Arts Curriculum Framework:
The Practice Of Creating
As long as societies and civilizations have existed, people have created and performed works that express communal as well as personal ideas. When students in an Adult Basic Education Program teach preschoolers the "Mexican Hat Dance" or a fourth grader and her mother demonstrate how women wear kimonos in their native Japan, they become learners and teachers, connecting the historical and cultural components of the arts to the lives of Massachusetts students. Encounters with works of art from the past--for example, Picasso's Guernica, Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," or Shakespeare's history plays---can stimulate exploration of events, times, and places and help students make interdisciplinary connections.
Perspectives from other cultures can often illuminate understanding of our own society. We live in a society that values technological innovation, so it is important for students to understand how artists have historically invented and used tools and new technologies, and to be knowledgeable, inquisitive, and discerning in their own artistic use of technology. We also live in a society that has created a variety of cultural institutions to preserve the heritage of the arts, and stimulate artistic innovations, so it is important for learners to understand how to use these cultural resources to enrich their lives and to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the community.
Learning in the arts through Connecting and Contributing is represented by four Learning Standards:
- Learning Standard 5: Lifelong learners investigate the cultural and historical contexts of the arts.
- Learning Standard 6: Lifelong learners integrate the arts and make connections among the arts and other disciplines.
- Learning Standard 7: Lifelong learners use technology in order to create, perform, and conduct research in the arts.
- Learning Standard 8: Lifelong learners participate in the community's cultural and artistic life.
Students will investigate the cultural and historical contexts of the arts.
Creators and performers of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts both reflect and shape their societies' values. Students and teachers know that the arts provide significant insights into understanding cultures and history. As they research the arts in their cultural contexts, learners ask Essential Questions such as these:
- How is expression in the arts similar and different across cultures?
- How do artists take inspiration from their own time and culture?
- How does one's own cultural heritage affect perception of artworks from another time or place?
- Identify similarities and differences of works of dance, music, theatre, and visual art from diverse cultures within and outside of the United States.
- Create and/or perform works of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts inspired by arts from the past and other cultures.
- PreK-2: Students list and compare the different ways their families use the arts to mark the coming of a new year. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)
3-4: As they study Native American culture, students examine artifacts and photographs or drawings of visual art, architecture, and crafts from North, Central, and South America and discuss the distinctive imagery, design, and use of materials in each region. (connects with Social Studies)
- PreK-2: Students dramatize folktale themes from around the world. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)
3-4: Students sing from memory songs in their original languages from the United States and world cultures. (connects with World Languages)
Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:
- Demonstrate understanding of how artists in at least three of the arts--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts -- are influenced by and make use of natural resources in their physical environment.
- Perform works in at least two of the performing arts--dance, music, and theatre,--that demonstrate understanding of their original historical context.
- Demonstrate understanding of the artistic heritage and culture of the United States.
- Students research how artists and artisans in ancient cultures used clay, wood, metal, and fiber for musical instruments, containers, clothing and costume, sculpture, weapons, architecture, and jewelry and create a multimedia presentation of their investigations. (connects with Social Studies, Science and Technology)
- Using historically accurate music and costumes, students create and perform a narrated lecture/ demonstration of popular dances in the United States from 1900 to the present, explaining how the dance styles reflect historical events, cultural diversity, and evolving social patterns. (connects with English Language Arts, Social Studies)
- As a group project, eighth graders research, write about, and make an illustrated oral presentation/ demonstration on the history of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts in Massachusetts from the 1600s to the present. (connects with English Language Arts, Social Studies)
Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:
- Demonstrate understanding of the cultural and historical contexts of artists' works in at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre or visual arts.
- Identify, describe, and analyze cross-cultural influences in works in at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts.
- After seeing the film Joy Luck Club and reading excerpts of Amy Tan's novel on which it is based, students write about the themes of family and generational conflict from the perspective of Asian and Western cultures. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)
- Students research the impact of the Dance Theatre of Harlem on audience perceptions of people of color involved in classical ballet, or the impact of the National Theatre for the Deaf on the perceptions of the hearing-impaired as actors. (connects with Health, English Language Arts, World Languages)
Continue the Pre K-10 Standards and:
- Identify recurring important themes or techniques in the history of at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts-- and analyze their use in specific works.
