Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Arts Integration and Special Education Achievement

What is Arts Integration?
Arts Integration is using the arts (music, visual art, dance, drama, and creative writing) to teach non-arts standards (language arts, math, science, and social studies.) We know that students learn in different methods, especially students with disabilities and second language learners. Using the arts allows all students to participate in the curriculum in ways that traditional methods do not. 

“I’m not an artist! I can barely draw a straight line! I definitely can’t sing!” 

This was the number one concern when our staff found out we were selected to implement this program. That’s how we looked at it in the beginning, “Another program- give it a few months, maybe a year, and it would be gone, like all the others before it.” How wrong we were! After the first year, the staff was on fire and growing stronger in our teaching abilities. (We received several professional development classes and lots of hands-on experiences with the arts.) Standardized scores went up! This was a real feat since we are a Title I school with over 75% free and reduced lunch, a large percentage of special education students, and an even larger percentage of ELL students. Everyone expects schools with our demographics to make the state’s target list every year since schools with similar demographics without Arts Integration do not make the same gains. Since we have become an arts school, we have not made “the list” for our gains or achievement. 

How does Arts Integration work?

Arts Integration is a method, not a program. The core academic subjects that everyone is accustomed to teaching have to be looked at as equally important as the arts standards, which is why our school refers to the standards as arts and non-arts. Students need to be submersed in both standards to be well rounded people. 

While teaching a traditional skill such as verbs, teachers look for a natural connection to an arts discipline to work with. I found that Keith Haring created art with bold colors and few details that depicted some type of movement which was perfect for teaching verbs. I looked at his art work and found some key skills that are tied to state standards and combined those standards with my language arts standards. Key vocabulary is taught from both subject areas. In this case, students learned action verbs, primary colors, secondary colors, complementary colors, positive space, and negative space. The lesson concluded with the students creating a piece of art in the style of Keith Haring. They had to choose one color for the positive space (a paper man with brads so the joints will move was traced in a position of the student’s choice) and a complimentary color for the negative space (background). They had to give their painting a title; an action verb that reflected the main idea and movement of their person. 

Yes, it is a lot of work to teach in this manner, but I only taught two lessons on action verbs and my students mastered it. That’s saying quite a bit, when you find out I teach a self-contained special education class where all of the students are working two or more years below grade level.
Is it worth the extra work? 
Yes! The students learn skills I didn’t previously believe to be possible. I spend less time re-teaching the same skills. I am able to move to more advanced skills that require students to think and generalize. In the last 3 years, I have been able to fully integrate three of my students back into the general classroom with resource support and I’m in the process of moving my fourth student back into the general classroom. Before AI (seven years), I didn’t have a single child that was able to be moved back with their general education peers. Arts Integration is a method of teaching that opens doors to students that nothing else has been able to do!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Here is a list of 50 free products.  Each was made by a teacher for his/her classroom so you know they are great.  I downloaded several of them myself!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Multi-grade Class with Multi-grade Standards

I teach a special education class grades k-5.  I have 14 students with one full time TA and one part time TA.  I have all of my students all with the exception of the 45 min they go to special area classes (music, art, pe) with their non-disabled peers.  I am responsible for teaching all grade levels, subjects, standards, IEP goals, social skills, common sense and everything else that goes along with special needs students.  Some of my students will take the regular state assessments on their grade level (with modifications such as read aloud) and others will participate in an alternate portfolio assessment (data driven work samples.  Much more in-depth and time consuming than it sounds.)  Does anyone else have a class like this?  If so, how do you handle teaching all of these standards?  I would love any advice that anyone has to offer.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Here's a chance to win several great literacy centers for your classroom.  Follow the link and enter to win!

The Dreaded Test!

It's that time of year where we are all subjected to "THE TEST". State testing is so hard on everyone.  The kids and teachers all stress out about it.  Does anyone have any tips to help get through this week with our sanity? 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday Roundup

These are a list of great products that are on sale.  If you use the promotional codeA3F9D you will receive an extra 10% off.  Even if you don't want to buy anything, check out the site.  There are tons of free stuff too!
Thursday Roundup

Great Apps for $.99

In honor of Autism Awareness month, is offering great apps for only 99 cents.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Class is on Fire!

On Friday, my class reached it's goal of 1,000 AR points!  The kids were so excited!  Several of them were dancing around the room!  They have read/listened to over 2200 books this school year!  Are they through reading?  Not even close!  There are 2 students who are really close to meeting their individual goal of earning either their hat or the big AR field trip, so my leaders have decided to help these 2 students meet their goals.  I LOVE what AR has taught my kids this year.  No, they are not reading on grade level, but they have all made progress.  (Some have made a year's worth of progress this year!)  They have learned teamwork, how to work with someone to achieve a goal, and the satisfaction of hard work!  Most importantly, they have begun to see themselves as they see their peers.  For the first time since I've been teaching, I don't hear as many "I can't".  Instead, I hear, "I'll try" or "Will someone help me?"  They have learned that they are important and they can learn.  They have learned a more valuable lesson than I ever thought they would have learned.  Hard work pays off.  If you want to achieve a goal, good friends will stick by your side to help and encourage you along the way!

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale

To celebrate their best quarter ever, TpT is offering 10% OFF through this Saturday April 9th. Use Promo Code *A3F9D*  Stop by and checkout the TONS of free lessons and activities that you can download. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Who doesn't like free stuff!  Visit this blog for a chance to win some super cute stuff for your classroom!


Friday, April 1, 2011

Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness Month.  Autism affects 1 in 110 people (1 in 70 boys.) If you are a teacher, you probably have at least one student with ASD.  Let's share some positive stories about our kids with ASD.
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