Arts Integration Theory (Back to top)

Arts Integrated Instruction has become an area of great interest over the past decade as schools across the country are discovering the power of the arts when used as a catalyst for teaching across the curriculum. Arts integration is not a substitute for teaching the arts for their own sake. We are champions of art specialists in the schools, and recognize the need to add to their forces in cities across the country.
What is Arts Integration?
It is important that all educators become aware of the successes that have been demonstrated when students become engaged in their own learning via arts integrated instruction. Arts integration is not about artist residencies, or occasional arts projects that connect to other curricular subjects. It is about a methodology and a philosophical approach to education that creates a level of personal connection and added depth in the classroom through a creative inquiry-based process of teaching and learning.
How do I learn more about how to do arts integration?
This module in combination with the On-line Expeditions website encourages a layering of arts integration within the classroom as students engage in this work. You can access resources in your community, or within your own building perhaps, that you didn't know existed before. Possibly the arts specialist(s) in your building would like to explore enhancing the core curriculum with rigorous arts integration. Or maybe you can arrange for professional development training that will introduce arts integration to your faculty in a substantive way. Another option might be to explore how you can bring in professional artists trained in this area to team teach with you in the classroom.

Consider checking your state arts council for additional ideas and resources. It's always a good bet that some local theatre or dance troupe has an outreach program that works in schools. Sometimes it is simply a matter of doing some research and inquiring about town. Some organizations also travel. As part of this module you will explore various aspects of the Arts for Learning website, You may wish to return to this site for ideas and possible resources in your community.
Benefits of an integrative approach
An integrative approach to teaching, for example, connects visualization with reading comprehension, contextualizes math, or brings an experiential context to the science or social studies classroom. Using the arts can assist students in understanding and applying skills to standardized exams. Focus and concentration can be developed through an appreciation and application of different learning styles, such as linguistic, visual or kinesthetic thinking. Through the connection of personal experience with the subject matter, and an emphasis on the process of discovery which allows for unexpected outcomes, teachers help students to develop more complex thinking skills.

Through the integration of perception into cognition, and expression into reflection, students perform at a significantly higher level. While this module will focus on arts integrated activities you can do yourself, know that having artists team teach in classrooms alongside teachers is an ideal model for truly integrated instruction.

Research, Results, and Resources -- Critical Links and Champions of Change
  There has been much research on the work of arts integrated instruction and the value of arts in teaching and learning. Following are examples of two important studies published in this area.
1. Critical Links (Back to top)
  · Critical Links is published by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), a coalition of more than 100 national education, arts, philanthropic, and government organizations. AEP is administered by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to their ongoing support, the two federal agencies also provided the funding to produce Critical Links.

· The reviews of 62 outstanding arts education studies—and the interpretive essays—in Critical Links reveal important relationships between learning in the arts and cognitive capacities (thinking skills) and motivations that underlie academic achievement and effective social behavior.

· The studies suggest that for certain populations – students from economically disadvantaged circumstances, students needing remedial instruction, and young children – learning in the arts may be especially helpful in boosting learning and achievement.



Studies reviewed in the volume and the interpretive essays point to critical links between learning in the arts and academic and social skills and motivations in the following six major areas:

1) Reading and Language Development

Basic Reading Skills

Certain forms of arts instruction enhance and complement basic reading instruction aimed at helping children “break the phonetic code” that unlocks written language by associating letters, words and phrases with sounds, sentences and meanings. Since we do not “read reading” but rather texts of various kinds in search of meaning, it is important that forms of arts instruction promote both basic reading skills and the achievement motivation that engages young learners in the reading experience.


Young children who engage in dramatic enactments of stories and text improve their reading comprehension, story understanding and ability to read new materials they have not seen before. The effects are even more significant for children from economically disadvantaged circumstances and those with reading difficulties in the early and middle grades.


Spatial reasoning skills inherent in learning music are needed for planning and producing writing. Dramatic enactments by young children also are shown to produce more effective writing. Other arts learning experiences - in dance and drama, for instance – develop expressive and reflective skills that enhance writing proficiency.

2) Mathematics

Certain music instruction, including comprehensive instruction that includes training in keyboard skills, develops spatial reasoning and spatial-temporal reasoning skills, which are fundamental to understanding and using mathematical ideas and concepts.

3) Fundamental Cognitive Skills and Capacities

Learning in individual art forms as well as in multi-arts experiences engages and strengthens such fundamental cognitive capacities as spatial reasoning (the capacity for organizing and sequencing ideas); conditional reasoning (theorizing about outcomes and consequences); problem solving; and the components of creative thinking (originality, elaboration, flexibility).

4) Motivations to Learn

Motivation and the attitudes and dispositions to pursue and sustain learning are essential to achievement. Learning in the arts nurtures these capacities, including active engagement, disciplined and sustained attention, persistence, and risk-taking, and increases attendance and educational aspirations.

