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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Do the Arts have a special role in Special Education?

Do the Arts have a special role in Special Education?

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What role do the arts play in your classroom, in your school and in the lives of your students? Do your students have access to music instruction? Visual arts? Theater? Dance? As school budgets continue to be cut, arts are often among the first programs to go. What will this mean to your students? My school lost our orchestra instructor and a visual art teacher this year. Not only did this have ab impact on direct instruction, it also drastically cut the number and types of electives available to all students. Special education students were a significant part of the school orchestra and now they have nowhere to learn and perform. Is this sort of thing happening in your school, in your community?

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Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

I'm such an advocate for arts in the schools. It should be required - not cut! There are countless benefits, not to mention, students enjoy it.

In my school, there was no one doing school plays/musicals so I started doing them. The kids really loved it! And many of those participating were either behavioral problems or students not excelling in academics. With the musical, they had something that they could do well in and that boosted their self-esteem. They were seen in a positive light by the teachers, their friends, and parents.

When I had my own classroom, I tried to bring arts into everything. My "Vocabulary Wall" was done in musical notes: quarter, half, dotted half, and whole. When we first introduced a word, it went under the Quarter Note. As we became more comfortable with it and knew it better, it moved among the note until finally, it could go under the Whole Note!

One writing assignment we did had the students choose an inspirational song and write about a difficult time that they overcame: "Our Voice; Our Song: We Made It Through". It was great to see the kids selecting songs that really touched them. I participated too and chose my own song and difficult time.

I used photos as writing prompts and had students create a story for the picture. It gave them a concrete image to base their story on rather than something intangible. They wrote some of their most touching stories ever.

I even brought the arts into math. I've had students design an outfit for measuring, design a park to show area and perimeter, and create a "dream house" using angles. There's really no limit to how you can infuse the arts into the classroom. Only your imagination!

Stephen Hurley's picture
Stephen Hurley
Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman


Great post! I think that the artistic spirit with which you approach your work must make the lives of your students much richer. Not only that, your life as teacher must be much more engaging as well!!!


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