Monday, January 7, 2013

ABCs of Arts Integration: A - E, Part 1

photo of: The ABCs of Arts Integration for Children via RainbowsWithinReach


What a thrill to pull together my thoughts on Arts Integration into this five day 'series' organized around the ABCs. All of my favorite things right here in one place! A-Z, Arts, Literacy, Creativity and Children!! We'll get launched this morning with some overview thoughts and then jump right in and tackle A through E. You'll need to return daily, all week to get all the way to Z!

photo of: Debbie Clement makes Kindergarten Classroom Author-Illustrator School Visit
Debbie Clement Makes Arts Integration School Visit to Kindergarten Classroom
A few background 'notes' on moi -- in case you're new here under my little cyber-rainbow. My bio outlines that I now have over thirty years of experience, working with children in a variety of roles including Elementary School Art Teacher, Resource Teacher (10 years: Art + Music) at a private school serving young children with special needs and this most recent chapter of 17 years as Arts Enrichment Specialist within my own company, Rainbows Within Reach. I have written and recorded over 100 original songs for children. I dusted off my early training and degree in graphic arts and have gone on to create three traditional hardback, picture books -- wearing the many hats of author/illustrator and yes, publisher, too! NOW. Let the fun begin!

My favorite work is to make school visits like the moment pictured above. That's me on a bright day in Kindergarten. Two students are holding the physical quilts that I designed and sewed together which then became the illustrations featured in the picture books being held by K-teacher and the 3rd student. I bring and share the physical 'illustrations' (quilts) in an effort to demonstrate how creativity can literally be transformed into a book and from finished product on into a livelihood! It's so much fun to compare and contrast the book's finished product with the quilts. I LUV LUV LUV watching the light-bulbs turn on, "You're the book. YOU ARE THE BOOK!" 

Now that you have some insight into my background, join me as I attempt to articulate how I diligently work to weave the Arts together into one magnificent quilt and foundation for early literacy. Lets start at the very beginning. 

Anticipation! Acceleration!

Yes, Indeed. It ALL starts with letter A!

Letter A is where it ALL gets underway in my heart and soul. I have indeed spent over three decades dedicating my life to the use of the ARTS to lay a foundation for all that comes later, in the lives of children. 

If we as parents and educators can lay this foundation for an APPRECIATION and AFFECTION for all things Arts, I firmly believe (as all of the statistics are now demonstrating,) we will have Alert, Alive and Accelerated, Active learners ready to dive into their world as informed and Attentive participants -- ACHIEVING!!!

My APPROACH to ALL things ARTS is derived from the Approach and insight of Howard Gardner and his insight in his outline of Multiple Intelligence Theory. Click here for a freebie chart of his 8 categories.)  We each have a unique set of 'intelligence-strengths'. For some children, Music may be the modality for expressing their strengths -- their very intelligence. For others their visual/spacial picture arena is their actual 'intelligence.' It is the wise parent that recognizes these strengths early and 'plays to them.' It is the even wiser teacher who taps into the natural strength of each student, learning to adapt and design lessons in order for strengths to be demonstrated. I hope that I'm preaching to the choir. Who doesn't want to pursue what they're good at doing? 

From Wikipedia, the definition for Arts Integration:
Arts integration is a term applied to an approach to teaching and learning that uses the fine and performing arts as primary pathways to learning. Arts integration differs from traditional arts education by its inclusion of both an arts discipline and a traditional subject as part of learning (e.g. using improvisational drama skills to learn about conflict in writing.) The goal of arts integration is to increase knowledge of a general subject area while concurrently fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the fine and performing arts. The John F. Kennedy Center defines arts integration as "an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject and meets evolving objectives in both."

Debbie Clement and just a few of her favorite Kindergarten Kiddos 'GROW' for the third verse of "Glad I'm at School" 

ACTIVE! Yes. I expect the best of Arts Integration to be active. Even when you have so little time, so many students and so very little space. The key to getting everyone involved is to give them the permission to be ACTIVE! Children are designed to move. Tap into their level of activity and transform an entire group from passivity to ACTIVITY! That's where learning begins. It's as simple as follow-the-leader fun. Demonstrate an active motion and watch the response. The more the group works together the more involved the actions unfurl.  

One more final letter A before we move on: A is for ANTICIPATION! 

