Saturday, September 26, 2015

Aligning With the Standards: October's Stepping Stones

For October's Stepping Stones in Arts & Activities Magazine, I focused on how to work in the new core arts standards within our curriculum.  In June 2014, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards released the new and updated National Arts Standards for visual arts, music, dance, drama, and media arts. Prior to the standard’s release, art educators worked with different benchmarks available, such as state developed, previous designed national standards, and the recently common core ELA/Math standards required of most districts across the country.
Before the release of the core arts standards, our district worked with the state standards and adapted them into each lesson within our curriculum. With the release of the new core arts standards, our district is now working to implement the visual arts standards and artistic processes, while integrating the Common Core (ELA/Math), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Technology, and Social Emotional Learning standards (SEL). I know what you’re thinking … that’s a lot of standards to include within each lesson!
The core arts standards begin with four artistic processes: creating, performing/presenting/producing, responding, and connecting. Each artistic process breaks down into grade level appropriate performance standards for each grade level for pre-K through 12th grade.
Creating: The first artistic process is creating, which implies that we generate, conceptualize, organize, and develop artistic ideas and work. These standards also include refinement and completion of artistic work.
Presenting: The second artistic process combines performing/presenting/ and producing into one. This is where you analyze, interpret, and select artistic works for presentation, develop and refine artistic works for presentation, and convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.
Responding: The third artistic process is responding, which is how you perceive and analyze artistic work, interpret intent and meaning in artistic work, and apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
Connecting: The fourth artistic process is connecting, which is how students synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art, as well as relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.
There are two types of standards within the grade levels.   Anchor standards describe general knowledge and skills that teachers expect students to demonstrate throughout their education in the arts. Performance standards are discipline-specific (dance, media arts, music, theatre, visual arts), grade-by-grade articulations of student achievement in the arts PK–8 and at three proficiency levels in high school (proficient, accomplished and advanced). As such, the performance standards translate the anchor standards into specific, measurable learning goals.
Now that we know a bit more about the national core arts standards, we need to figure out how to include them within our own curriculum. There are a few ways to begin aligning with the national visual arts standards.
First, before you get confused, the standards can be found at When visiting the site, you can customize your own “handbook” with the standards you need for the grade level you teach. Once you have your own standards organized, you can print them, save them, download them, or copy/paste them to where you feel you can view them when plugging in your lessons.
Second, the most convenient way to begin alignment is just picking and choosing which standard matches the lessons you already teach. For example, you may have a first-grade project where you’re teaching students how to create a collage. Is your main objective to understand the process? Choose your grade-level standard in the “creating” artistic process category. Are you connecting your project to a culture or current event? Find a standard in the “connecting” artistic process category.
Third, you can use the standards to help assess your students’ progress. Within the assessments you design, whether written or visual, you can plug in the standard as an attainable goal for your students.
Lastly, when setting up your displays, place the standards on the walls to help your school and colleagues become familiarized with them. You can also share the standards with your curriculum director or administrator to help in gaining more support for the visual-art curriculum.
Thanks to the writers and reviewers of the national coalition for core arts standards and the hundreds of teachers who participated in their public reviews, we now have a set of achievable standards for all grade levels. For more information, visit