Lawndale teachers incorporate singing, drawing and acting into their lessons

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lawndale Elementary’s fifth-graders stood next to their desks, stomped and clapped.
This lesson on the water cycle would begin with a rap.
“Evaporation and condensation,” the students in Amber Langley’s class chanted. “Followed by precipitation. The water cycle.”
The lesson is one of many in which teachers at the third- to fifth-grade school use various arts to teach core curriculum concepts. Lawndale is one of several Tupelo Schools participating in the Mississippi Arts Commission’s arts’ integration program. Teachers agree to incorporate art into a lesson each week, the school invites various artists-in-residence, and the MAC provides funding.
“The main thing I like is all students are engaged,” said Lawndale Principal Brock English. “One thing I hear a lot is that it makes students creators of information instead of receivers.”
Langley has multiple projects planned throughout the course of the year. Her students also will recite a rap about the three types of rock, and they will video themselves doing the raps. They will use butcher paper to trace the human body and will create different habitats and ecosystems using torn paper, scissors and glue. In math, they will trace their hands to learn translation, rotation and reflection.
“Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way,” Langley said.
The water cycle rap emerged last year, the first year she began using arts integration. She had begun teaching the students with a power-point lesson and realized it was not connecting with them.
“I thought, ‘Would I want to sit in class or would I want to do a rap?’” she said.
She divided the students into groups to write the words.
“One student said, ‘The first thing we need is a beat,’” Langley recalls.
She would see the students use the rap throughout the year. One day a student asked her when they would be filming it.
“He said he had been practicing in front of a mirror,” Langley said. “It means they are studying in a different way.”
She also saw them use the tricks when they took tests.
“On the state test, I’d see students snapping and moving their heads,” she said. “They knew it, and the scores were wonderful.”
Fifth-grader Tryce Osborne, 11, said he needed to practice the water cycle rap about four times before he memorized it.
“It is fun, he said. “I learned more.”
Added classmate Lydia Asters, 11: “Our age likes fun music like rap. It helps us remember in a fun way.”
Fifth-grade math teacher Melissa Harris said arts integration has also been helpful in her classroom. She uses reader’s theater, in which students write a short play about the information they have just learned.
“We get several different plays about the same information,” she said.
Her students will also use gumdrops and toothpicks to construct various geometric figures.
“It provides kids an avenue to create something on their own and gives them a way to connect to the information,” she said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com