Let me share with you my least expensive, NO COST, sure-fire, guaranteed successful idea for working with groups of children: large groups, small groups, new groups, old groups. It is the benefit of 'anticipation.' As soon as I have introduced myself to the group of students I'm about to work with and gained their trust, I tell them quite simply and truthfully that I have brought them surprises. I tell them that the rule of surprises, is that you have to close your eyes while I pull them from my polka-dotted suitcase. It doesn't matter if the children are four years old or in the fourth grade...... there's something magical about closing your eyes and turning on your imagination. Closing your eyes begins the magical journey of anticipation. What could be coming? What will happen next? Where are we going? Anticipation transports you from the every day to the world of what if! That's the channel we want to inhabit for Arts Integration! 

Time to move along. How about letter B? 

BEAT! It's all in the BEAT!!!

From my perspective as a 'music-lady' the BENEFITS of music BEGIN with the BEAT! 

Many of the ditties that I've written are very loosely categorized as 'rap' compositions -- because they have no melody. It's all about the rhythm. Hearing the beat, following the beat, anticipating the beat, matching the beat, replicating the beat, making variations on the beat -- these are all the underpinnings of math. Math I tell you! Music + Math are totally and completely intertwined and it all starts with the BEAT! Math is oh-so very much in the state standards, the common core. So let's incorporate the beat into the study of math from the very beginning! 

Talk about BEDROCK! It's the beat that gives us the foundation! Hearing the BEAT is a BRILLIANT way to play with words. Syllabication and poetry are all about segmenting words into their smaller components. Bang that drum. Break-that-dance. Direct the children in your world to 'hear the beat.' We literally BEGIN with the heartBEAT of baby-on-breast. Before you know it, you're BOUNCING that baby as you BOOGIE through the day! 

BEGIN!!! It's not critical to have an advanced degree. Begin as our fore-mothers and their mothers. Pat your baby on the back. Play with words as you do so. Pat and say baby's name with a defined beat. You have begun. The kitchen is your percussion section -- all of those pots and pans are perfect for pounding. Grab your wooden spoons and voila: mallets. Go to town together! Be certain that your classroom -- and your family room are filled with a wide spectrum and diversity of beats. Marches, salsa, swing, reggae, polka, rap. They inform and tickle differently. Don't limit your beat. [*See link to tutorial under letter D-for-drum down below.]


There's an encyclopedia of insight on Arts integration within the letter C collection alone. So much to consider

WE start with the act of creating
Is creativity inborn? How much can be nurtured? How much can be taught? What are the best ways to stretch and develop creativity? In children? In adults? 

Certainly having oodles of materials available for children to manipulate and control are the basis for observations over time. How many readers here have experienced their tiny one engaged for hours with an empty box, when the shiny contents have long since been completely forgotten or were never even investigated in the first place? It is those 'loose parts' and open ended materials that especially lend themselves to problem solving and the nurturing of the creative spirit. Give me a box of blocks any day! Or better still? Just give me the box! Oh-what-fun you could design with that empty box. Keep empty boxes of all sizes on hand -- they will lend themselves to clever choices!  

photo of: Early Education Emporium: Resources Under One Umbrella via PreK+K Sharing

There have been some amazing student responses to my picture books over the years. The one that literally took my breath away stood awaiting my arrival in the school gym of Amityville, NY. The building housed the entire kindergarten population for the school district under one roof. Three hundred and thirty Kinders. My visit was orchestrated by the school librarian in conjunction with the building's Art teacher. Imagine my heart rate upon walking into the gym and being greeted by this collaborative construction. Without exaggeration, by best estimation it was between 35 and 40 feet in length and approximately 8 feet high. 

A picture's worth a thousand words. Two pictures in a collage must surly be worth ten thousand? If I could only supply you with one image to articulate my grasp of everything I know and everything I've ever experienced of Arts Integration, it would be the one above! Imagine all the learning that unfolded within the curriculum's goals as students observed the patterns and colors in my picture book and created their own response. Imagine the collaboration as those individual responses were assembled together as a class quilt. Imagine the thrill to coordinate all of the classes work with the next! The study of color, design, shapes, patterns, geometry, Illustrator's-style, language and cooperation -- all accomplished with construction paper and glue! Congratulations!

photo of: An Easel full of Collaborative Coloring for Young Children


One of my favorite things about the Arts? The idea of improving one's skills over time. People. That takes dedication coupled with determination. It takes time to learn. It takes time to get better. People who get enthusiastic about the Arts are also cheerleaders for the critical concept of 'DELAYED gratification.' 

We as educators know that one can predict the success of our students based on their ability to DELAY their gratification. Who can focus on long term projects? Who can follow through over days and weeks of adding to a project, developing it, editing over time? No one plays a concerto without first logging hours of practicing scales. No one receives a commission to paint a portrait without dedication to the development of skills over time.  

