George Lucas Educational Foundation
Education Trends

Common Core in Action: How One Art Teacher is Implementing Common Core

Photo credit: US Department of Education via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Last month, I wrote about two science teachers who are implementing the Common Core Standards to teach their course content in conjunction with the literacy skills called for in the Common Core. These teachers gave a great context for the implementation, plus some great tips for those of us who are just getting started on that journey. We know that the literacy standards are content neutral. In fact, the content can be vehicle for learning critical reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. What if that content was art?

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Art and Literacy

Cheri Jorgensen is an art teacher who is part of the Battelle STEM Innovation Network, and who also learned how to use the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) approach to implement literacy in her art instruction. She decided to refine a lesson she had done in the past when she wrote the module for content in her Visual Art 1 and Advanced Art courses. The writing task she created for students was:

After researching the Analysis stage of Feldman's Steps of Art Criticism on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design, write a 14-point bulleted list that analyzes how each of the Elements and Principles are used in an artwork from your Keynote presentation, providing evidence to clarify your analysis. What conclusion or implications can you draw? A bibliography is not required. In your discussion, address the credibility and origin of sources in view of your research topic. Identify any gaps or unanswered questions.

In addition to addressing the Visual Arts standard for elements of art and principles of design, she developed an art criticism module to work on these specific Common Core standards:

Common Core Anchor Standards: Reading

R.CCR.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

R.CCR.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

R.CCR.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

R.CCR.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

R.CCR.10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core Anchor Standards: Writing

W.CCR.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.CCR.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.CCR.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

W.CCR.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

W.CCR.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Finding the Right Fit

Cheri reflected that building this intentional literacy module into her instruction was not a huge stretch:

I think art teachers by nature include literacy as well as other academic subjects into their lessons because they are a natural fit . . . Reading and writing within your own subject area is the easiest way to incorporate literacy.

Here Cheri was very intentional with her choices of literacy standards and scaffolding, and she found the right fit.

I have always included both reading and writing in my art class. Students write artist's statements with each major assignment and research and study art history and art criticism. The difference in using LDC is that there is a more specific focus on literacy already built in to the lesson.

Cheri implemented this art criticism unit near the end of the school year after students had learned the elements of art and principles design, including color, color harmonies and balance. However, she built in specific scaffolding activities that helped revisit the art content and build the specific reading and writing skills. She had students journal on the seven elements of art and seven principles of design, analyze Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night," and participate in presentations and discussions on the content. She also scaffolded the writing process for students, recognizing the reality of implementing literacy standards in the content area -- it needs to fit and be purposeful.

Although literacy is important to every subject, teachers are still responsible for covering their own subject matter, and that has to remain the focus of the lessons.

Do you or your colleagues incorporate ELA into art curriculum? Which Common Core standards do you bring to the process?