They knew the forms they chose would work well with the content. They didn't know exactly what the process would bring, but the anticipated performance gave them the direction they needed to plan the work with their students.
For teachers, the experience of preparing for school performances may not be so positive. There have been too many anxious rehearsals for school assemblies where the drive to create a good product cancels out the pleasure of the process. One solution may be to scale down the culminating event. A performance can be presented in the classroom for one other visiting class. An exhibition can be curated, organized, and hung by students who also act as docents for other students. Teachers can rely on the expertise of partnering artists to help structure an exhibition plan or performance schedule.
Most important, the process and product need to be seen as interconnected. The students will continually refine their work to present a product, but the product should be used as a way to shed light on the learning process. (See chap. 4: Beyond the Unit: Assessment and the Learning Cycle.) Then the joy of the performance comes full circle; the work begins with an imagined idea and ends with a completed one. There is great satisfaction for everyone involved in refining a form and approximating a desired product.
Creating real products for real purposes raises the stakes for learners. It makes their thinking visible in the concrete world. However, products are only meaningful when students are authentically engaged in the processes that produce them. Performances and exhibitions are meaningful when embedded in a whole series of valued learning experiences. The culminating event is not the purpose of learning; it is but an avenue for learning.
Getting started with the process of arts integration involves a search for the elegant fit between an art form and a content topic. It's also about finding the elegant fit between an artist and a teacher, each with a goal for learning and teaching. Elegant fits do not come without collaborative brainstorming, creative planning, and the sharing of common experiences.
But then there are the students. The next chapter describes what happens when the adults move arts integration into the classroom. In that space, the elegant fit expands and takes on new meaning.
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