Assignment Task 1: Arts Education in Primary Schools Position Paper
Children from a very young age are free and fearless when it comes to their artistry. They embody the quote by Pablo Picaso “Everything you can imagine is real.” Through role play, drawing and music making, using anything they may find, they learn about the world while creating worlds. It only serves to make sense that we would utilise Arts education to support students to grow and learn. Continuing to honour, extend and utilise these important vehicles for uncovering life, learning and creativity has never been more important in the primary school setting.
A Critical Personal Reflection: My journey with the Arts
When I was a child I had a belief that I wasn’t creative or artistic because my concept of being artistic was limited to ones drawing ability. I was so insecure about my ideas that I couldn’t start an art project and if I started I couldn’t finish. I had no dance or drama experience until I was old enough to go to school dances or watch music videos. My arts education emerged through the love of music. I loved singing. I would have loved to play an instrument but we didn’t have a lot of money. For a long time, lack of money shaped and influenced my pursuit of creative ideas because I had a limiting belief that there was no point in pursuing creative ideas unless it would make money.
In my 20’s I travelled the world. Traveling opened my eyes to how The ARTS is expressed globally. I experienced the ballet in Birmgham, opera at the Acropolis, tabla drum and sitar players in India, Kabuki in Japan, belly dancers in Turkey, and so much more. Meeting people from around the world and hearing their ideas, visiting art galleries, museums, going to an infinite array of live performances really inspired me to cultivate a journaling practice that was about more than just recording my travel experiences. It was where I documented my feelings in words, colour, drawing, collage, whatever felt right at the time. By the time I entered my Post Graduate degree in Education in 2005 I knew accurately the importance of Arts education and I passionately sought out ways to ensure that students were able to experience and express themselves via music, dance, drama and visual art.
My favourite class during my Diploma of Education was Creativity and the ARTS. Early in my career, I also took a two-day professional development with Song room. It was called Storytelling through drama, movement and the music. This workshop changed how I approached new inquiry units, writing genres and even how we responded to picture books.
My love of the arts evolved into a program I ran at school Called Mindful Storytelling. It was a workshop series that created collaborative storytelling sessions with groups of children through drama, movement, dance we created stories that helped and supported students to develop problem solving skills, confidence and self -regulation skills. At the end of every session student responded with a reflection activity that may be visual art based. Now I use these skills and my passion for the Arts to create an inclusive classroom environment where all students have an opportunity to shine.
The ARTS in the Victorian Curriculum
In the Victorian Curriculum the Arts is one of 8 learning areas and is further broken down into 5 specific modalities of study, Vasal Art, Media Art Dance, Drama and music. Each Arts Modality has specific outcomes for each level that guide teachers and supports students to expand their knowledge, understanding and ability. Standards of Achievement are reported on for Foundation, years 1- 2, 3-4 and 5-6. There is a separate scope and sequence identified for disabled students or students with learning difficulties. All students deserve to be seen, included and supported with the appropriate adjustments.
Arts curriculum centres around four strands, explore and express ideas, practice, present and perform and respond and interpret.
The Victorian Curriculums Scope and Sequence is very detailed. Here are brief descriptions for each area;
In media art students explore and express ideas around characters, setting and story elements that exist in Media artforms. Students practice and learn new tools and techniques to create, edit and manipulate and respond to evolving and more complex elements such as space. Time, light, etc. The students are encouraged to Present and Perform their work they have completed which evolves from simply presenting their artwork to planning, creating and reflecting on the intention of their work as artists. Finally, students learn to Respond and interpret the meaning behind different artwork and social or cultural messages that may be presented.
In visual Arts students are encourage to explore ideas, things they notice, their ideas by using their imagination evolving to students expressing their beliefs about a subject. Students practice creating visual artwork using a variety of materials, techniques and processes that may be unique to specific artforms. There art work is them created and displayed where in upper primary students are encouraged to think about their audience. Students respond and interprets the reason why people may make art and as the years and skill progresses student are encouraged to respond and interpret to art works present by different historical or cultural viewpoints, such as Aboriginal and Torre Straight islander people.
