Using Art to Reinforce Math, Science and More
Elementary art lesson plans are usually not a stand-alone item for a classroom teacher. Instead, art is infused into other subject areas.
Incorporating art into your lesson plans can take a little creativity to ensure a good fit with your curriculum. It’s usually easy to come up with art projects for reading or writing. However, to instill a true appreciation for art education in the classroom, it’s ideal to incorporate art into math and science as well.
Elementary art lesson plans involving math
I have used the creation of “giants” to illustrate concepts of measurement and multiplying measurements. This project was extremely engaging to children as they drew and painted their creations.
A little creative searching will yield many ways that you can incorporate art into your mathematics units. Just be certain that they become part of your lesson plan and not a lesson in themselves…that’s what art class is for. Here’s what I mean by that…
These illustrations of geometric shapes utilized the work of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky as inspiration. After watching a slide show about his life and art, each student created a painting – but that painting had to include certain standards-based math concepts.
The first item below is a Kandinsky piece and the other two are student samples. Do you see the geometric shapes and lines?
Elementary art lesson plans for science
As with math, we use art as a reinforcement…another way of examining concepts so they stick in the minds of our children, as these illustration opportunities from the field of science demonstrate:
- Erosion, deposition and weathering
- Life cycle of a butterfly
- Stages of growth of a plant
You get the picture. Writing down a scientific process reinforces the concept once. Following that with an illustration (or combining the two with captioned illustrations) reinforces it a second time. Taken together, the two methods multiply the student’s ability to understand and recall a scientific process.
Grading Student Art
Elementary art lesson plans that are part of a non-art subject must include a scoring rubric for the work that is completed. I never grade the art itself because it’s a personal expression and childrens’ motor skills and developmental levels will often determine how their creation looks.
However, I do grade the application of the content in the art project. For example, in the Kandinsky lesson, each drawing had to include the following items:
- Four different lines
- Four different geometric shapes
- Two shapes had to be overlapping
I also give a “neatness” grade. When working with paints, for example, it is very easy for a student to create a mess of their painting by over-mixing colors. Careful attention to my instructions yields a much better project and this needs to be reinforced.
Whether we are discussing math, science, reading, writing or social studies, the curriculum standard comes first when lesson planning. Art is then wrapped around the standard as reinforcement rather than being the reason for the lesson.
Illustration as Part of a Lesson Plan
Story illustration has its place if it is part of a grade-level standard…part of publishing writing, for example, or as a teaching method to reinforce the concept of “setting” where the illustration produces a physical representation of the vision in a reader’s mind.
However, simply illustrating a story often doesn’t meet the test of supporting the topic of a writing lesson. I have seen teachers give students a half hour to illustrate a narrative when a picture has nothing to do with the point of the lesson.
Stay creative but focused with your elementary art lesson plans and watch the impact of your teaching increase with each swipe of the marker and stroke of the brush.