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Arts Integration

Michigan schools considering a fully integrated and aligned fine arts curriculum now have a new resource at their disposal. School leaders at Concord Academy Petoskey are assisting other Michigan charter schools in the alignment and mapping of fully integrated fine arts curricula, development of a high-quality, comprehensive Internet resource, and implementation of professional development programs for new and aspiring teachers.

Williams Class

Science and Drama Intregration Technique

Introducing new vocabulary words for a science unit can be a challenge.  Often, students struggle to truly understand the meaning of new words.  Verbal explanations and rote memorization simply are not enough.  Children need to gain experience using the words in meaningful circumstances.  To achieve this goal, I use drama to introduce the words, help the students understand them, commit them to memory, and teach them to their peers.

For a unit on weather, I use drama to introduce the four main vocabulary words describing cloud types (cumulus, cirrus, stratus, and nimbus).  First, I tell the children that I am going to act out four types of clouds.  They are to watch only, and not call out the cloud name.  Cumulus, cirrus, stratus, and nimbus are individually written on pieces of poster board and displayed on the wall.  As I act out each cloud type, they are allowed to call out words that describe how I am acting (i.e. "gentle, scary, happy").  When I am finished, we read about the four types of clouds and draw examples of each.  Then, I direct the children's attention back to the cloud names on the board and ask if any of them could come and show us through drama how each type would behave.  As each student volunteer acts out a cloud type, I allow the other students to call out the name.

On the following day, we continue working on clouds, but learn to combine the names.  After the lesson is taught and we do actual cloud observations outdoors, we play science charades.  Students draw a cloud name from a bag (like cumulonimbus) and act it out.  If their team correctly guesses the cloud type, they receive a point.

Using drama helps students learn vocabulary words because it causes them to think about the word, physically relate its meaning to others, and use the word verbally.  Drama also encompasses several learning styles, helping the kinesthetic and visual learners grasp the meaning of new words in a way they can relate to.  Drama helps take the challenge out of new vocabulary words, making them exciting and learnable. 

Student Study

For many students, traditional written tests are a struggle.  In my science class, I taught a student for two years who rarely was successful when she was assessed in written form.  It was difficult for "G" to retain information from lectures and study guides.  Her personal learning style, several learning disabilities, and little help from home prevented her from doing well on written assessments.

In all of my science units, we integrate the arts.  When I have a particularly hard unit, or one containing a high volume of vocabulary words, I include more arts activities.  When we began a unit on rocks and minerals, I knew that many of my struggling students would not succeed unless I increased the arts activities.  There were too many difficult words to learn.  "G" was my focal point.  I knew if "G" could understand the words and the concepts, I was successfully reaching my students.

We began the unit with a song that described igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.  It had a familiar tune, and we sang it several times.  Next, I showed examples of each type of rock and told how they each were formed.  We categorized rocks by name and sang the song again.  Then, for a homework assignment, I asked the children to do some drama.  They had to imagine that a deaf student or foreign exchange student would be in our class tomorrow.  Knowing they would not understand our language, we had to communicate the meanings of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks to them through a drama symbol or sign language.  The students would act out their symbols to the class the following morning, and would receive credit if the class could correctly guess the rock type.

The following morning the hall was full of children saying, "What are you doing for metamorphic?" and  "Can you tell which rock type this is?"  I looked down the hall, and saw "G" showing her symbols to another student.  Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary had become common words to all of the children overnight, including "G". 

When the children acted their symbols out in class, their classmates would holler out the names, allowing them to hear and see the meaning of the words simultaneously.  At the end of class we selected several children's symbols and added them as motions to our song.  For two weeks we ended every class period with the song and motions.

Throughout the unit I continued to add arts activities to introduce, enhance, and reinforce the concepts.  When it came to the test, every student correctly identified the meanings of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.  Even "G" was able to work through the multiple-choice questions, short answer section, and illustrate and label questions.  She correctly drew a picture of the rock cycle and labeled each part perfectly.  I was so proud of her.  It was her first "B" in science.  The arts made learning successful for her.

Sherry Williams
5/6 Science


Michigan Department of Education