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Life by Design


Creative Learning

Posted by Carren |

All children are creative by nature. This natural state is just easy to forget as we grow older. I believe art has the power to nurture that creative mind and this is the reason why I the idea of this article even dawned on me. Here's to more children finding new ways to see the world.

Why and how to integrate art into other core subjects
Text by: Carren Jao
Published: Star Teacher, Summit Publishing May 2009

FOR many Juans and Marias, the prospect of art education may sound like a waste of precious time, but increasingly, research shows that art education helps students gain a firmer grasp on many different types of knowledge that lie beyond the canvas.

In a 2006 study of third-grade students who participated in the Guggenheim’s pioneering Learning through Art program, it was found that participating students were able to perform better in several categories of literacy and critical-thinking skills versus non-participating students. These include extended focus, hypothesizing, and supplying multiple interpretations. In the 2007 book entitled Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan, noted marked improvements in the following areas: persistence in tackling problems, observational acuity, expressive clarity, reflective capacity to question and judge, ability to envision alternative possibilities and openness to exploration.

In Arts for Academic Achievement, a study conducted with Minneapolis Public Schools, Ingram and Seashore (2003) reported that not only did a significant relationship exist between an art-integrated instruction and students learning reading, but also achievement was even more marked in disadvantaged learners.

The list of benefits could go on and on, but perhaps the most important point is that integrating art in other subjects provides an avenue for students to concretize the concepts they learn inside the classroom, helping them literally grasp their learning and take it to another level.

What is art integration?

Over the years, the term art integration has come to encompass a variety of meanings, as teachers have sought to implement arts education within their curricula. In this article, art integration refers to the potential of transferring learning between the arts and other subjects (Rabkin & Redmond, 2004, 2006). While many experiences can form new connections in the brain, it can be argued that with extended learning through the arts, students can stimulate their brains by engaging in complicated neural processes like: deciding the form their ideas will take, what meaning it will hold, and how best to execute their idea in the real world.

How can I integrate art education in my curriculum?

There are as many ways to integrate arts into the regular curriculum, as there are concepts to be taught inside the classroom. To help teachers solidify their instructional strategy, members of the Philippine Art Education Association (PAEA), a non-government organization created to promote education through art in schools, groups, and institutions, share their words of wisdom:

1. Establish learning objectives.
Before haphazardly turning your class project into a major art exhibition, first establish learning objectives for your class. Follow Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives by identifying affective, cognitive, and psychomotor objectives to create a more holistic educational experience.

Affective objectives deal with the emotional aspect of learning. What do you want your students to feel? What kind of attitudes do you want them to imbibe? Cognitive objectives deal with knowledge and comprehension. What do you want your students to learn? What connections with other concepts do you want your students to establish? Psychomotor objectives deal with the physical realm. What physical skills do you want your students to learn?

Learning objectives should also be arranged from simplest concepts to more complicated concepts, allowing students to first grasp the lower level learning before moving on.

2. Coordinate with your fellow teacher
Consolacion “Ching” Azurin-Estarija, former Art and Culinary Arts teacher in La Salle Greenhills and PAEA member strongly recommends, “Meet with your co-teacher, come up with a project, and implement together.” The aim of integration is to come up with a holistic curriculum. For art to be truly integrated into other subjects, learning objectives must be coordinated and related subject matters should be taught in parallel with other teachers of the same grade-level.

In some cases, projects can even benefit other grade levels. Jones and Ross (2005) describe a teaching assignment used in the fifth and first grades. To link visualization in reading, descriptive writing, and illustration, fifth-graders illustrated each other’s writings and short descriptions. They then wrote and illustrated books for the first grade class. In addition, this can be given as a tandem project in Reading and Art, the English teacher could grade the story, while the Art teacher could grade the artwork. This way, you can avoid confusion on division of grades and students learn the importance of visuals and text in the process of storytelling.

3. Concretize your concept
Having established your learning objectives, find a visual outlet for your students. To learn sequencing events in Reading, teachers can assign a short origami exercise for students to understand that one event has to happen before another can take place. Ching says, “Introduce the physical work to be done and then slowly introduce the abstract concept.” As you explain an abstract concept, relate this with the actual work that your students have done previously. This will help them better visualize the actual process that goes into an abstract concept. In Math, students can first fold pieces of paper and shade portions of it. As the lesson progresses, Math teachers can slowly introduce the concept of fractions, as a way of representing a portion of a whole.

Teachers should go to the level of their students when introducing a lesson. For her own lesson plans, Laura “Lala” Raymundo-Jugueta, former St. Theresa’s College Performing Arts Coordinator, author or Sing, Sketch, Stretch, and Secretary of PAEA, takes visual inspiration from the latest shows on Disney or Nickelodeon. She explains, “The best way to motivate [students] is by starting with the things they like.”

Lala also suggests not just asking students to draw, but also to explain their works of art. “Asking students to explain their work helps stimulate their reasoning skills,” she explains. Lala also reminds teachers to always connect concepts into real-world situations. Doing so will help them situate their new learning into the world of reality, helping students question and engage in real-life issues. The varying colors produced by mixing paints can be related to the different kinds of people living in the Philippines. By allowing students to experiment with different shades of color, he also begins to understand and respect differences in others.

4. Show don’t tell; teach do not criticize.
Students learn best by watching. Supplement instructions on the board with demonstrations. Ching makes it a habit to go around the whole classroom, gently checking on each of the students’ works. “Some students might not be able to follow directions because of many reasons… They can be too excited to start that they don’t pay attention. They can be so engrossed in the project that they forget important instructions taught at the beginning of the class. Or simply, they are unable to do it, in which case patiently guide them in the right direction.”

While incorrect answers can easily be spotted in other subject areas, art plays in the realm of the subjective; when going around the class, don’t be too harsh on students who stray from the prescribed instructions. Acknowledge they have found one way of accomplishing a task, but remind them to follow your original instructions.

5. Customize according to age
Collaborative projects should also take into consideration the age of your students. Younger students tend to have shorter attention spans, while older students can already focus for longer periods of time. Ching suggests keeping instructions within a ten-minute span and assuming a respectful, non-critical stance when asking about their project, instead of quickly judging it. Let your students describe their intentions and tell you about their creative process.

By integrating art into the regular curriculum, students are afforded a rich and layered learning experience. Not only does a concept stay in the mind, it is applied and interacted with in the real world. In a country increasingly dependent on manual labor and repetitive tasks for sustenance, the ability to understand and make new connections in the mind is a powerful tool for a world economy hinged on creativity.

Sources of inspiration

Still strapped for inspiration? Lala recommends these sites to jumpstart your imagination:
Tailored mostly for younger age groups, KidsArt offers kid-friendly techniques and tips in their Quick Art and Top Ten sections.
Check out’s Educators section; it offers a highly interactive site filled with lesson plans and techniques for students of any age.
PAEA is also active online. It offers up to date news on their various learning programs for teachers, as well as lesson plans tailored for the Philippine classroom


Anonymous said...

Hi. Do you happen to know Ms. Ching Estarija's contact number? Thanks.

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