5) Effective Social Behavior

Studies of student learning experiences in drama, music, dance and multi-arts activities show student growth in self-confidence, self-control, self-identity, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance.

6) School Environment

It is critical that a school provide a positive context for learning. Studies in the Compendium show that the arts help to create the kind of learning environment that is conducive to teacher and student success by fostering teacher innovation, a positive professional culture, community engagement, increased student attendance and retention, effective instructional practice, and school identity.

This study can be downloaded along with other important information about arts learning both nationally and for your state at the Arts Education Partnership website,

2. Champions of Change (Back to top)
  This remarkable document, published at the end of 1999, demonstrates through rigorous research that the arts can play a powerful role in student learning. Several notable researchers were drawn together to study this data carefully through in-depth case studies and site visits.

Brief excerpts from the Champions of Change document:


When young people are involved with the arts, something changes in their lives. We've often witnessed the rapt expression on the faces of such young people. Advocates for the arts often use photographs of smiling faces to document the experience.

But in a society that values measurements and uses data-driven analysis to inform decisions about allocation of scarce resources, photographs of smiling faces are not enough to gain or even retain support. Such images alone will not convince skeptics or even neutral decision-makers that something exceptional is happening when and where the arts become part of the lives of young people.

Until now, we've known little about the nature of this change, or how to enable the change to occur. To understand these issues in more rigorous terms, we invited leading educational researchers to examine the impact of arts experiences on young people. We developed the Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning initiative in cooperation with The Arts Education Partnership and The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities to explore why and how young people were changed through their arts experiences.

Executive Summary

As a result of their varied inquiries, the Champions of Change researchers found that learners can attain higher levels of achievement through their engagement with the arts. Moreover, one of the critical research findings is that the learning in and through the arts can help "level the playing field" for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances.

Why the Arts Change the Learning Experience

When well taught, the arts provide young people with authentic learning experiences that engage their minds, hearts, and bodies. The learning experiences are real and meaningful for them.

While learning in other disciplines may often focus on development of a singled skill or talent, the arts regularly engage multiple skills and abilities. Engagement in the arts--whether the visual arts, dance, music, theatre or other disciplines--nurtures the development of cognitive, social, and personal competencies. Although the Champions of Change researchers conducted their investigations and presented their findings independently, a remarkable consensus exists among their findings:

The arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached.
The arts reach students in ways that they are not otherwise being reached.
The arts connect students to themselves and each other.
The arts transform the environment for learning.
The arts provide learning opportunities for the adults in the lives of young people.
The arts provide new challenges for those students already considered successful.
The arts connect learning experiences to the world of real work.

Further information on this important study can be downloaded along with other important information about arts learning both nationally and for your state at the Arts Education Partnership website,

Activity #1 (Back to top)

Read the theory discussed above and answer the following questions:

1. In your opinion what are the 5 strongest reasons for using arts integration in the classroom?

2. What questions do you have about arts integration?

Arts Integrated Instruction: Exploring various art forms as learning strategies for integrated teaching

Activity #2 (Back to top)

Vocabulary and Drama - Creating Tableaus

Read the following text on Pink River Dolphins (imported from the website, For each highlighted word in the text below, write a definition for the word (feel free to use a dictionary if necessary.)

Next, choose one of the words to use for creating a tableau. You will need to find 3-4 people to help you with this part of the activity. Using the directions for Tableau below, create a “frozen picture” that represents the word and its meaning.

Once you have created the tableau, have someone take a photograph of your image and answer the questions listed at the end of this activity.

Pink River Dolphins 4/4/01

Pink River Dolphins, known as the Boto in the Brazilian Amazon, are well adapted to life in the flooded forest. Their most striking characteristic besides the striking pink color are their tiny eyes. They are almost blind since good eyesight is virtually useless in turbid waters. To compensate for the poor eyesight they have developed a highly evolved echolocation system which enables them to build-up a "sound picture" of their surroundings. The Boto have a long beak with small teet and flippers shaped like large broad paddles. They are slow swimmers and make small leaps as compared to oceanic dolphins. The Boto have a melon shaped head with a bulging forehead and flexible neck which enables them to weave among the branches in the flooded forest.


A tableau is a frozen picture using the bodies of their group members.

Highlight the following ideas:

1.Use various levels (some people standing, others sitting/crouching/kneeling, others lying on floor)
2. Use all parts of body (hands, legs, facial expression)
3. Make sure that all elements of the tableau are facing the audience (no backs, unless intentional)
4. All group members must be a part of every tableau
5. No sound or movement is allowed
6. Attach a copy of your photo to the questions listed below (this can be done with a digital camera or a scanner).
7. Look at the picture of your tableau – describe in detail each person’s body position and what it means to the entire picture
8. Describe the process you went through to create your tableau. Did all people share in the decision-making process? Were there definite speakers and listeners? How did you feel about the process?
9. How could you use this in the classroom? How would you structure the experience for the best student response?

