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Your fifth grader and the arts

In a rich art program, your child will learn about visual arts, music, theater, and dance.

By Miriam Myers , GreatSchools Staff

In your child's classroom

If the school has a rich art program, your child will have opportunities to create, appreciate and learn the history of the visual and performing arts. She will be encouraged to relate them to other subjects. Your child may go on a field trip to a concert, dance performance, play, or art museum to extend classroom learning.

Research has linked arts education to overall academic achievement and social development. Paul Bakeman, our teacher consultant and award-winning music teacher, adds: "Students who are exposed to a consistent, quality arts education develop skills that will enhance their ability to learn throughout their whole lives.

The arts may not be taught as a separate subject in some schools, but most states require that they be included in the curriculum. Most states have National Standards for Arts Education. Nancy Roucher, our educational consultant and arts specialist, notes that arts instruction, like math, should build each year on the skills learned the year before: "The ideal is to have sequential arts education taught by certified qualified specialists and integrated with other subject areas."

Visual arts

In fifth grade, students study the visual arts — painting, sculpture, and photography — from different cultures and time periods, learning about famous artists, styles, and cultures. Your child studies and creates art, including landscapes, portraits, sculptures, and collages. He explores various art materials such as pastels, clay, papier-mâché, and watercolors. He learns the elements and principles of art such as color, line, shape, form, texture, space, balance, and repetition.

Your fifth grader compares and interprets works of art. He is able to create works of art by selecting subject matter, elements, composition, media, and techniques to communicate an idea, mood or feeling. He works with warm and cool colors, and contrast and perspective to show depth.

Your child learns about different art movements and artists. He may study the influence of history, for example World War II's impact on modern art. He may study the work of Pablo Picasso before attempting his own cubist portrait. He may work collaboratively to create a mural about the civil rights movement. He compares and contrasts abstract and realistic art, and discusses the big question: "What is art?"

Comments from readers

"I enjoyed the article and not surprisingly, it is in line with how I teach art (and drama at summer camps). I ask students to identify art connections to other subjects (for sticker rewards) and analyze posters (and postcards) of works by artists past and present and from other cultures that connect with their project. "
"Your article on 5th graders and the arts just proves that California schools are woefully inadequate when it comes to learning about the arts. Visual arts? One class per month. Theater? None. Dance? You must be kidding me! Music? It exists if you have an instrument and can afford to join the band (not free). If we are going to talk about the arts let's be realistic. I don't know where the arts programs are that are described above but I don't think they exist in public school unless you are in a very wealthy community."
"How wonderful, but sounds like a fairy tale. I don't know any California public schools that offer an iota of what Great Schools outlines are offered in GREAT SCHOOLS. California, at least most of the schools in our district have NO arts or music or theatre offerings. They claim there is no money for extra teachers. There are no instruments, no band, no orchestra, no sculpturing, no collages, not even student art work displayed. and forget learning about the famous artist, writers, scientists - simply doesn't happen. This district is all about STAR TESTING bragging rights. They want to score better than the other California districts, but what they don't realize is that they can't hold a candle to the offerings and score of OTHER STATES! California ranks at the bottom in testing and senior graduates who can even function as college freshmen. Science is only taught in fifth grade because that is the first year science is on the state testing and counts in 5th grade ranking. S! o the emphasis is mostly on math and language arts, but sadly language arts doesn't offer a focus on basic needs writing such as writing letters, creative stories and poetry. They aren't needed for state testing. It's politics; it's so unfortunate California students are dumbed down and have no idea they are missing the fabulous arts! Christmas is outlawed, other holidays aren't even mentioned, so forget about learning cultures, historical beginnings or geography. Social studies is not tested at 5th grade level, so why allow the students to learn about the 50 states. No fifth grader, not even the advanced students can name half of the states or have the slightest idea about topography. So, as I read your arts offerings, I sadly realize my children will not be able to compete with other states and of course not the Asian countries which focus on history and science as well as diversified arts. It would be interesting to her from other Southern California parents and student! s. Heck, we don't even get to learn Spanish til high school, y! et they tech the Spanish speakers in Spanish before they teach them in English. There is little creative learning unless your child lucks out and is placed in a master teacher's class, a teacher who know what well-rounded means. When NY can spend nearly $15K on each student per year, and California spends maybe $4K, can you figure out the disparity? Why isn't there a standardized FEDERAL test? Let's compare apples with apples and see who is really education students for the future! Thank you for the knowledge that maybe some 5th graders in our country are truly involved in the arts in their public schools. Makes me kind of jealous though."
"unfournatly there is no art program for my fifth grader at Orange grove Elem in Gulfport Mississippi....hopefully this will change"