One very effective way to build community in the classroom is through the arts. You may be an arts teacher or a general ed teacher, a special ed teacher, a musician, an arist or not. It doesn’t matter! If you have a group of students in your room then using the arts to build that safe learning environment can be a powerful tool.
Think about it. If you move with your students, create artwork with them, play or listen to music with them then you are sharing experiences that are special and bonding. As you do and make art together more and more, students will become more trusting of you and their peers and, in turn share more of themselves personally and academically.
When a group, no matter how small or large, creates something and reflects on it, they begin to share pieces of themselves. That process is powerful and if done over time, can be bonding as well. You may start with something as simple as sharing and reflecting on the process students went through to complete a visual art project in science. Or you may decide to listen to music together as you prepare for you day. Yes, your artful community attempts can be connected directly to the curriculum, but they don’t always have to be!
Here is a visual art community activity you might try:
Objective: to create a piece of community art as a group of learners where each person is both valued for their individuality and as part of the whole.
Large piece of paper, about 12 feet long.
Tons of coloring materials including crayons, markers, cray-pas, and colored pencils
- Lay out the large piece of paper on the floor or long table.
- Have students kneel or stand around it and place their two hands on the part of the paper that is in front of them. This is their space to use.
- With a black marker, have students draw a border around the large piece of paper in turn. Students draw a piece of the border on the paper that is in front of them and pass the marker to the next person to continue the border until the whole large paper has one continuous boarder.
- Note – Everyone’s border will be a different design. It does not need to be a straight line. They might do waves or jagged points, etc.
- Tell students that they will now color in their section of the paper how ever they desire using any of the materials you have provided. Their sections will over lap a bit and should “blend” into those of the peers around them. They must color inside the border.
- Once everyone is done, step back and admire your work!
Prompts to give:
- What do you notice about this artwork we have made?
- Talk about the movement/color/shapes in the piece.
- What makes it unique?
- Each person, in turn, give one word (or phrase) about this artwork/the process/the experience.
- Move to another place around our artwork and look at it from a different perspective.
- What else do you notice?
Start to discuss COMMUNITY:
- We are all part of a community.
- We all bring ourselves to this class and each one of us is unique just as each of our pieces in this large piece of art is unique.
- We all fit together.
- Sometimes you need to walk to a different place and look at things from another person’s perspective.
- We will hang this artwork up to remember what we did today and remember that we are a community that works together in this classroom.
There are ways to connect this activity to your curriculum (math, ELA) and you can even take this activity further by discussing it more and adding to it. But I’m going to save that for another blog…
Next blog – Community Built Through Music! due out Tues 3/9