Pick a letter D: Drama, Dance, Drumming. They all require determination. Each has specific skills that are developed over time. There is such a DELICATE balance between developing skills and the raw DELIGHT that comes with DISCOVERY. As a teacher, as a grandma I challenge myself to incorporate both the 'developing' of skills by setting high expectations together with the thrill of discovery. As an adult keeping both sides of that equation in balance leads to a willingness to try new adventures and nurture growth. 

photo of: Patriotic Peace Drum: DIY Tuesday Tutorial
Build a Drum: DIY Tutorial 
Months ago I wrote an article here that has a tutorial on how to make an inexpensive drum. In the best of DIY insight, I think you can follow the photos to craft an instrument suitable for either home or school. YUP! Drumming allows exploration of the beat in the midst of music exploration. 

photo of: An "Open Letter of Encouragement" from Debbie Clement of RainbowsWithinReach
An Open Letter of Encouragement for Artists Everyone
How on earth did I leave the work 'DREAMS' off of my ABC building block up above? My entire blog has the under-pinnings of creating dream-makers from dream chasers. In the middle-point of my 17th year as an 'independent' artisan, small business owner, speaker, advocate for the arts, I had the watershed opportunity to give my first ever KEYNOTE for a national conference. In fact I was the closing speaker for the National Head Start Association in Dallas, just about a month ago. [Click here to read my open letter to encourage your own efforts -- whatever the media.]

Effort! Emotion! 

Encourage. Excitement! 

Giving an assignment as 'simple' as a book report or as involved as a science fair experiment with the expanded expectation of integrating the Arts into the final presentation is a gift to many children. As soon as the book report is encouraged to enter the third dimension, that's when the eyes light up. 

Children who prefer their learning experiences with a kinesthetic bend are thrilled when 'foldables' are introducted into the equation! Pieces that move, parts that fold! Now you're talking! The energy brought with the inclusion of the Arts is immediately on the increase. Excitement is felt when the option of a 'presentation' can include story-telling or drama and props. The Arts enter the curriculum not as an 'extra' but as a way to elevate engagement! I just pulled together a series of images that I've seen on my travels that have an exciting 'foldable' kinesthetic vein to them. [Click here for those ideas.]

That's a wrap-up for the installment of these first five letters of the alphabet. You'll have to come back tomorrow for the next chapter, which will include letters F-J. There just aren't enough minutes in the day for the amount of enthusiasm I have for this series. I will do my best to get each article 'ready' in time. I will also promise that this will continue to be a 'work-in-progress' with numerous edits into the future. What I know is that in order for a piece to get edited it has to go to press first. 

BTW: We are currently aboard a cruise ship in the Bahamas as this article goes to press. I can't wait to get back and see what you have to think. 

Special thanks to my friends at Kids Bloggers Network for establishing this amazing concept and blogging challenge. We have about 70 people each writing on an A-Z Series that they are passionate about. Here are the links to the others in my sub-category of 
If you're looking for the entire collection of all 70 bloggers and their links, just click back to my landing page of yesterday to gain your passport of entry into all of the other exotic ports scheduled for the week.

Follow along as the series progresses: 

ABCs of Arts Integration, Letters F-J, Part 2
ABCs of Arts Integration, Letters K-0, Part 3 
ABCs of Arts Integration, Letters P-T, Part 4

photo of: The ABCs of Arts Integration for Children via RainbowsWithinReach

                                   -- Debbie -- 

Follow Me on Pinterest
I now have 85,000 followers of my Pinterest boards and specific pin collections. If you've appreciated this article, I'm just betting that you'd want to follow those efforts as well. 

Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth -
I have just opened a store at Teachers Pay Teachers, where I have my original songs for children in zipped folders with Mp3s and support materials in pdf format and or power point. Come follow me there to see when I have new products to announce. 

photo of: Early Education Emporium: Resources Under One Umbrella via PreK+K Sharing

The really big news of 2013 is that we have launched an entire new enterprise
where you can shop in your jammies for all the resources you need.....
under one ever-larger, polka dot umbrella! 
ALL suitable for the earliest years. 

Tell your friends! Come open your own shop! 


  1. Welcome to a new Linky Party for Kid-Focused Bloggers. Monday Kid Corner is a place to share your kid-friendly activities and crafts. Please join us at See you there!

  2. Fabulous and so helpful! True! Right on! Pinned, Tweeted, and so on.


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