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Arts Integration

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Arts Integration

Creating a Life With Arts Integration: Movement, Part 3




There I was, in my Dalcroze Eurhythmics class at Central Michigan University. What is "Dalcroze Eurhythmics," you ask? It's a method of learning music through movement, and I wasn't "getting it."  As a future educator, and music educator, I needed to "get it."  But my professor, an elfin little man who I would swear to this day wore shoes that had turned-up toes, was trying to get me to dip and sway across the classroom floor.  I had a performance background.  I had played in countless recitals, solo & ensemble festivals, high school musicals, and public speaking gigs, but in this class I often wished the institutional-tiled floor would open up and swallow me whole.  UNTIL...


The Epiphany

Elf-man invited a guest to our class...a tall African-American man with a booming voice and kind eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He smiled a lot.  He was a poetry slam champion. He began by performing "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes.  As he spoke, his body moved to show anger, disgust, and defeat.  It was as if I was vicariously living Hughes' words through our guest's performance.  Before I could bolt for the door, he had us on our feet, standing in a circle around him. We began to move to experience "Danse Africaine" also by Langston Hughes.

Danse Africaine


The low beating of the tom-toms,
The slow beating of the tom-toms,
Low . . . slow
Slow . . . low —
Stirs your blood.
Dance!
A night-veiled girl
Whirls softly into a
Circle of light.
Whirls softly . . . slowly,
Like a wisp of smoke around the fire —
And the tom-toms beat,
And the tom-toms beat,
And the low beating of the tom-toms
Stirs your blood.


I had never experienced spoken word like this before.  It was musical. It was intense.  And, it was incredibly moving.  I left Elf-man's class that day with two questions pirouetting in my mind: What if my future students could experience words this way and what impact would it have on them?

Flash Forward

Ten years later, I am in my fourth grade classroom.  We have been reading poetry. Not Shel Silverstein. Not Jack Prelutsky. But Carl Sandburg.  Eloise Greenfield. e.e cummings. Langston Hughes.  Muscles carry memories as electrifying as the synapses.  I stood them up.  I showed them the tom-toms.  How do we move here?  How should we move there? Why? Why? Why? How does he feel here?  Why did he write this? What do you think?  

We began to do CLOSE reads on poems.  We read each poem three times, each time delving deeper into meaning.  Our first read was to experience the overall poem.  In our second read, we focused on words and phrases that leaped out to us as especially vivid or meaningful.  Our third read, we asked ourselves, if that vivid word or phrase was danced, how would I dance it? How would I move? What meaning do I want to show?  

The Outcome

This turned into a huge investigation.  I conducted an action research into the use of poetry in classrooms using the arts.  Measuring explicit and implicit meaning-making on Qualitative Reading Inventories, I investigated the impact of adding music, movement, or visual arts to  students' reading comprehension of poetry. Including movement had a significant impact on everyone, but especially on my special education and English Language Learner students.  On my post measurement using the QRI, their implicit responses rocketed.

What else happened?  Well, my students choreographed several poems, including some of their own. They performed these for the school and their parents.  It was fun...wildly fun.  But even better, they identified themselves as writers, as poets.  They began to critique each other's writing. They even began to talk about novel scenes and chapters in terms of movement.  I noticed they were visualizing more about whatever they were reading.  Our worlds changed.  

It Doesn't Have to Be Hard

I'm not your "Elf-Man."  Don't run. Don't wish for the floor to swallow you up like last night's dinner. Adding movement to your classroom practice doesn't have to be hard, or as "big" as the example I wrote about above.  What IS a big deal, is that you incorporate it in some way in your classroom. Research shows that it is one of the most powerful ways to teach. Check this freebie out. It's a list of 20 ways to integrate movement into your classroom instruction. Click the picture below.


If you're interested in "diving deeply" into text like I described above, then these might be for you!




Until next time, my friends, 

P.S.  This is the third part in my arts integration series of posts.  Check out the others by clicking "arts integration" above!

12 comments

  1. I love your description, Tracy! I have never really thought about using movement to poetry; I always feel a bit silly. But I love this!! Thank you for a great reminder to reach all our students through the arts!

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  2. Kathie thanks for stopping by... The arts are my passion, and I'm so glad you found something useful here!

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  3. What a wonderful description of that teachable moment you experienced and how we can all strive to achieve that with our students! Thanks.

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  4. Really interesting post, I liked reading about the classroom research you did and the passion in your teaching :)

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  5. Wow, this is a really interesting read. It sounds so fun to choreograph poems!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by. IT IS A HUGE AMOUNT OF FUN to choreograph poetry... and impactful, too!

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  6. This is awesome, Tracy! Great job! :)

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    1. Thank you, Julie! So glad you enjoyed it!

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  7. First of all, you write just beautifully! Secondly, what a wonderful experience for your students! Talk about bringing poetry to life!

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    1. Mary, Thank you so much for your kind words. I love poetry...it's my favorite type of "complex text!"

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