Guest Post: Arts Integration for the Art Teacher

During the month of November,  in addition to our regular content,  AOE is excited to host a variety of guest posts from art education professionals, bloggers and teachers just like you.  Today’s guest post is written by Elizabeth Peterson a 4th grade teacher in Amesbury, Massachusetts and Arts Integration specialist.   Learn more about Elizabeth in her bio below and be sure to visit her website The Inspired Classroom! 



Arts Integration for the Art Teacher

When a teacher hears about arts integration, they probably think of the general classroom teacher first.  Then, they may think of other teachers: special education, ELL, reading specialist, etc.  But arts integration can be implemented into the art teacher’s classroom too, creating rich, meaningful experiences.



When we look at art, we can notice the movement of it.  The lines that are drawn, sculpted, or painted mimic movement in space.  As I sit here in my office, I can see the various lines in paintings I have on my walls.  Some flow, some rush, some wiggle, some hop; some reach out, some pull in, but they are all dancing right there on the page.

This summer, I had an arts integration student who is an elementary art teacher.  One of her integrated lessons was for students to draw and move as different lines.  We drew lines on a page and moved as those same lines across the floor.  Sometimes we would move and others in the class would draw the line that were created, other times students would move as the line and others would draw.  I participated in this lesson and it was a wonderful way to make the lines come alive.

I was part of another class once where a group was challenged to transform a painting into a dance or series of movements over time.  Take this painting, Brown Trout Rising, by Greg Keeler.   You can see the movement and imagine what a small group of students may do to showcase the movement in the painting.

Many students need to feed their kinesthetic impulses and in this way, students can start to make bodily connections with the art they study and create.



If you think of music as anything from a beautifully orchestrated symphony to the light breeze heard through the leaves on the trees, the possibilities of music integration with art is as endless as the noises we can hear.  Our focus will be on the creation of art from music and then music from art.

Listening to certain pieces of music can elicit different emotions that can then be illustrated on paper using a variety of mediums.  You can also choose certain pieces for their different musical qualities and have students paint or sketch as a reaction to the music.  In this way students may discover new techniques of putting a medium to paper.  For example the beginning staccato notes of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony may move an artist’s hand to make short strokes, while the occasional legato would invite a sweeping movement.

It can work in the opposite manner also.   Take the Brown Trout Rising painting again and listen in your own mind to the music that may go along with this painting.  You may hear certain instruments or sounds.  Students could use their bodies to create a short piece to accompany the painting.  This would also be a great time to discuss color and to think about what sounds would go with the various shades of blue in the painting.



Poetry is a wonderful way to reflect on art whether it be an original piece or one students are studying.  Brainstorming words that can be used to describe the movement, color and mood of the art can be an inspirational springboard for the poetry.  I like to tell my students to “jump into the painting” and move around inside; to use all their senses to explore and experience all parts of the artwork.  Once they “jump back out” they are able to discuss the artwork with more detail and can then begin to reflect on it in poem form.  (Keep in mind that not all poetry needs to rhyme or have a metered rhythm.  Some of the best poems are free form and flowing.)

Here’s an example of a haiku poem one 6th grade student wrote in reflection of this painting Red by Arash and Kelly

Lost in red velvet

Like veils, they hide me away

Backing up, I rest

Integrating the arts is more than utilizing the arts to help teach math concepts.  True arts integration occurs when art forms are used to not only enrich student learning, but help learning come alive.  With visual art, other arts can provide students the opportunities to experience art forms in ways that deepen their understanding of mediums, techniques and interpretation.  A true artist is able to make these connections with art and allowing for these types of experiences in the art classroom will help to make great artists!



Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired.  Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts, is the host of and is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching.  Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Holly Gray

    Elizabeth, I love this article! This is so what I am working on with my fifth graders when I integrate poetry (Haiku specifically) with music and art in my classes. We work with sensory integration, seeing, listening, touching, feeling to kick off our unit by first going into nature and experiencing it around us. They journal and then illustrate their response to the introduction (I do this in the fall and spring) to the seasonal themes. They are introduced to Haiku along with rhythmic aspects of musical composition. They count syllables and utilize poetic devices. They compose a poem, illustrate it and then orchestrate it to present to the class in pairs. I love this project because of the variations that everyone can tap into. They develop confidence as well as social protocol for audience and performance behavior and expectations. This kind of article really gets me pumped to expand on my teaching! Thank you! Holly

  • Leslie Barnaby

    Poetry has always been a challenge for me, it’s not that I don’t enjoy certain styles, but by and large I feel uncomfortable with teaching it, as it can be so open ended and hard to grasp or guide the lesson. With your recent post, I found your lesson on integrating art and poetry appealing. Using the art, and then brainstorming words that describe movement, color and mood would be a way to focus the microscope on a specific concept or theme.

    “I like to tell my students to “jump into the painting” and move around
    inside; to use all their senses to explore and experience all parts of
    the artwork. Once they “jump back out” they are able to discuss the
    artwork with more detail and can then begin to reflect on it in poem

    I was thinking of the Girl with the Pearl Earring and how appealing the book was as it created the story behind the painting. I think it would be productive to use your technique to help develop a more sensorial experience for students as they became a behind the scene character with a 360° view, using the five senses. Once they jump out, I believe they will have a greater selection of words to begin the poetic expression. Thinking through the eyes of technology teachers, I would integrate this with word processing and take this further. I would have them brainstorm one list, and they choose a few words to find a possible synonym through the spell/check format feature. This way they will develop their vocabulary and learn the nuances and fine details of descriptive language.

  • Becky

    I truly think that making connections in teaching and learning helps students to come to a truer understanding of a concept/idea/art form. I also believe that it is important for students to experience different kinds of teaching and teaching from a variety of styles. Arts integration in the art classroom or any other specialized instructional classroom is so important.