ASTEP Abby Gerdts_Early Childhood Learning through the Arts
1. Early Childhood Learning through the Arts
Lesson Objective: Explore Early Childhood Learning Benchmarks and how they can be practiced and taught through the arts.
Class Length: 75 Min.
Request for materials: piano, Kinderkid benchmark poster,
Benchmarks to Discuss:
1. Getting ready routines for home and school
2. Fine motor skills
3. Gross motor skills
4. Patterns, Repetition, Memory
5. Language and Reading Comprehension
6. Sounds and letters
7. Creating and Imagining
8. Developing Social skills
and Class Goal/
Story Telling Incorporating
in small groups.
that targets the
using the arts.
Begin the Class by briefly introducing yourself and quickly move into a call and response game to warm up. Quickly move into a
conversation about each of the benchmarks and refer to the handout for creative ways to work on reaching those benchmarks with young
VISUAL ART: Coloring the rainbow
Using a very basic template that I created on my own, we will walk through introducing a visual art experience to young learners and how
you can scaffold many teaching points and benchmarks into the experience. Here are the steps.
1. Take one template and pass, wait for instruction (social skills) - you can time this portion of the class so that the students can work on
improving their efficiency each time they pass out a worksheet.
2. write the colors of the rainbow on the left-hand side of the page (fine motor).
3. Sound out each word paying close attention to sounding out each letter and then putting them together. (sounds and letters, reading
4. Have the children color their rainbows using the order on the left had side of the page (fine motor, patterns)
2. 5. Have the students number the colors from 1 - 6. Count forward and backwards (patterns, repetition, memory)
6. Ask students to think of fruits and vegetables that are the same colors as the colors of the rainbow. After they decide on one, quickly
draw the item on the corresponding colored piece of paper and then have the child cut it out. (Fine motor, patterns) You may also use
advertisements from your grocery store and ask students to cut out food items from the paper.
7. Students should then be allowed to color the rest of the sheet how they see fit. (Creating and imagining)
After you finish all of these steps, reflect on the benchmarks and the activity with the workshop participants. What other ways can you add
on to this activity to teach different benchmarks?
MUSIC: Rhythm and music exercise
This exercise is similar to the last in that there will be multiple steps all building upon each other to work on certain benchmarks of
learning. Here are the steps:
1. Participants sit in a circle and learn a simple song/nursery rhyme. (patterns, repetition, memory). If possible use a keyboard to play
2. After they know the song well, introduce a noisemaker of some sort that the students will gently pass around the circle according to the
rhythm being played or sung by the teacher (social skills, gross motor)
3. Introduce one set of opposites that the students can then pass the noisemaker on. For example, start with FAST and SLOW. They must
listen to the rhythm being sung or being played on the piano and pass the noisemaker accordingly (social skills, gross motor, language and
4. Introduce more sets of opposites: pass HIGH, pass LOW, pass LOUD, pass QUIET. All corresponding to how the song is being sung or
how the music is being played. They must listen and constantly adjust to what they hear to pass the object in the correct way (social skills,
gross motor, patterns, repetition, language comprehension)
After the exercise is over, stop and discuss again. What benchmarks have to hit upon? How can you expand this exercise?
THEATER AND MOVEMENT: Interactive Story-telling
Guiding the participants, the facilitator will narrate a simple story that will take them on a journey through a day to the zoo. Start at the
beginning of a normal day (waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, putting on a jacket, walking to the park, etc.) continue to narrate
a journey to the zoo where the students will again sit in a circle and pretend to be different animals. After the zoo, the group will "go back
home", have dinner, get ready for bed, reflect on their day, and go to sleep. The entire experienced can be enhanced by using music or a
This exercise is always well-received with young learners because they get to exercise their imaginative muscles and go on journeys that
they normally would not be able to experience. (Getting ready routines, social skills, gross motor, fine motor, patterns repetition memory,
creating and imagining)
After the experience, discuss what other interactive story-telling a teacher would be able to guide their students through and what benefits
it might have for the learners.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
Why are activities with music, movement, drama, and art so successful with young children? Through activities with
the arts, children learn to express the "mysterious" - their rapidly growing understandings, their thoughts, and their
feelings. The process of making art allows the artist to give image, word, sound, or movement to something that
is often intangible - that is what young children do every day. They are born artists and scientists. Young children
explore the arts with both a creative and a scientific "eye." The artist in them searches for creative expression, and
the scientist figures out the way to do it! Our role is to provide them with the materials and inspiration, then to stand
back and let them go!
