Interdisciplinary Studies Visual and Performing Arts



Fall 2008 Interdisciplinary Studies Visual and Performing Arts


I am one of the “musical and theatrical illiterates” Beth Littrell refers to in our new department, “Technology in the Classroom.” I am hopeless when it comes to keeping time, so music making and dancing are out of the question for me despite my wishes that it were otherwise. Believe me, I’ve tried! But I’m very good at appreciation in all categories, and that, after all, is a significant part of the big picture.


In the “Student Voices” column this issue, I describe a trip to the ballet last spring to see a group of gifted dancers perform on stage. Even in my wildest dreams I cannot envision myself in that role; but

what a thrill it was to watch these passionate performers dance their hearts out. And what enrichment they provided for all of us in the audience! In the column, we explore the life skills the dancers gain through their participation in this art form. However, this issue of Gifted Education Communicator is not intended only for the visual and performing arts teachers among our readers, but also for parents and teachers at all grade levels and all subject areas. Whatever your role, you have a part to play to insure that our gifted learners understand the ways in which we benefit from the arts in our lives and learning. The arts not only increase our aesthetic appreciation for beauty but lead to practical and economic benefits as well.


We begin our feature article section with a piece by Russ Sperling who directs the visual and performing arts program in the Sweetwater Union High School District in California. His article,

“Arts Education Develops 21st Century Skills,” could serve as an advocacy piece you may wish to use when making the case for developing or maintaining strong arts programs in your districts and states. Sperling points out that “…surprising to many, recent research indicates that the critical 21st century skills are to be found in the curriculum of arts education…” And he clearly outlines pairings of various disciplines with the arts.


Hope Wilson and Jill Adelson share their expertise in integrating art and science in elementary classrooms and this appears surprising as well. Combining the arts with language arts or social studies is a familiar practice; but these authors point out the similarities in the tools used in both science and art, particularly observation and analysis. They include specific examples of units of study focusing

on chemical reactions, light and color, and plant life and texture. Their article is entitled “The Science of Art and the Art of Science.” Sandra Kaplan introduces a rubric specifically designed to address issues related to gifted students and a differentiated curriculum. Kaplan chairs the Education Committee of the California Association for the Gifted, and this group prepared the rubric according to the process outlined in her article. Kaplan points out the many ways in which the rubric may be used, specifically: assessment, differentiated curriculum development and authenticity, teacher efficacy and teaching evaluation, academic awareness and readiness, and advocacy. It is important to note that this rubric is not limited to use within the arts but may be valuable across the curriculum.
William Svendsgaard, who lives in metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota, illustrates the effectiveness of using the arts as a means of engaging new immigrant students in activities that are positive and enriching. A primary goal is to reduce the achievement gap that exists between this
group and their classmates in their urban environment. “Not Just a Pretty Picture: The Latino Art Project” is an encouraging example of the positive and very practical results gained by participation in an arts program. Students meet in a variety of settings: one public elementary and one high school, a teen center, a juvenile detention center, and an apartment complex.


Finally, Delia Nerez-Ragadio and Beth Littrell created a detailed “Music Journal” as a solution to the chronic problem faced by music teachers: How to find time to meet the official content standards while at the same time rehearse and prepare students for concerts. The journal provides a myriad of prompts related to all components of the high school music standards; teachers may pick and choose which prompts they wish to pursue with their students. In their article, “Journaling into Understanding,” Littrell and Nerez-Ragadio outline the benefits resulting from journaling along with practical strategies for management. As in the Kaplan article, this strategy can be used across the curriculum and is not limited to the arts. Their journal prompts, however, are already prepared and they are willing to share them with you. You can find the complete journal on the CAGwebsite at: On the home page, click on Resources. Throughout the issue you will find many resources, especially Web pages, devoted to strategies for promoting and integrating arts learning throughout the curriculum; don’t miss Carolyn Kottmeyer’s “Web Watch” column. We also include examples from national and state standards for the visual and performing arts, including Internet

resources to assist people in meeting those standards.


As mentioned above, we introduce a new department this issue, “Technology in the Gifted Classroom. “Beth Littrell, a resource specialist for her district’s gifted program as well as a new-teacher trainer, and Lance Arnt, co-chair of the technology committee of the California Association for the Gifted, will author it. They will share their experiences and expertise with a variety of technological media

and means. As most students and teachers return to the classroom for the fall term, we wish everyone a productive and rewarding school year. In the Winter issue we return to the concerns of “excellence and equity.” We will focus on meeting the needs of underrepresented groups of minority students, students in poverty, and students of diverse cultural backgrounds.
—Margaret Gosfield, Editor