Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Drums: Arts Enhance Core Learning

April 30, 2014 | admin

As a teacher who specializes in a core subject, you have probably never been fussed about things like art class, band practice, or theater productions.  What the students do in their free time is their own problem!arts education

However, recent studies show you should be worried about your students’ involvement in art.  Not only that, but if you want them to succeed in your math, science, or writing class, you might want to actively encourage art education.


The Decline of Art Education

We all know educational professionals have downplayed the importance of art in recent years (actually, since the early 80’s).  After all, if you want a shiny new microscope or a state-of-the-art tablet, the money needs to come from somewhere. Cuts might as well be made in the “less important” areas of education.

But in reality, subjects like band, theatre, choir and painting are important.  They are important to your students and they should be important to you.


The Scientific Proof

You are probably the type who appreciates sound logic and scientific proof regarding controversial topics.  So, here it is!

Several studies – like the ones found here and here – preach the importance of arts and how they affect overall learning.  Let’s take a look at the findings that directly relate to you and your students.


art educationExceeding Expectations

One study evaluated high school students over the course of three years.  During that time, students were required to take at least one credit of art education. 

Several students voluntarily went above and beyond the minimum – and they were greatly rewarded. 

When it came time to take the ACT Plan, they were 1.5 times more likely to meet or exceed the national average in both math and writing.

Additionally, students who were active in the arts excelled in their statewide tests.  They were superior to other students in the areas of math, reading, and writing.


Emphasizing the Obvious

If you really think about it, the correlation between excelling in both music and math shouldn’t be so surprising – it’s almost common sense!

Students who study music must master concepts like time and rhythm.  Those traits directly influence students’ ability to comprehend math issues.

Studies found that youngsters who participate in music – whether it is the band or choir – scored much higher on standardized math tests than their non-musical classmates.  The effect was even more significant for students from low socio-economic backgrounds – they were twice as likely to do well.


Improvement in All Subjects

Just like you weren’t worried about your students’ involvement in band, you probably didn’t think too much about their grades in other subjects – like reading and writing.  However, we know that all subject areas are essentially interrelated.

Perhaps you need your students to write a detailed lab report or read a detailed math story problem.  Either way, writing and reading are just as valuable (in the eyes of parents, students and the school district) as your subject area.

Fortunately, the arts can help with that too.  For example, analyzing the lyrics of music can help with syllabification, vocabulary, and phonics – all essential for good writing and reading comprehension.

Plus, the arts help ESL students master the language easier and more efficiently.  The relatively safe and fun environment of the arts (like theater and music) makes learning easy.


So What Now?

If, by now, you’ve bought into the idea that art is important, you’re probably wondering how this information can benefit you.

Here are some ways you can embrace the arts and help your students excel in reading, writing, math, and science:

  • Look for simple and fun ways to incorporate art into your daily lesson plans.  It doesn’t need to be complicated or messy.  You don’t need to bust out a trombone or reveal your tone deaf singing.  Here are 50 simple suggestions to consider (broken up by area of learning).  Here are some lesson plans and other ideas (divided by grade and subject). 
  • Call in the professionals.  If you feel the arts are too far outside your comfort zone, ask for help.  Parents have lots of specialties – maybe someone would be interested in helping you bring art to the science lab.  See what resources the PTA has.
  • When it comes time for the art education teachers and supporters to go to bat against the school board (and the budget), join forces.  Lend your voice to the cause and encourage the powers-that-be to continue funding these valuable classes.
  • Support your students.  Go to the art fair.  Buy tickets to the musical.  Attend a band concert.  Help them organize a flash mob. Your students will notice and appreciate your support.  This could give them a more positive impression of your subject.


There are various tactics to help your students improve in math, reading, science and writing.  However, if you truly want them to succeed, it might be time to put the tablet down and reach for the tambourine. 


Mike HanskiAbout the author:

Mike is a writer and content strategist based in Thessaloniki. He works with online projects in various industries and specializes in writing about education technology and college survival. Check out his blog and feel free to contact him on Google+