Activity #3 (Back to top)

Taking Vocabulary Tableau into the Classroom

Now that you have an understanding of Tableau, you will need to find a classroom to work in for this next activity. Before you begin your activity, students will need to have a list of 10 – 20 vocabulary words related to the Amazon content. They will need to have a list with each word’s definition written out for reference. This can be given to students or assigned as individual work. This should take approximately 1 – 11/2 hours to complete. Depending on the group you may need to break it into two class periods – one for creation, one for performance. If possible (consent has been obtained), take a photograph of one of the student created tableaus.

Once you have completed the activity, complete the questions at the end of the explanation.

Divide the class into groups. Secretly, assign each group a set of words, so that all words are covered by one of the groups. Do not let groups see each others’ words.

Explain that a tableau is a frozen picture using the bodies of their group members. Highlight the following ideas:

1. Use various levels (some people standing, others sitting/crouching/kneeling, others lying on floor)
2. Use all parts of body (hands, legs, facial expression)
3. Make sure that all elements of the tableau are facing the audience (no backs, unless intentional)
4. All group members must be a part of every tableau
5. No sound or movement is allowed
6. Assign each group to a separate space in the classroom. Have each group create a tableau (frozen picture) for each of their assigned words.
7. Have group members sit together, facing the “stage area”. Have each group create an answer sheet with the name of each group and spaces for all vocabulary words assigned.
8. Taking turns, each group performs their tableaus, keeping each tableau frozen for 30 seconds while the other groups review their vocabulary lists and choose which word is being performed. When complete, each group turns in their answer sheet.

If it was possible to obtain a student photo, attach a copy of your photo to the questions listed below (this can be done with a digital camera or a scanner).

1. List the words you selected for use in this activity.

Describe the class you worked with (age, type of school, ethnic composition, etc.)

Describe the most successful tableau that students created. Why was it successful?

Describe the least successful tableau that students created. Why was it less successful?

How did this activity help students comprehend and remember the vocabulary words they were assigned?

How did this activity help students comprehend and remember the vocabulary words they were not assigned?

How could you assess/grade students on this activity?

What would you do differently if you repeated this activity?

Activity #4 (Back to top)

Compare and Contrast – Drawing and Painting

Complete the following reading and activity. When you have completed the activity, answer the questions at the end. Please scan or photograph your final artwork and send a copy of it with the answers to the questions.

Read the following text on the two types of dolphins found in the Amazon river. Next, print out the text and use two different colored highlighters (Download the text). Highlight everything you read about the Tucuxi in one color while highlighting everything you read about the Boto in another color. When you have completed the highlighting, fill in a T diagram (see following page) with elements specific to each dolphin.



Using your diagram for detailed information, create a picture of each dolphin using the following techniques, you will need colored pencils, a good eraser and a simple set of water color paints. Do not use regular lead pencil for this drawing as the lead will create a grey, “dirty” look to your artwork.

1. For each dolphin identify a primary color for your initial sketch, then choose the lightest colored pencil that shares that color. For example, if one dolphin is green, choose the lightest color green you have within your palette of colored pencils. Then, look to your list of details to decide on shape.

2. Animal parts can usually be drawn as circles, triangles, ovals, trapezoids, etc. Try using shapes to represent body parts such as head, body, fin, tail or flippers. Then erase lines that do not seem necessary. If you draw with light pressure, it will be easier to erase mistakes or blend colors. Remember to consult your list for specific details.

3. Now, use various shades of the same color to fill in the form of your dolphins with color. Here you can alternate light with dark pressure to create various shades as well. Remember that nature is rarely a singular shade of one color. Even a single leaf has multiple shades of green. Try to use variations in color, pressure or texture to create a more interesting effect.

4. Finally, add a watercolor wash over your design. Again, choose a light shade of the primary color for each dolphin. You can add water to your paintbrush to make a given shade lighter. Using a piece of scratch paper to test color can be helpful.

5. You may want to experiment with several drawings/paintings before you are happy with your final draft. The type of paper you use will also affect your product. Just as a first draft of writing is rarely acceptable for others to read, similarly you may need to several drafts of your dolphins to create a final set with which you are pleased.

Excerpt from “Tucuxis and Botos”, selections from Journey of the Pink Dolphins, by Sy Montgomery, pp. 45 nd 46. (Back to instructions) (Back to top)

Just then, two triangular fins split the waters. They sliced precisely between the halves of the river, at the intersection of the two colors, as if being born.

