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Arts Curriculum Framework:
The Practice Of Creating

Creating and Performing Strand

Students learn in the arts by active participation--they learn by doing. Creating refers to the making of art: for instance, students write dialogue, compose music, choreograph a dance, or draw a picture. Performing refers to the interpretation and presentation of an existing work: for example, students sing or play musical compositions by Leonard Bernstein, act, direct, and design a play written by Lorraine Hansberry, or perform a traditional folk dance.

Creating and performing form the core of arts education. In the classroom they are intertwined as activities that are lively and learner-centered. Students make images that reflect how they see their world, they practice playing instruments, join hands in a circle dance, or collaborate to improvise characters. Creating and performing often entail learning by interacting with others in a group. Teachers and students are partners in inquiry as they observe, respond physically, demonstrate techniques, and talk with one another. In this ongoing activity, observation and discourse are an integral part of learning and assessment.

Through creating and performing, students learn to use arts as a form of communication for ideas, emotions, and beliefs. In order to communicate effectively in the arts, students must master basic skills and concepts, a body of knowledge that is sometimes called "arts literacy."

Learning in the arts through Creating and Performing is represented by two Learning Standards:

  • Learning Standard 1: Student will use the arts to express ideas, emotions, and beliefs.
  • Learning Standard 2: Student will acquire and apply essential skills and literacy unique to each discipline.

Strong arts programs evolve from sequentially designed experiences in creating and performing that are thoughtfully integrated with the standards described under the Strands of Thinking and Responding, and Connecting and Contributing.

Learning Standard 1

Students will use the arts to express ideas, emotions, and beliefs.

In the process of creating and performing, learners develop an awareness of how the arts can communicate fundamental ideas about human experience and the world, and convey nuances of emotion. Throughout their lives people who are attuned to the expressive qualities of the arts ask Essential Questions such as these:

  • Who am I and what is important to me?
  • How can I make others understand what I think, feel, and believe?
  • How do the arts help me perceive and understand the ideas, emotions, and beliefs of others?
  • How do the arts help me think about what is important to society?

PreK-4 Standards

  1. Demonstrate the ability to work with with the media, tools, and techniques of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts to express ideas about arts processes.
  2. In dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, create works that express conceptions of self and family.
  3. In dance, music, and theatre, perform works that express ideas, emotions, and beliefs.
  4. In dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, employ expressive qualities to create a mood.


  1. PreK-2: As they paint, students tell their teacher how they made a variety of marks: dots, wavy, and straight lines.
    3-4: As they respond to fast and slow music, students move at different speeds.
  2. PreK-2: A student paints a self-portrait that includes details of her physical appearance.
    3-4: Partners create dialogue and action for characters who portray the interaction of family members in a classroom dramatization. (connects with English Language Arts and Health)
  3. PreK-2: Students learn, perform, and can explain the meaning of songs and dances from many cultures. (connects with World Languages)
    3-4: Students learn to play marches from different nations and historical periods on classroom or orchestral instruments, and can explain the meaning of marches in parades and wars. (connects with Social Studies)
  4. PreK-2: Students design and make masks and costumes that reveal significant physical characteristics and personalities of their characters in a class play. (connects with English Language Arts)
    3-4: In depicting a mood that is peaceful, scary, exciting, or joyous, students make and explain deliberate choices about elements such as color, tempo, rhythm, movement, words in a dialogue, voice quality, volume and pacing. (connects with English Language Arts)

Grades 5-8 Standards

Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

  1. In the visual and at least two of the performing arts--dance, music, and theatre--create works that express relationships among individuals, their community and the environment.
  2. In at least two of the performing arts--dance, music, and theatre--select and perform a varied repertoire of works that exemplify different moods.
  3. In visual and at least two of the performing arts--dance, music, and theatre--manipulate elements to enhance an expressive effect.


Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

  1. Students paint a mural that shows portraits of and interaction among young people and elders in their community. (connects with Health, Social Studies)
  2. Middle school band members and their teacher review scores and recordings in order to assemble a concert program that demonstrates the concept of mood in music and the band's versatility in playing different kinds of music.
  3. Dance students modify, edit, revise, or exaggerate aspects of a performance to heighten a desired effect, such as the communication of tranquility or suspense.

Grades 9-10 Standards

Continue the PreK-8 Learning Standards and:

  1. In at least one art form--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts--create and/or perform works that show a point of view about social and personal issues.
  2. In at least one art form--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts--demonstrate the ability to create improvisations, adaptations, or additions that complement or match the mood and/or style of an existing work.


  1. Students improvise and perform dramatizations in which older and younger characters express different perspectives on the process of growing up. (connects with Arts, Health, English Language Arts)

  2. Students observe an unfinished dance, then choreograph and perform a concluding sequence that reflects their understanding of the style and mood of the existing work.

Grades 11-12 Standards

Continue the PreK-10 Standards and:

  1. In at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts--create and/or perform works that show an understanding of how selective use of techniques, processes, tools and technologies, and/or materials contributes to the communication of ideas, emotions, or beliefs.


  1. A visual arts student uses the medium of clay sculpture to depict the idea of life as a journey, and explains how her choice of materials and techniques communicates her ideas.

How It Looks in the Classroom:

Who am I and what is important to me? A kindergarten teacher motivates her students to paint by asking, "If you had any pet, what would it be?" One student chooses a pet bird that died, another a killer shark, another a Labrador puppy. To organize children's thoughts, the teacher asks the first child what she remembers about the bird, challenges the second to imagine the shark's most important features and suggests to the third student that he might imagine what the puppy would be doing in the painting. To help them visualize, the teacher asks, "What part of your pet will you paint first, what shapes will you use, how will you use the brush to show your pet's fur or feathers?" The children make paintings, and the teacher guides discussion about their use of shape, color, texture, composition to reveal their real and imagined experiences with the pets. vis art logo

A middle school music teacher organizes a unit around the concept of expression in music. Students learn and listen to several pieces of music, discussing rhythm, tone color, and dynamics as elements that create mood and convey emotion.

Ninth graders in a dance class explore the concept of freedom. Working in pairs, students develop a dance sequence. As students begin to refine their presentations, the teacher and the students decide that their works will be evaluated on multiple dimensions: the ability to combine a variety of dance movements expressively, the ability to revise work, the ability to work with a partner, and the ability to perform the dance so that it communicates meaning clearly to an audience.

Each group helps videotape another so that students can see what the dance looks like to an audience, review their previous choices, and plan modifications. The culmination of the project is an informal performance by each group, followed by a discussion between audience and performers about artistic choices.

Last Updated: January 1, 1996
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