Part III: Performing Arts in the Classroom

By Joanna Ruggiero

Many arts programs have been cut out of schools due to budgetary constraints and higher demands on teaching to a test. Teachers have had to become creative in their teaching and integrate the arts into content areas.

Integrating the performing arts into curriculum has the ability to enhance student learning, increase academic growth and improve student behavior. Performing arts integration can bring joy into the classroom in ways that is naturally engaging to students and teachers. Just last week, I happened to walk into my colleague’s classroom where students had created a rap to memorize their multiplication facts. When kids are learning through the performing arts, the concepts being taught end up sticking better. Connecting to students’ lives is a major component of effective instruction.

Teaching is a lot like acting. You can create any atmosphere you want in a classroom, as long as you do it with energy. Students need to feel as if they are an audience at a performance and teachers need to create a memorable experience for them. When students are engaged it is more likely they will be better behaved.

Teachers have to be very creative to keep a class of 25-30 students engaged in every lesson. Not an easy task at hand, but one that pays off when students are eager to learn. When reading a story to a class, teachers usually tend to change their voice and move their body to portray that of the character. I have witnessed one teacher have her students working cooperatively in groups to act out vocabulary while the other students had to guess the word. This kept students engaged and eager to participate. Another colleague shared that she along with teachers on her grade came to school dressed as characters from a book they had finished reading with their classes. The teachers created a skit and performed it for their students. Integrating the performing arts is a magical approach that will make them better critical thinkers and problem solvers. English Language Learners who participate in drama activities can also increase their abilities when the performing arts are integrated into their instruction.

Here are a few ways to merge the concepts related to performing arts into reading.

  • Challenge students to create letters with their bodies.
  • In pairs, adapting the point of view or role of the character, have students engage in accountable talk, with one another.

Example: After reading the story “The Lion and the Mouse”, students talk to one another as the characters in

the story they read. After they can discuss their vocal choices explaining why they chose that pitch for that

character to their partners. “Arts Integration Lesson

Plans.” EducationCloset. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

  • Incorporate Readers Theater with the goal of improving fluency and enhancing comprehension. This helps build student confidence by combining reading practice and performing.
  • Have students adapt a short story into a script. Students can then act out stories they recreate.
  • Improvisation: Have 4-5 students create an unscripted act. The first student begins telling a story, then the next student must continue to tell the story, then moving on to the next student until someone makes an error by not being cohesive with the story line. Fun and spontaneous way to bring drama into the classroom and build a confident performer.

Studies show that incorporating the performing arts benefits students and teachers alike. It becomes a memorable learning experience and creates and a sense of community.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. –Aristotle

Next: Playing an Instrument and Social-Emotional Learning

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