“Tucuxis,” Nildon announced over the roar of the fifteen-hourse-power motor. In Brazil, these small gray dolphins are still called by the name the Mayan Indians gave them in the Tipi language. We recognized them as the species scientists call Sotalia fluviatilis—the other Amazon dolphin that shares these waters with the boto. But unlike botos, tucuxis look and act the way we expect of dolphins: with their neat, compact bodies, short, well-defined snouts, and triangular dorsal fins, they launch out of the water, leaping and spinning, leaving arcs of spray as they spurt along the water’s surface. Perhaps fifty yards from our boat, first one leapt, then the other, revealing soft, pinkish bellies; then the two leapt together, almost touching. Dianne and I grabbed each other’s hands. “First the symphony,” she yelled at me over the motor, “then the opera—and now the ballet.”

Everyone likes the tucuxis, Vera had told us back at INPA. River people tend to be suspicious of the big botos, who approach boats so close and suddenly. But the tucuxis are not as bold. They perform their joyous leaps at a distance, and they are small and pretty. Only four to five feet long, tucuxis look like miniature marine dolphins, elegant and streamlined, their bottle-snouts split with cheerful smiles.

Within the whale order, which includes the dolphins, Sotalia is classed in Delphinidae, the same family as the marine dolphins who swim in the seas and perform in oceanaria. In fact, until relatively recently, tucuxis almost certainly were exclusively marine dolphins, for even today they can be found in both fresh salt water, ranging from southern Brazil to Honduras. Although they share the Amazon with botos, like the black water of the Rio Negro and the white water of the Solimões, the pink dolphins and the gray tucuxis around from separate origins.

The Delphinidae, comprising some twenty-six species, are a modern group. The most abundant and varied of the whales, they are compact and athletic, designed fro speed-swimming in open waters. Although there are no fossil records of Sotalia, most scientists agree that these dolphins entered the Amazon from the Atlantic, probably no earlier than five million years ago.

But the botos are representatives of a very different whale lineage. Until recently, botos were classed with the other five species of river dolphins in the Platanistidae, the family to which the dolphins we had seen in Bangladesh and India belong; but now many scientists believe that boto and one relates species, the La Plata dolphin of southeastern South America, should make up their own family, the Iniidae. Dianne and I had only seen botos in photographs and television documentaries, but even these images conveyed something eerie and ancient, a feeling you don’t get from marine dolphins.

The boto’s big body, which may stretch to eight feet long and weigh four hundred pounds, is quite different from most dolphins’. It lacks a prominent dorsal fin, possessing only a low ridge along the back. The flippers are huge, almost like wings. But it is the face that is most arresting: compared with the tucuxi’s neat, smooth head, the boto’s bulbous forehead seems misshapen, like a troll’s or a dwarf’s. The eyes are tiny. The face ends in a tube-shaped beak, which often curves to one side as if it has gotten bent. American scientists David and Melba Caldwell, who studied captive botos in Florida for many years, described them as “beady-eyed, humpbacked, long-snouted, loose-skinned holdovers from the past.” But there is a strange beauty to the boto, a beauty that takes longer to see: it is of the very old and the beauty of the fetus. Theirs is the beauty of becoming, of a creature poised on the brink of becoming something else.

Please scan/photograph your artwork and attach a copy of your art to the questions listed below.

How did the highlighting/diagramming help you to organize your thoughts before drawing?

How did the drawing/painting help to reinforce the information you learned from the text?

What did you learn from the artistic process?

How many drafts of your drawing/painting did you do before you were ready to consider it a final draft?

How might you assess this activity?

How else could you use these techniques in the classroom?

Activity #5 (Back to top)

Using the Arts for Learning website as a tool

Complete the following web based activity. When you have completed the activity, answer the questions at the end.

You will need to visit the website, in order to complete this activity and answer the following questions. You may want to print out the directions and questions below before your visit to the site so that you are prepared to use the site and answer the questions.

Directions for Search:

Go to and browse the site to see the options and information presented.

Next complete a search using the following guidelines. Find search at the top of the home page. Choose the following among the search options:

1. Artform – choose Dance

2. Subject – choose Science

3. Grade Level – choose 6-8

4. Leave all other windows showing Any – then click on get results

Now click on program results and browse the selected programs. Once you find a program that you like, read the program description and connections from the curricular connections.

Use the above search to answer the questions below:

1. Find two lesson plans that would be helpful in teaching the Amazon to middle grade students. Copy and paste these sample lessons, with notation regarding their location on the website, name of program and any other relevant information.

2. Explain why you chose the connections listed above. What extensions or modifications of what is explained would you use in a classroom unit?

3. Brainstorm three ways of approaching funding for the arts organization visiting your classroom.

4. Briefly describe what you have found at the Arts for Learning website.

5. List 3 ways a practicing teacher might use the site.

6. Write a paragraph summarizing the site and why it is a useful place for teachers to visit.