When I was a High-School teacher, I had a lesson where I taught the physical state of gasses, liquids, and solids; we began the class with an exercise where the students stood in a tight rigid organized group (solid), then changed into a tight random moving group (liquid), and then changed again, into a loose open moving group (gas). The exercise worked well, especially for the more kinesthetically inclined students and everyone enjoyed the exercise.
Teachers are always hunting for ideas: how can I help this student? This class. Today! And I’m always hunting ideas that bring art and science together.
I’m not alone, recently Mariale Hardiman and her the co-researchers have published their results, looking; particularly, at the question of how arts activities can help memory learning in science class. Helping students remember vocabulary.
Mariale and her team set up arts activity units in astronomy and ecology for elementary school children in an urban, disadvantaged community in the USA. The arts approach was compared with normal text and reading rich approaches to the same material. Arts activities included drawing “doddles” (pictures) helping retention of vocabulary words, and instead of reading standard “informational” readings students were assigned “stories” containing the same content. And singing was an approach used. In total, six different arts approaches were taken matched with the usual text-based curriculum content.
The control activities were normal classroom activities; for example, tracing the outlines of galaxies or writing notes. In contrast, the arts activities had the students drawing galaxies, reading short stories, and dancing the content. Care was taken to give both groups of students the same level of teacher support and an honest assessment of the student’s progress was achieved by the researchers monitoring the classrooms to keep the study honest.
The results were mixed:
“Although there was no significant effect of arts integration
on initial learning, arts integration curricula had a significant effect on retention. Participants learned roughly the same volume of science content regardless of how the units were taught, but scores on a delayed posttest showed that students retained what they learned significantly better when taught through AI instruction. These findings provide preliminary support for the theory that arts integration naturally leads
students to interact with academic content in ways that promote long-term retention.”
The key message for me is the observation that these arts activities may improve long term retention; particularly, for students with less developed English skills.
I encourage you to consider introducing arts activities into your classroom.
If you are interested in the description of the Art’s activities see below.
From the Methods Section:
Worksheets with written responses were replaced with
activities in which students drew responses to the same
prompts. This substitution was made to take advantage
of the ‘‘picture superiority’’ memory effect (e.g., Paivio,
1971), in which pictures tend to be remembered better
than words, even when verbal tests are administered.
2. Instead of silently reading informational texts, students
in the AI condition silently read stories containing the
same content. Here we aimed to improve recall by adding
elaborative language (e.g., Craik & Tulving, 1975) and
eliciting emotional responses (e.g., Cahill & McGaugh,
3. Instead of reading text passages out loud, we designed
dramatic scripts that children were asked to perform.
4. Instead of verbal group presentations, students performed
sketches or tableaux (two forms of dramatic play acting)
that we hoped would take advantage of the enactment
effect, which posits that carrying out an action produces
better memory than simply reading or hearing about the
action (Mohr et al., 1989).
5. For vocabulary development, in control lessons students
wrote ‘‘elaborations’’ for each term by expanding on the
definition or providing an example. In the AI condition,
students created ‘‘doodles’’ (simple drawings) to elaborate
the meaning of the new term, which we hoped would
leverage the picture superiority effect (e.g., Paivio, 1971).
6. At the conclusion of each unit, one additional day (Day 16) was dedicated to review. We selected 10 matched pairs
of activities from across each unit and instructed teachers
to have students present the work they completed during
the activity. In the AI unit, this day was framed as an ‘‘art