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County teachers learn how to integrate art into all subjects
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More than a dozen K-6 educators from across Stanislaus County joined together Thursday for an arts integration workshop at Whitmore Charter School in Ceres.

The workshop was the first in a three-part series to explore the connections between art disciplines such as theatre, music and visual arts to core curriculum studies such as English, mathematics, social studies and science.

According to Jill Polhemus of the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Visual and Performing Arts Education Team, these workshops are part of the county-wide effort to bring arts back into the classroom as directed by the County Arts Education Master Plan.

Arts Education Consultant Patty Larrick encouraged teachers to begin lesson plans with art because art can make learning content more enjoyable for students.

“This workshop is to give teachers a number of ideas to take back to their classrooms. Schools have been forced to concentrate on what is on the tests that the arts have become just an add on. When you integrate arts into the learning experience, the lessons pack a better punch,” she explained. “We know that arts improve math and English scores so all we need to do is look at the schools that already do it and it can be done.”

Cheri Lloyd, an art teacher and former grammar school teacher at Whitmore, provided specific examples of integration visual art into a vocabulary lesson.

One example of starting a lesson plan with art is for students to draw a picture depicting a particular vocabulary word they are working on. Also, when a story is being read to a student they can draw what is happening while it is being read.

In addition to visual arts the dramatic arts can also play a powerful role. According to drama teacher Gail Benge drama can improve problem solving, observation skills, confidence, teamwork public speaking, improvisation and the use of multiple intelligences.

“You can use physical implementation with math, like having kids make shapes with where they stand, make clock hands. It really makes them think and it addresses multiple intelligences,” she explained.

Larrick explained that the arts are key for driving home the big idea of a lesson plan. She said she observed a teacher who gave a lesson plan on the Western migration out of the textbook. Then the teacher asked the students to make an illustration of the movement but the students didn’t know how to communicate the movement correctly, indicating they failed to understand the meaning of the lesson. Larrick said that had the students used art before, during and after the lesson it would driven home the point of the bigger idea for the lesson.

For teachers the workshop provided valuable information. Katherine Thomas of Turlock’s Walnut Elementary found the training helpful, especially for her students with shorter attention spans. During the workshop teachers were introduced to zendalas, which are circles filled with doodles. Relatively simple but when you integrate them into a vocabulary lesson they can provide an opportunity to improve student memorization. Teachers can instruct students to write vocabulary words and fill in space with drawings that are related to the word.

“That will really help with my kids who like to doodle,” said Thomas. “This workshop was helpful; I came here looking for ways to integrate arts with the classroom and to make it meaningful.”

For more information on the County Office of Education’s arts program visit

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.