Students in Ms. Schroeder’s class at the Downtown School gathered in a semi-circle for a story on Wednesday morning. The book was Charlie Parker Played Bebop, a fun and fanciful tale of the great jazz saxophonist.

But this was more than just story time, it was the launch of a new approach how the arts can serve as a tool to improve reading and writing skills.

The students at the Downtown School had a special guest to read the story, Marcia Daft, an educator and artist who works with organizations such as The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In reading the Charlie Parker book, she demonstrated the initiative called “The Music of Language.” Designed for students in grades K-2, it uses basic musical skills, such as holding a steady beat, to help develop new skills in mastering syllables and accents, auditory discrimination, visual tracking, and overall reading fluency.

Kathleen Davenport, the visual art curriculum coordinator at DMPS, notes that choosing to integrate arts into other areas of learning is helpful in several ways, such as:

  • Providing additional entry points and extension opportunities to enhance a high-quality curriculum.
  • Visual and performing arts are also effective supports for multi-lingual learners.
  • Students can develop creative problem solving and decision making skills and comprehend and present difficult concepts.
  • Arts integration connects students with their own culture as well as with the wider world.
  • Arts integration strategies also make content more engaging and meaningful, and support students who have an interest in the arts.

Elementary school teachers from across DMPS gathered on Monday and Tuesday of this week for what was the third and final round of professional development sessions in launching this effort.

A similar arts integration initiative – called “Power of Pictures: Speaking, Reading, and Writing about Art” – is geared towards students in grades 3-5. By analyzing art and images at the start of a lesion it can inspire students to ask meaningful questions for research and have a motivation to want to read, research, learn, and write. The programs is designed to help students in the upper elementary grades be equipped with more strategies for comprehending, interpreting, analyzing, reading and critical thinking skills.

Photos of Art Integration Professional Development and Classroom Activities
Music of Language Professional Development

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