In the Victorian Curriculum music students learn to sing songs, changing their voices for different effects. They experiment with playing musical instruments and as the levels progress the arrangement and the music they create and perform becomes more complex. Teachers are encouraged to introduce variety of musical genres from contemporary to classical and examples from indigenous cultures and vibrant styles from all over the world.
Dance students reflect on dances they make, perform and view, and discuss where and why people dance. This evolves into learning about different cultural dances or specific dance styles and story elements that are implicit in dance.
Drama uses voice, facial moment and body movements to bring a scene or a story to life. Students are encouraged to identify what they like about a performance and as they progress they are encouraged to reflect or infer meaning or aspects of the performance that have to do with space, time, culture, inclusion, ect. Students are encouraged to reflect on a range performances and try to imagine and articulate the perspective of the artist.
The Arts aligns with responding and supporting the teaching of the Capabilities domain of the curriculum. Social and Emotional Capabilities can use drama, dance and art to teach our feelings and emotions. Students may act out challenging social situations and/or practice self-regulation strategies that will help student regulate emotions in a variety of scenarios. The Arts encourages us to be present, critical observers of the world, curious and ask questions. In most Arts based lessons you are touching on elements of the Critical and Creative Thinking Capabilities. Through the arts students can learn about and improve their Ethical and Cultural Capability by observing and reflecting on how artists have responded to their ethical issues such as the environment, inclusion, diversity, gender, race, and so much more.
Why has the Arts been positioned as an Essential learning Area in the Curriculum?
“Children in arts-rich schools do significantly better at the basics than at schools which focus on measuring literacy and numeracy outcomes.’ O’conner 2022. Research has demonstrated that schools with an established music program, leads to students’ cognitive levels increasing. Yet policies and standardised testing have overwhelmingly put an emphasis on Literacy and Numeracy. Then STEM comes along and many schools are steering resources and funding towards STEM programs and away from ARTs education. For these reasons the Arts needs to be protected as essential Learning.
As stated by O’connor, in New Zealand the Arts is in danger of being left out of teacher training programs all together. It is my experience, as teacher for the last 17 years, that those moments where the students have learnt a new technique or creative way to respond to a task is essential in. Through Drama and Music students create, collaborate, problem solve and perform. To witness and experience the energy shift in room when students are engaged in ARTS based tasks is life changing.
Here in Australia the government has taken steps to increase the fees by more than 100 percent, for Creative ARTS, and Humanity degrees, to make it a science, mathematics degrees more appealing. This move on the part of governments has been portrayed as their answer to encourage study to fill holes in the labour market. This short-sighted bill was passed in the senate and was not even tabled for debate or discussion. (P. Benton, 2020). This kind of policy is exactly why the ARTS needs to be protected. In other countries, such as Canada, you need a whole other degree before you enter into an education program to become a teacher. Bowen and Kinda (2019) found that “…giving students more access to the arts offers measurable benefits. And adding time for dance, theater, or visual arts isn’t at odds with traditional measures of academic success, according to the research — which amounts to one of the largest gold-standard studies on arts education ever conducted.”
When you take away a populations ability to study what they love you are preventing them from reaching their full potential. The best teachers offer their students a unique perspective in a subject they are passionate about. The Arts teach us to value following an idea just because you had it. If you have leaders and government officials creating policies that would severely limit your ability to live out your dreams it seriously impacts creative pursuits at every level of the curriculum and later in the work place. Many companies globally assert that young people entering the workforce lack important creative and critical thinking skills. Employers are also observing poor levels of collaboration and problem-solving skills necessary to face 21st Century challenges. I believe Strong Arts Programs from the beginning could address these short comings effectively.
Implementing the Arts in a Primary Classroom
It is important the Arts to be valued and celebrated in all schools, regularly and not just end of year performances. Schools that demonstrate the importance of the Arts have weekly specialist classes, opportunity to join Choirs, take instrumental lessons, special lunch time drama or creative clubs and opportunities to share their artwork and or perform in front of the whole school.