The Arts Stimulate Brain Growth
The exciting "brain" news is that participating in art, music, movement, and storytelling activities not only develops
language, mathematics, science, and social skills, but these activities also strengthen the synapses between brain
cells! Research shows that these synapses grow stronger through active participation in the arts. These essential
activities at an early age can actually create new neural pathways and fortify those that are already present! For
example, neuroscientists feel that the combined arts used in rhythmic movement activities (words and music) can
3. help the young brain develop to its fullest capacity. At infancy a child has all the synapses needed to speak any
language, to learn and appreciate music and movement, and to create visual art...but these synapses must be
used in order to be developed.
Dr. Bruce Perry (and the CIVITAS Healing Arts project) has found the amazing healing effects of the arts on
young children in trauma. Through neurobiology, we can see how the brain is affected by trauma and how the
arts can actually help the brain development of children who are exposed to traumatic experiences at an early
age. CIVITAS research has shown that specific parts of the brain are stimulated by specific artistic enrichment
modalities. For example: the base or brain stem responds to touch; the midbrain to music-making and movement;
the limbic region to dance, art, play therapy, and nature discovery; and the cortical region to art, storytelling, drama,
and writing. Through artistic stimulation, children's brains are healing and growing!
Learning Activities With Visual Art...
Encourage children to use their hands to manipulate clay, finger paint, weave, paint, and draw. This helps
build fine motor skills - the same skills that children need to learn how to write letters and words.
Ask children to express their feelings using color, texture, and structure. Children often use colors in their
drawings and paintings to express a mood. And the textures of clay provide a perfect place to work out frustrations!
Use art materials to observe, predict, experiment, and problem-solve. Open-ended art activities in which
children have to make choices as to how to create a sculpture or picture help foster the development of these
scientific thinking skills.
Invite children to talk about their art with words and stories in order to promote language development.
Use discussions with other children and shared experiences to shape social and emotional interaction skills.
By inviting children to "title" their art, you invite them to use art as a language.
Introduce new art materials, such as painting with feathers. This invites children to build a strong sense of
success and mastery.
Learning Activities With Music and Movement...
Try yoga, jumping, running, and dancing games to help children develop large muscle skills, strength,
balance, rhythm, and coordination.
Use rhythmic clapping games, tip toe dances, and finger plays to develop small muscles of the hands and
Through singing repetitive songs and circle dancing games, introduce the math skills of patterning,
sequencing, and counting.
Engage children in rhyming songs and in singing word games to build the essential language learning skills
of communication, listening, and speaking.
Use music and movement to express emotions and develop autonomy and social interaction. This helps
foster social and emotional development.
Learning Activities With Creative Drama and Storytelling...
Invite children to act out and create stories to develop vocabulary, sequencing, listening, and memory skills.
Explore familiar fairy tales and nursery rhymes to encourage children to learn to distinguish between fantasy
Encourage children to act out their own feelings and the feelings of others in stories and dramatic play
center activities. This helps provide a greater understanding of their own feelings and those of others.
Explore play themes with a variety of culturally diverse materials to promote multicultural awareness.
Invite children to express a "story" with their bodies. This provides opportunities for children to develop body
The Arts Stimulate Heads and Hearts
As humans we are a combination of emotional mind and rational mind. These two "minds" work in tight harmony
to create our experience of life. Activities in the arts invite children to play with the balance of "head and heart."
There are no wrong answers in creative activities. And risk taking is definitely encouraged! Through improvisation
and experimentation with the arts in a non-judgmental environment, children learn more about themselves and their