Bringing Art to the Classroom for Engaging and Relevant Lessons

Is it mandatory that educators use technology to engage young minds in the digital age?

For many schools and individuals, the terms “student” and “education” have become redefined — and undefined — by digital tools. For example, “students” can still be teens who attend a brick and mortar high school, but they might also be a retired lawyer who takes advantage of Stanford’s free online classes. Some students attend a “flipped-classroom” where they take a lesson at home on YouTube and come to class to do their homework. Some students master activities through gaming, answer tests on their cellphones, and collaborate with peers by developing computer software.

In today’s classroom, it’s hip to throw out traditional classroom conventions for shiny technology in an attempt to relate to a new generation. However, as tech savvy as some of the new generation is, they are still a generation defined by a lack of critical thinking and STEM skills, and they suffer from high dropout and low-college completion rates, staggering unemployment rates, and a lack of real-world skills. Student engagement, not technology, is still key in getting students involved in school. Technology is one way to capture young minds, but it isn’t the only way to make a lesson fresh, engaging, and challenging.

Some recent articles show how educators are bringing life to their lessons, and they do so without a mention of technology.


Eric Azcuy is a young art teacher at a 6-12 grade South Bronx school, where 91.2 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The art projects he assigns in his class aren’t only for aesthetics, they also help students make a connection between art and their other lessons, according to the article “The Art of Slipping in Some Learning.”

Azcuy gives the example of how he incorporated math skills in a sixth-grade drawing assignment. He asked students to draw a picture of an item that was 100% the object, then 75% the object and 25% imagination, and on and on until the object was 100% imagination. Students didn’t even know they were learning fractions. Educators don’t have to be artists to bring art into their lessons. The purpose of combining art with math, science, etc. is to make learning about an intimidating subject more accessible, hands-on, and creative. How can you bring sculpture into a math, science, or English class to enhance your lesson? How can you bring music into an art class?


Engage students in a subject by using something — beside technology — that they can relate to. In 1975, Bob Lenz’s teacher played the Beatles’ song Fool on the Hill to introduce poetry. The class analyzed the pop song and used it as a jumping off point to study other genres of poetry and write their own, Lenz explains in the article “Poetry Can Change a Student’s Life.” In the end, students presented their collection of poems in a handmade, handwritten book of poetry, and read an excerpt to their parent-audience in the classroom that had been turned into a cafe, complete with refreshments.

Lenz says this project-based class he had over 30 years ago inspired his career in teaching and how he presented his lessons. What are the most vivid lessons you remember from your school years? Were they project-based?


Do you know the difference between explicit learning and implicit learning? Explicit learning is defined as “labeled learning,” including what students read, write, and talk about. “Implicit learning includes, hands on learning, role-play, trial-and-error, life experiences, drama games, and active learning,” writes Karen Boyes. “Researchers believe that implicit learning is much more reliable than old-style classroom education, with an emphasis on reading textbooks and memorizing facts.”

In her article “The Value of Kinesthetic Arts Within the Classroom,” Boyes gives many suggestions for energizing your classroom routines with kinesthetic arts. One idea she gives is to use dramatic arts as a vehicle to teach math. For this project, students will use their math skills to measure, calculate budgets, and order supplies in order to make a set for a play.

Technology can be powerful, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the mind and body are also powerful tools in the learning process. When you define relevance for a student, what is relevant to their lives beside technology? How can you help them develop practical and relevant skills while using the visual, oratory, or physical arts?



“The Art of Slipping in Some Learning,” by Eddie Small. 6 April 2012. SchoolBook (The New York Times). Accessed on 10 April 2012.

“Poetry Can Change a Student’s Life,” by Bob Lenz. 6 April 2012. Eduptopia. Accessed in 9 April 2012.

“The Value of Kinesthetic Arts within the Classroom,” by Karen Boyes. 9 April 2012. LifeBound. Accessed on 9 April 2012.

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