Infusing arts-based pedagogy into classroom practice provides students and teachers with an opportunity to view content through a new perspective.
Here’s how we used arts based pedagogy to link the social studies curriculum with the study of poetry.
The focus of the social studies unit was to introduce the 6 components of social studies (citizenship, diversity, economics, geography, history, and relationships) and to apply those components to daily life.
Students were asked to think about Maxine Tynes’ poem, “Is It Okay To Look At You”? (see below) as a representation of daily life. As they read, they were to decide which component(s) of social studies the poem most represented, and to create a line drawing to explain their choice.
To maintain anonymity among peers, but to ensure we were gathering information about individual student responses AND to be sure sure which component each student chose, each student wrote their name and the component chosen on the back of their post-it.
Students passed their post-its to us. When all post-its were collected, we placed each post-it on chart paper. You may wonder why the students didn’t post their own images – we wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to watch the pattern of responses unfold. As the pattern became evident, the questions began.
Here are the results:
These simple illustrations provided us with a lot to think about. Many of the illustrations were fairly obvious and we wondered how deeply the students had thought about the links between life, the poem and the components of social studies. We had a lot of questions to pose to the class, and the seeds to plan the follow up lessons, but first, we decided to see that the students had to say.
Here are the questions generated by the students:
- What is the difference between citizenship and relationships?
- Are there overlaps between diversity, citizenship, and relationships?
- Does history have a “place” in this poem?
- How can we view this poem through the lens of economics?
- Geography column is empty. Can this poem be viewed through the lens of geography?
- Are all of the components of social studies inter-related?
- If the components are inter-related, how, when and why do we separate them?
Needless to say, we were delighted. Turns out, they didn’t need us to challenge them to think more deeply. The posting of the drawings and the obvious omission of connections to history, geography and social studies spurred the students’ deeper thinking. That thinking led to more socially aware questions. The follow up conversations, which focused on the links between social studies and life experiences were full of thought and insight.
Let’s hear it for arts based pedagogy!
Is It Okay To Look?
By Maxine Tynes
Is it okay for me to look at you
as you go limping down the street?
May I look at your wheelchair?
May I pick up your cane?
May I watch how you get up the stairs
that I can run up and down as easy as the rain?
My mom tells me not to look
at your twisted lips or legs or arms or hands
but I want to see
and to ask you, too-
What’s it like?
Does it hurt?
Could it happen to me?
How’d it happen to you?
I’m not sure that I should look at you,
not sure just what to say or do
’cause my body is whole and normally strong.
Your body is different.
You are you.
I finally do take a chance-
I look at you, you look back
and then you smile.
Tynes, M. Pottersfield Press, Nova Scotia, 1991
For more of our thoughts on arts-based pedagogy, go to Arts- based Pedagogy: gaining insight through multiple lenses
For more conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at Beyondtheapplecontact@gmail.com