Planning an arts integrated unit

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Planning an arts integrated unit takes time and space.

In the Larkspur School District at Neil Cummins, teachers are collaborating with YIA artists to make units come alive.

YIA teaching artist, Lynn Zamarra, and science teachers, Ted Stoeckley and Rebecca Newburn, are working together to develop a 6th grade unit focused on the components of plate tectonics.

Planning an arts integrated unit requires time to brainstorm as a group.

Teaching artists then need time to experiment with potential materials and processes.

These teachers will have three planning meetings before the unit begins.

The arts component will be a pop-up book, and the page layouts will illustrate different focus questions related to plate tectonics.

Their essential question is, “How has technology advanced scientific theories?”

An “essential question” is a question that both students and teachers will be thinking about for a long time. It becomes the connective tissue for the project, and is a question that they keep coming back to in the lessons.

A planning session might look something like this:Everyone in this planning meeting had a computer, and they were working on Google Docs, which allowed them to see the plan at the same time and edit as ideas evolved.

There was a back and forth dialogue that explored the teachers’ different roles, goals, content, artistic ideas, engineering questions, and time considerations.

“What do you think makes the most sense?”

“How I am envisioning this is…..”

“I really want the students to learn and understand that….”

It is helpful for teachers to bring in the text books that will be used during the unit. And Lynn took a copy with her, so that she could understand the layers of the unit.

It was interesting to see all the different ways teachers capture ideas.

And a lot of sketching and visual mapping takes place in a planning meeting.

The “focus questions” for each lesson assist to anchor the ideas.

“How does the sea floor spreading affect the plate movement?”

“How do faults change the surface of the earth?”

On February 4th, Lynn will present to the collaborating teachers ideas about the arts integration. Lynn will bring in examples of materials, and solutions to the pop-up challenges for the students.

Then the unit begins on February 28th.

  • Susan Riley

    I think the time component is crucial when planning a lesson, as well as collaborating across teams. Have you thought about doing a curriculum map to help in the planning process? The map would find objectives that naturally align and that are written down so that later, teachers can simply access the map, rather than going through all the objectives again. Great post!

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