Art Is More Than Just Added Flavor: Differentiated Instruction Within a Single Art Form

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By Amanda Koonlaba

In part one of this two-part post, I explained how arts integration is a way to reach all learners and fits with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. I also outlined how students can choose an art form to demonstrate their learning.

Differentiating a Picture-Based Inference Lesson

For the activity described in part one, the students had been receiving instruction in the art forms throughout the school year. The activity took place in late spring, so they were comfortable enough with those art forms to make their own decisions and demonstrate their understanding. However, before students can really be autonomous enough to choose their own art form to showcase their learning, they have to learn how to construct using the art forms. Arts integration can actually be used to differentiate instruction within each art form.

Students worked in groups to create a variation on the See, Wonder, Infer chart.
Students worked in groups to create a variation on the See, Wonder, Infer chart.

One example of differentiating within an art form is an ELA lesson on inferencing that I developed with the 4th grade teachers at my school. The students viewed Norman Rockwell’s Triumph in Defeat (Shiner) and then worked in groups to make See, Wonder, Infer charts. They were easily able to make inferences from this piece, which shows a girl sitting outside the principal’s office with a black eye. The door to the principal’s office is open and two adults can be seen talking.

After they created these charts, they viewed a video that I created about showing depth in artwork. I also modeled how to find, cut, and glue an image from a magazine. Then, I modeled how to draw a background for the image to give the viewer the opportunity to make inferences. Finally, students wrote about their artwork.

The teachers at my school employ flexible grouping to aid in their differentiated instruction efforts. So, the teachers were able to group the students according to their needs. Some groups worked with a great deal of independence to make their See, Wonder, Infer charts, create large pieces of artwork, and carry their writing throughout the entire writing process. Some groups needed the teacher to work with them to make their See, Wonder, Infer charts. They created smaller pieces of artwork and focused more on developing a complete sentence rather than carrying their writing through the entire writing process. A couple of students verbally expressed their thoughts on the artwork, and the teacher transcribed for them.

This student wanted the viewer to infer that this girl is taking a selfie with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World.
This student wanted the viewer to infer that this girl is taking a selfie with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World.
This student wanted the viewer to infer that this girl is laughing at the people screaming on the roller coaster.
This student wanted the viewer to infer that this girl is laughing at the people screaming on the roller coaster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts Integration Reaches All Learners

Arts integration is a conceptual approach to education reform that redesigns the education environment by using the arts to support high-quality instruction and enhanced learning for all students. Yes, the arts do speak to the soul. They do give us purpose and make life more interesting. But the arts are not just added flavor. They are not just something that makes school fun. They are the vehicle for differentiating instruction to reach all learners.

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Amanda Koonlaba teaches visual art in Tupelo, Miss, and serves as an arts integration instructional coach. She is an ASCD Emerging Leader and will complete a specialist degree in educational leadership in December. Connect with her on Twitter @AKoonlaba.

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