- In at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre or visual arts--develop, defend, and apply criteria for evaluating works of different cultures, styles, genres and periods.
- Students write essays analyzing how the visual arts have been used in history to convey ideas about political power, analyzing specific works such as Benin bronze sculptures, the palace of Versailles, John Singleton Copley's portraits, or political posters and cartoons. (connects with Social Studies, English Language Arts)
- After listening to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, students write reviews of the composition and compare their opinions to reviews written by critics at the first performances, and by critics. (connects with Social Studies, English Language Arts)
How is expression in the arts similar and different across cultures? Third graders listen to, memorize and sing a repertoire of music from the United States including folk songs, patriotic songs, Native American music, and spirituals, for example, "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me," "You're A Grand Old Flag," "I'm Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing," "We Shall Overcome." They listen to classical music such as Beethoven's Ode to Joy theme from Symphony No. 9 and Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony and discuss the distinctive attributes of the styles of music.
Sixth graders learn to perform folk, creative and social dances that reflect the diversity of the class and the individuality of the students. For instance, they learn and perform "Afunga," a Nigerian welcome dance, "the Electric Slide," a dance once popular in the United States, and pre-ballet historical European dances such as the Pavanne. They discuss the similarities and differences of the dances, and work in groups to research how the dances developed in their particular times and places
Eighth graders explore how advertising uses visual images in order to sell a product. Students examine a series of ads for footwear from the 1920s to the present and develop opinions about whether the images they see are factual, distorted or exaggerated. They discuss how advertisements communicate expectations for certain behaviors, and how those expectations change or stay the same over time.
How does one's own cultural heritage affect perception of artworks from another time and place? Ninth graders write reviews of works of art that interpret the question of slavery, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Erastus Salisbury Field's painting, The Historical Monument of the American Republic, the political cartoons of Thomas Nast, D. W. Griffith's film Birth of a Nation, Alex Haley's novel Roots, or Ken Burns' film documentary The Civil War. They compare reviews and discuss how the reviewers' ethnic and cultural backgrounds affect their responses to the works.
How do artists take inspiration from their own time and culture? In an English Language Arts class students read and watch live or recorded performances of William Shakespeare's history plays, Henry III and Henry IV. They research how the plays might have been performed at 17th century theatres such as the Globe in London, and define essential questions, such as: For actors and audiences, was the impact of the plays then the same as it is today? Why are these plays still performed in the United States, hundreds of years after they were written? To answer these questions, students examine portraits of national leaders, architecture, music, and primary historical documents from Elizabethan England, and the United States in the twentieth century.
Students will integrate the arts and make connections among the arts and other disciplines.
Dance, music, theatre, and visual arts share common concepts and approaches, and illuminate ideas in English Language Arts, Health, Science, Technology and Mathematics, Social Studies, and World Languages. Integrating the arts encourages learners to ask Essential Questions such as:
- Are there universal human themes and issues?
- What can we learn about the arts from the perspective of other disciplines?
- How do we learn about other disciplines through the arts?
- Demonstrate understanding of how to integrate knowledge and skills from at least two arts disciplines--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--in a group project.
- Demonstrate understanding of how concepts from dance, music, theatre, and visual arts relate to other disciplines.
- PreK-2: Starting with a folktale from a world culture, students retell a story through a combination of art forms. For example, they make puppets, masks, or costumes, and stage a production that uses music, movement, and spoken dialogue. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)
3-4: As part of their science study, students make paintings of autumn leaves from observation, and interpret the movement of falling leaves through dance. (connects with Science and Technology)
- PreK-2: In physical education and visual arts classes, students explore the concept of balance. (connects with Health)
3-4: Students create an exhibition or performance based on the concept of pattern in the arts, mathematics, and science. (connects with Science, Technology and Mathematics)
Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:
- Express a concept from another discipline in least three art forms--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts--and explain why the concept is relevant to the arts and other disciplines.
