego, Pre-K Teacher at Kujawa EC/PK Center and former Early Literacy Leadership Academy Resident Teacher