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Creative Lesson Plans in the Common Core Classroom: Why Art and Crafts Are Integral to Student Success

Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Every teacher has at least one in their classroom.  That one student who struggles with traditional work, but thrives when presented with creative assignments.  He is the one who keeps you up at night planning and plotting on how to help him reach his potential.  He is the child who makes you a better teacher, a more creative teacher, an out-of-the-box-thinking teacher.

The key to his mind is often through art and crafts.  It is tempting to dismiss the subject as just one more thing that you have to add to your already overcrowded lesson plans, but for your students, and especially that child, exploring art and working on craft projects is learning that they will never forget.  So, how do you incorporate it all?  Where can you fit it in?  Surprisingly enough, it can be effectively integrated with everything you are currently teaching.

Language Arts

With the emergence and implementation of the Common Core Standards, lesson plans now must be more detailed than ever.  Choose one specific standard and focus on giving it a creative spin.  Let us take the Grade 2 Language Arts Standards, Reading Literature, Standard 2.RL.3 for example.  The standard states:

Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

This is a great standard for encouraging connections and cause-effect relationships.  It is also easy to turn it into an art project.  If your students are reading Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig, 1970) have them create two depictions: one of what actually happened and how Sylvester responded and another of how the story would have been different had Sylvester wished for something else.  While discussing it aloud is also necessary, allowing students to draw it makes it more concrete and develops their creativity.  More importantly, it engages those hard to reach students.

Math

In Grade 3, the Common Core Standards list standard 3.G.1 for Geometry in Integrated Math:

Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals).  Recognize rhombuses, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories.

After digesting the standards, step back and think of the shapes as a child might see them.  They can be confusing and easy to mix-up.  Instead of just drawing them on the board or having students copy them onto their graph paper, turn the exploration of the shapes into an art project.  Ask students to draw a scene or picture that uses the different types of shapes that you want to focus on.  Not only do they have to draw them, but they have to label or color-code them to check comprehension and understanding.  Make it fun to learn by letting them be creative and artistic.

Finding Supplies

It may seem like a great idea, but you may be asking, “What about supplies?  Where will I get those for all of these craft and art projects?”  That is a valid question, especially with budget cuts and teachers spending more of their own money than ever.  Recycled supplies can be the answer to a classroom craft or art project.  Ask parent and community members to save and donate supplies, post an ad asking for free supplies on a local Freecycle group or Craigslist, or trade with other teachers in your district.  Think out of the box when it comes to art supplies.  Inexpensive items from the craft store, dollar store, hardware store, and thrift store can be perfect for those project ideas.

Instead of looking at crafts and art projects as one more thing to do, think of them as the basis for all of your lessons.  Choose a standard and get an idea of the craft or art project that will match it, and build from there.  At the end of the day, the end of the school year, and the end of their educational career, your students will remember the projects, the crafts, the building, and the creativity that they put into their learning.  They will not remember the worksheets, but they will remember creating a replica of a log cabin out of popsicle sticks while studying the Revolutionary War.  Be the teacher who gives them those memories.


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37 comments
Jared Disher
Jared Disher

Something that my students really enjoy doing is making Fraction Sundae's out of construction paper. The students make their perfect sundae and place on a paper bowl. They then write down the fraction of each flavor of ice cream and simplify it. They then create a word problem with their fraction. It is a great lesson and the kids really enjoy it.

Felicia
Felicia

Arts and crafts are two elements I remember from my own school experience. I think we sometimes get so caught up in assessments and testing that we lose the creativity piece. My favorite unit to teach is our poetry study because the students have so much fun creating pieces of art to accompany or inspire their poems.

Christina D.
Christina D.

I teach math and have noticed that I need to use a wide variety of activities to keep them interested. I am always wanting to learn about arts and craft ideas for teaching!

Brenda
Brenda

Thanks for the great idea-trying to incorporate art into math and hit CC standards! Now that is persistent!

Sandrs
Sandrs

Sound like a lot of great ideas!

Nichole Finn
Nichole Finn

I am on this site weekly looking for new ideas and I love the idea of incorporating art into a math lesson. I rarely get time to include crafts to our day unless I add it to reading writing, or math. Thanks for the idea. :)

Michele
Michele

Thanks for the ideas!

Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson

I have done this in my class with 2nd/3rd graders. My students only get to do that "fun" stuff whenever I can tie it into content, so needless to say they really enjoyed to opportunity to use the geometric shapes and play around with them to create their own creature. Students enjoyed cutting their creature out and even the writing part didn't really seem like writing at all....they were letting their creative juices flow by giving their creature a name and using their knowledge on adjectives and adverbs to tell everyone exactly how special their creation was. In my district we are working on integrating arts whenever possible for our "program of studies" and this lesson was just perfect for it because you have the opportunity to teach students about different types of mediums that artists use...etc.

Erica Ripston
Erica Ripston

I think that creating arts and crafts with children is a great way to incorporate the core content standards. Sometimes those projects are what help children remember the facts and skills that they need to hold onto. Crafts yes are difficult to fit into the day especially within the upper grades, but the creativity and individuality that occurs during these activities are extremely beneficial.

