Elevating Student Voices through Arts Integration

Kieasha King is a 3rd-grade teacher at Woodville Elementary in Richmond and was in the first cohort of teachers to earn an Arts Integrated Learning Certificate (AILC) from Partners in the Arts. 

Kieasha King (right) at PIA’s Joan Oates Institute in August 2019.

Partners in the Arts developed her understanding of an arts integrated approach to teaching. After completing the certificate program, Kieasha was able to integrate the arts into her classroom at a deeper level. For example, she used poetry, specifically spoken word, to allow her students to express themselves. This activity incorporated social-emotional learning, which Kieasha is extremely passionate about. She collaborated with teaching artist and Richmond poet laureate Roscoe Burnems, which gave her inspiration for a poetry project in her classroom.

Student Voice and Choice

Students wrote and performed name poems. These name poems, similar to Kieasha’s own name poem, empowered students to express themselves in a new light. It focused on identity and encouraged social-emotional skills. The social-emotional aspect was intertwined with how students approached the project, including what they chose to share about their names and the way in which they delivered the poem. Looking at these choices allowed teachers to assess students’ social-emotional comprehension and expression through art. The project also helped some students who struggled to understand poetry, by allowing them to build understanding through the creative process and to share that deep learning through self-expression. 

Watch Kieasha perform her spoken word poem, “When You Know Your Name,” created as part of a session with Richmond Poet Laureate Roscoe Burnems.

Staying Connected Through Art

Kieasha also integrated the arts into her class’s morning routine. She emphasized the importance of using music with students and understands that the songs she chose to play each morning as students walk into the room, or log onto Zoom when remote, was very impactful. She chose songs carefully and used them as a way to connect with students. During online learning, Kieasha found that art allowed her to continue to connect with her students. Prior to the remote teaching, she loved using art to connect with her students. When school was virtual, that could be difficult. However, music and other art forms helped.

Kieasha King (third from left) with teaching artist DJ Lonnie B and fellow RPS teachers at Spacebomb Studios for an AILC workshop.

Art Unlocks Understanding

Kieasha felt that arts integrated learning opens new doors for students who may have had trouble accessing certain content. Arts integration exposes students to different art mediums and also engages their attention in new ways. As a result, students are often inspired to explore different areas of the curriculum in a way that suits their strengths. This exposure to new material can open doors for students because of the engaging presentation of material. In a traditional learning environment, a student may not pay attention to a certain topic; but in an arts integrated environment, a student is more likely to take in the information and practice it through the arts. In turn, students thoroughly engage with the material and explore new topics they may have skipped over or struggled with before.

Kieasha felt that arts integrated learning allows for students to take ownership of their learning and assess where they are as a student. The flexibility of arts integration allows students to learn to work with the academic material in a way that best suits their learning styles, natural curiosities, and passions. Arts integrated teaching opens new doors and allows students to learn in their own way.

This is a guest post by University of Richmond senior Kat Mitchell, who spent a semester with Partners in the Arts through an independent study and internship. Kat studied Leadership and Education & Society, and is passionate about equity in education and advancing knowledge of the world around us.

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