- Explain how the arts convey ideas about the nature of human civilizations past and present.
- Students create and perform works that interpret the concepts of "resilience" or "continuity and change" through their experiences in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. (connects with Health, Social Studies)
- Students analyze Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica and discuss its significance as a statement about war. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages, Social Studies)
Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:
- Demonstrate an understanding of how styles in the arts--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--relate to cultural norms and historical events.
- Describe and analyze the role of creativity in the arts, other disciplines, and the world of work.
- As a research project, a student analyzes, and presents examples of Romanticism in dance, music, painting, architecture, landscape design, and literature, and relate, these examples to social conditions and historical events in nineteenth century Europe. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages, Social Studies)
- Students interview adults about the creative aspects of their jobs: for example, vocational students examine creativity in the computer, medical, and biotechnology industries. They produce a cable television program to display their learning about creativity at work. (connects with Science and Technology, Health)
Continue the PreK-10 Standards and:
- Identify and analyze links among the arts and other disciplines.
- As an independent project, a twelfth grade music student gathers, analyzes, and presents data on the economic impact of the performing arts in Massachusetts over a decade. (connects with Social Studies, Mathematics)
Preschoolers and kindergartners learn counting rhymes in several languages and interpret them through music, movement and visual arts.
First graders look at each others' paintings displayed at their eye level around the room. Each child picks a work other than his or her own to describe orally. In addition, each child writes about the process of making a painting.
Fourth graders read several versions of African and Caribbean folktales about Anansi the Spider, a trickster hero who lives by his wits. Students discuss the characters and plots of the stories, and consider how to show the characters' qualities, thoughts and feelings in illustration and performance. Working in groups, they paint a mural showing the setting, choose characters, develop dialogue and movement, select and make props and costumes and dramatize several of the Anansi stories for younger students.
Are there universal themes and issues? Eighth Graders invent an imaginarycivilization. Working together, they decide who lives and makes decisions in this civilization, what materials are available to them, what they like to eat, what their clothes and houses are like. They consider the kinds of music people in this world listen to, the stories and myths they tell, what they do for work and fun, what they think looks beautiful or ugly, how they distinguish friends from enemies. Students illustrate this world in clay or paint, compose examples of its dances and songs, and write and perform a play about a day in that civilization when something surprising happened. In the course of this project, students demonstrate their skills in imagination, teamwork, improvisation, composition, musical and theatrical performance, drawing, painting and design.
How can we learn about other disciplines through the arts? High school students in a humanities class investigate how humor is communicated through the arts. Their research takes them into the genres of verbal, musical and visual comedy, parody, satire and caricature. For instance, they look at videotapes of commedia dell' arte performances, Shakespearean comedy, political cartoons, comic strips, silent movies, television and film comedy, and listen to musical parodies and comic operas. Students choose an incident from contemporary political or social life and collaborate to produce an exhibition or performance that uses humor to communicate a point of view. Middle and high school students collaborate with staff from a local hospital to write, perform and produce a series of videos on topics such as AIDS and substance abuse awareness. Their productions are used as television public service announcements in the community.
What can we learn about the arts from the perspective of other disciplines? Mathematics can be a source of inspiration for artists trying to find pleasing form and proportion. Students in a vocational school geometry class study space and measurement, relating these concepts to the golden section. They find examples of ratio in nature and architecture and construct scale models to demonstrate spatial and mathematical understanding.
High school students look at, read, and listen to a number of art works that depict the sea and the relationship of men and women to it. Among the visual works they might consider are: a medieval miniature of Noah and the ark, John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark, Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, Hokusai's The Great Wave from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, Winslow Homer's Eight Bells. They read Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, Julian Barnes' "Shipwreck" from A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, and Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. They listen to Claude Debussy's musical composition, La Mer, and view a film of The River, a dance choreographed by Alvin Ailey, and the Australian film, The Last Wave. They discuss the different viewpoints, use of basic arts concepts, and intentions of each artist and make judgments about how effectively each artist portrays his or her theme of the relationship of humans to natural forces.