Lesa
Lesa

Love it! More confirmation to keep doing ART! Our students are getting it this year outside my classroom and I can really see a difference!

jessica
jessica

One example from my classroom:Fridays I usually give my reading and spelling assessments. So, it leaves time to do an "artistic" reading response or Craftivity. For example: we read a big book called "Barney Malloon's Balloons" on Friday each child made their own hot-air balloon and wrote their favorite rhyme from the story.

Ellen Parker
Ellen Parker

I agree totally with this article. It does take more time and effort, but I typically pair up a craft project with a writing assignment. My kindergarten students are usually so excited about the project that they are inspired to write and to do to their very best, because they understand that the craft and the writing will be published together in the hallway. I am always looking for new and interesting craft projects to pair up with our writing standards.

Marianne Griffith
Marianne Griffith

My excellent artists are often visual learners. They get bored really fast in other subjects but thrive in art. If their classroom teachers would allow them the opportunity to do projects creatively, their right brain would be a lot happier!

Deja Edmund
Deja Edmund

With budget cuts in my county, art classes have been removed from our schools. As a lover of art projects in my second grade classroom I am glad to see this in the ccgps. Art projects are often what is remembered by my students.

Kelly
Kelly

I think that using cc will make it actually easier to incorporate multiple atandards because it's more of the skills rather than the specific subject area. I like to use art with grammar, writing, math, and now the cc will allow me to not feel so guilty about it!

Susan
Susan

Thanks for the ideas!

Jamey Sutton
Jamey Sutton

I have been looking for validation on using art to incorporate cc into my middle grades classroom. Thank you!

M Banwart
M Banwart

This is a great article. Arts as a means of delivery is often not valued by administrators. Maybe this will help make my argument more effective.

Christy Setzke
Christy Setzke

Thanks for the great ideas! Art does help bridge the link between difficult and sometimes abstract concepts to grasp.

Mary
Mary

Many activities can be done by reusing items. You can have the students cut shapes out of old magazines. In my class we have used colored paper from the recycling bin. Art projects are always an engaging culminating activity to most lessons. Thank you for the article.

Michele
Michele

I always love it when I can pair an art project with a lesson. We often write about what we created. For Earth day we used magazine pictures cut into strips to make flowers. What a great way to show how we can reuse/recycle old stuff!

Betty North
Betty North

We have not yet begun to implement CC in our district (or state) and I worry that once we do, we will not have been given the info and ideas necessary to make a smooth transition. While I did come away with a wealth of information at the recent NCTM conference in Philadelphia, the ideas in your blog are exactly what I need to keep building my arsenol of CC ideas. THANK YOU, and keep them coming!

KBarber
KBarber

Thank you for the post. As a SPED teacher, I am always looking for artistic ways to reinforce ideas in my classroom. Artistic projects not only help my students understand the concepts better, but it also helps with their fine motor skills. I have two students that are highly artistic and find that when art projects are incorporated into the lesson they enjoy the lesson more, especially when I give them artistic freedom with just a few guidelines.

Cynthia
Cynthia

Loved the idea for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Just enough time in the school year to include in my lesson plans.

Amanda Lawson
Amanda Lawson

I think that incorporating arts and crafts into lesson plans will motivate students to learn and is more hands on and much better than giving worksheets all day.

Kim Williams
Kim Williams

I work with students who have a difficult time writing about what they have learned. I have tried to incorporate creativity into our lessons to help. They love when we do creavite things. Thanks for the tips, I am planning on using them to plan for next year.

Kiersten
Kiersten

Thank you so much for these ideas!

Cid
Cid

It is encouraging to see an article that relates pairing learning common core standard with art related projects. I have been teaching for over 20 years and remember when that type of lesson was almost always the norm. The freedom of creativity reaches all learners and everyone can feel successful.

Tracy
Tracy

Thanks for the great reminders. Another good place to look for craft supplies is at a recycled art supply warehouse. Prices are great and you can find all kinds of interesting supplies (bottle caps, wood pieces, different shapes of tag board, sticky foam shapes, etc.)

M.M.
M.M.

The arts are beyond powerful! Teaching through the arts makes learning a tangible and relevant thing for students. I try to incorporate some aspect of the arts into everything I teach. The arts not only make learning new and exciting for students but they are keep teaching novel for me as well!

Jane Montes
Jane Montes

Looking forward to using these ideas in my classroom. Thanks for this great posting.

Manjari
Manjari

Really great post. I teach 3rd Grade and have noticed that the students really understand better when taught a hard concept with a art project.

Leea
Leea

Can't wait to share this with my coworkers, we recently had budget cuts along with Music, our Art program was cut, these ideas will help out greatly! Not only are we doing common core, we also need ideas for Art in the classroom! Thanks!

Mandy Wallace
Mandy Wallace

Great post. All my students remember the art projects the most and are always eager to do another. Love the CC help as well.

Rhea Fuller
Rhea Fuller

Thank you for sharing...working hard to incorporate common core into my classroom and this site has really helped with some great creative ideas!

Diane Zurlo Keller
Diane Zurlo Keller

Thank you! I've been working really hard to incorporate CC into my lessons. It's certainly not easy to do it creatively. I did a math related craft last week and my IEP children thrived doing it - I know realize that I have to make the time to incorporate more time for creative projects so that I'm reaching these kiddos.