Integrating the Arts into the Curriculum for Gifted Students
Studies have shown that the arts can significantly advance gifted students' academic and creative abilities and cognitive functioning (e.g., Hetland, 2000; Seeley, 1994; Walders, 2002; and Willet, 1992). This is a strong rationale for making the arts an essential feature of gifted education. Goertz (2002) envisions art instruction as the "fourth R" in education and demonstrates how it increases the skills of observation, abstract thinking, and problem analysis.
Education in art is an invitation to use the reasoning skills of an artist. The artist visualizes and sets goals to find and define the problem, chooses techniques to collect data, and then evaluates and revises the problem solution with imagination in order to create....The artist, in his or her creative process, requires a high-order thought process (p. 476).
When integrating the arts into the curriculum, teachers can design experiences that are tied to the unique needs, interests, and abilities of gifted students and challenge them to perform more complex and sophisticated tasks. Teachers can ask themselves: What needs do my arts activities meet? What precisely do I want my gifted students to learn and how will I know that these activities are stimulating their growth? Studies on differentiated instruction and the "parallel curriculum" (Heacox, 2002; Tomlinson et al., 2002) emphasize the importance of establishing clear learning goals before designing alternative learning experiences. The following are examples of learning goals and activities that integrate the arts with the language arts, social studies, and mathematics and science curricula.
Language Arts Learning Goals
The arts can strengthen all areas of oral and written communication and, for gifted students, provide more opportunities for creative problem-solving and analytical thinking.
- Enhance critical thinking. While reading a story, students draw, sketch, or paint whatever is most vivid to them. It could be a color, a mood, an image, a symbol, a scene, or an idea. In small groups, they discuss their artwork and its significance to the story, and what they think will happen by the end.
- Stimulate analytical thinking and imaginative interpretation. Work with the children to create a chamber theater piece out of a short story. Ask them to select the most important scenes and explain why they chose them. Choose students to be narrators and others to speak and act the parts of the characters.
- Sharpen awareness of motivation and points of view. Children choose a conflict, issue, or problem raised by the text and stage a debate, with different students assuming the role of specific characters.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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