It is also important to utilise the Arts in the everyday classroom. In my class, I utilised the High impact Teaching Strategies (HITS). To support with your planning, it is good to print off copies of the ARTS scope and sequences provided by Victorian Curriculum so when you are Setting Goals (HITS 2022), in the form of a learning intention and success criteria it is linked to the curriculum. It is also good to have on hand so you are able to differentiate learning (HITS 2020) tasks, so that all students are supported to experience successes from any skill level.
I have a 5-minute brain break every hour. During this time, I may turn on a piece of music. Students are encouraged to move in a certain way, that is outlined by the learning intention and when the music stops they are encouraged to make a shape with their bodies. These qualities of movement or skills are written on paddle pop sticks and stored in can so we can revisit them again and again. Every couple of weeks we learn a new song. We learn to sing it and often create actions to go with the song. Drama Games such as Mirror where one student copies the other.
Acting out the text. After read a text we may retell the story by acting it out together as a class, adding movements, sounds or props. To prepare for the writing block I may act out a piece of writing before the mins and I asking the students to join in and copy movements I make with the story. When we act out the writing you can cover the structure of a particular genre, dialogue, engaging vocabulary, Onomatopoeia in an embodied and engaging way. This kind of front loading supports reluctant writers via multiple exposer, another important HITS strategy.
In mathematics we use music, such as the clapping sticks, to create patterns. In problem solving. Students are encouraged to use two strategies to solve every problem one of our Strategies is the Act it Out Strategy.
Community Circle is a time when we pose a question and each student is asked to answer it. Drama games are an engaging way to support the development oral language, creativity and encourage students to use interesting responses and humour to make the circle time fun. We may use props such as balls, blankets or anything really to inspire a story or a dance.
After lunch we always have 10 minutes of quiet creative time. I give students a theme and visual art techniques and they create a picture. Then we do a Picture walk and the other students look at all the work created. Once month students get to choose a picture to bring to life with colour or using a mixed media approach or a dramatic post card.
Spelling- Every week we introduce a new word of the week. Depending on the word students create a piece of artwork, learn a song, a dance or create a chant reinforcing what they know about the word. For early learners, at the beginning of their literacy, reading and writing journey this is the perfect way to anchor in new learning.
Benton, Penelope (8 October 2020). Breaking: Its now harder and more expensive for people to study arts and creative practices at university. NAVA (National Association for Visual Arts), assessed 15 April 2022
Bowen, E.H, Kisida, B. (2019). Investigating Causal Effects of Arts Education Experiences. Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
Bryce, J., Mendelovits, J., Beavis, A., McQueen, J., & Adams, I. (2004). Evaluation of school-based arts education programmes in Australian schools. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Caldwell, B.J, Vaughan, T., & Harris, J. The Song Room (2011). Bridging The Gap In School Achievement Through The Arts
Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S. A., & Hampden-Thompsan, G. (2012) The arts and achievement in the at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies. Washington, DC: National Empowerment for the Arts.
Dinham, J. (2019). Delivering Authentic Arts Education. Melbourne, AUSTRALIA, Cengage. Lorenza, L.M.(2018) Curriculum change and teachers’ responses: a NSW case study. University of Sydney.
Meiners, J. (2017) So can we dance? : in pursuit of an inclusive dance curriculum for the primary school years in Australia. University of South Australia. Winner, E., Goldstein, T. R., Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2013). Arts for art’s sake? Overview, OECD Publishing.
O’Conner, Peter (21 January 2021) Teachers Hope to End Near Death of Arts in School. Newsroom, assessed 15 April 2022
Saunders, J.N. (2019) Dramatic Interventions: A multi-site case study analysis of student outcomes in the School Drama program. University of Sydney.
The Foundation for Young Australians. (2015). The new work order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past.
Victorian Department of Education and Training (2020). HITS (High Impact Teaching Strategies) online assessed 15 April 2022
DET (Victorian Department of Education and Training) 2019 Amplify: Empowering students through voice, agency and leadership Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority https://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au