If you’re reading this article, chances are, you already know and believe in the importance of an arts education. The research is powerful. Studies and articles have shown time and time again just how valuable arts are for students, especially hands-on art education.
For starters, there are definite academic benefits related to having a strong art education—everything from improved math and reading scores to increasing a student’s memory and overall cognition. Then there are countless other benefits as well, like increasing a child’s confidence, creativity, and self-understanding. Plus, for some students, it’s what gets them to school and excited about learning. It’s why they show up.
So how do we get more art in classrooms on a daily basis? Here are some ideas for incorporating it into existing curriculum and projects. By layering it into what you already have planned, you’ll be able to reach more students and have less prep work overall.
Encourage kids to sketch and doodle while they learn.
Have you ever tried letting your student doodle and sketch while the lesson is going on? This might seem counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught in the past—but research shows doodling can help with memory and retention. Let students try it during a certain lesson to see if it works. Even if it doesn’t look like they’re paying attention, you might be surprised that they actually absorb the information better. Another idea is to set aside time during the day, outside of a regular lesson, so students can reflect through journaling, doodling, or sketching.
Lead with the art project, and then build a lesson around it.
Instead of starting with the lesson and then incorporating art, what if we flipped that? Let’s start with the art project, and then build a lesson around it. Reading, writing, math, and science—there are definitely ways to bring these into engaging, hands-on art projects. It helps to have a strong idea to start. If you’re looking for art-based lessons that incorporate SEL, history, social studies and more, check out the free lessons on our Teacher Resource Center. Every lesson plan includes learning objectives and outlines all the supplies you’ll need.
Find ways to recognize and display your students’ creative works
A big part of emphasizing art in the classroom is to just talk about it with your students on a regular basis. Show students that it’s important to recognize art, both how it shapes our worlds, and the art we create every day. For instance, if you do art projects in the classroom, display them proudly. Students will love showing off their work, and it sends a message to them that it matters what they make and create. Plus, it might inspire others in school. Outside of visual or physical art, you can also take time in the classroom to read student essays, poems, and other work. You might even consider having a student showcase every couple of months to highlight their best work. By talking about art regularly and treating it like it matters, students will definitely receive the message.
Give students the option to show comprehension through art
Testing isn’t the only way for students to show what they know. In fact, test anxiety is a real challenge for many students. They might know the material, but aren’t able to show it through a traditional test. So mix it up by inviting students to show their understanding through art comprehension. Instead of standard multiple-choice questions, let your students share what they know through writing, sketches, or even acting it out. You might have to set some parameters on what they can do as a project and it doesn’t work for every classroom scenario. But this is a great alternative for students who don’t always excel through traditional tests and exams.
There are dozens of ways to weave art into the classroom every week. It can take a little shift of mindset to combine your current lessons with art, but there are so many potential benefits when you do. It really is possible to incorporate art in every aspect of your classroom, and students will gain a better, more well-rounded education at the same time.