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Common Core and the Arts


As I wrap up another school year and move into the easy pace of summer, I like to take some time to reflect upon the past year in order to plan for the next. I’m a sporadic planner at best. I have every intention of sticking to a set curriculum but new ideas never fail to bubble up. I’m in a unique position at my school where the art curriculum is completely up to me and as a result, if I see an idea that I absolutely must do, I make room for it!

Art standards, in particular California Visual Art Standards, provide a great launching off point for my curriculum and gives me a checklist of sorts to make sure I’m providing my students the best possible art program I can give. Soon art educators will be required to integrate Common Core into their art curriculum. I did quite a bit of internet research hoping to find tangible ways in which to incorporate the Common Core ideas, but to me, the language is still too abstract to translate into lesson plans. I can easily see how language, math, science and personal response relate to art but I wonder if the lessons aren’t geared more towards the classroom teacher rather than the art educator.

How can art specialists or contracted artists incorporate common core into their art program without these tie-ins?

Some of my questions are:

  • Will technique-based art lessons be considered unnecessary with Common Core?
  • Is there a Common Core standard for each grade level? For instance, are Kinders required to learn some of the elements of art?
  • Is the Common Core Art Integration meant for classroom teachers or art teachers?
  • How does Common Core Arts Integration benefit elementary school children?
  • And someone please tell me whether or not I have to incorporate math problems in the art room. This will be a sad day indeed for this art teacher.

 Your turn….

I want to hear your thoughts on how you have managed to incorporate common core into your elementary art room. And tell the truth…do you like it? Loath it? Hate the change? Love the change?

Put the mystery to be and share what you know? (commenting tips: My hyper-sensitive Akismet will drop you like a hot potato if you put links in your responses, so if you have a great referral site, it’s best to spell it ot. Literally!)


  1. I teach HS Art in NYC. From my understanding what was propose for Common Core in the Arts was not approved yet. However after reading the proposal I have come to understand, that we need to include non-fiction work to the students to analyze, in case of the Arts the non-fiction is showing a piece of artwork from an artist and having the students do a Art critique on it without knowing the artist first, to see if the students can interpret a piece of artwork with knowing any information about it. Which I do in my classes, I also assign my students any old news articles i find about the artist during their time of being popular, or if I can find a recent article about the artist. Also common core wants the students to know vocabulary words, which I believe we all include in our lessons anyhow.


    June 19, 2013

    • Yes, I think you are right. I heard that it will be finalize in December 2013. Not sure if that is correct. It seems, however, that everyone is incorporating it.

      Patty Palmer

      June 19, 2013

  2. It seems to me that it is geared more to classroom teachers. I am going to a conference on this very subject in July-I will let you know what I find out. I have been working on my own art so far this summer, so I haven’t jumped into planning for the next school year planning yet.
    I may be paranoid- but it seems like a way for “them” to try to get rid of special area teachers. 🙁


    June 19, 2013

    • Please share what you find out at the conference. I’ve started incorporating math through a tessellation which includes math terminology; I’m incorporating science through fossils using organic items and self drying clay; and of course we all use fiction and non-fiction texts to direct our lesson plans on a regular basis.

      V. Harper

      June 23, 2013

  3. It sounds similar to what we are facing here in Australia . We are being asked to make links to other learning areas . There is common core knowledge which is considered as basic essentials for all arts learning. Yes there seems to be the same art education requirements across the world but I believe that certain things like art elements etc is essential from Kindergarten to grade 6 . It seems every 10 years they change the curriculum but I have found that in art we still seem to face less change than most areas. I would love to see what you curriculum looks like . Would happily share what is now mandated here in Australia.

    Cheryl Hancock

    June 19, 2013

    • I just checked out your blog…you have the most amazing art room! HUGE!

      Patty Palmer

      June 19, 2013

    • Madeleine,

      I tried to contact you on your website but it didn’t work. I’m a first year teacher and would love to hear your tips from being a first year teacher last year! Please e-mail me at aprilhohne@gmail.com. Thanks!

      April Hohne

      June 25, 2013

  4. We already integrate core curriculum into art without effort, such as symmetry and geometry for math. http://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?exhibit=430437, and color mixing for science, and art history for language arts. When we read a book, and illustrate our ideas, it is language arts. It doesn’t have to be every project, just enough to show it is in there.

    Kathy Church

    June 19, 2013

  5. Nebraska has not signed on to common core, however I integrate art with the standards that my district has (which are suppose to be similar). I don’t think that this will mean math problems in art. I sit in on meetings all the time where we analyze test scores and strands. We identify which skills the students do not know. My entire school needs help with, Inferring, reading graphs, biodiversity….and this list could go on and on. I take those ideas and infuse it into my lessons. My lessons are still focused on the three disciplines of art (production, art history, art criticism) and my district adds integration. Elementary art teachers are also required to overlap the vocabulary in some ways such as in Math where concepts like symmetry and measuring fit naturally. The timing and pacing in the art room is very different than what the classroom teacher deals with. I have tried to stay on pace many times, and I always move slower. NAEA is developing common core standards that will go along with the common core and I think if your district/curriculum employs those standards that should be sufficient. Art is Art, you really can’t change that.

    Elementary Art Teacher in Nebraska

    June 19, 2013

  6. I tried reading up on ccs this week, and it was all very confusing. But, I do agree it sounds like they will probably want us to incorporate more language arts/math/science into the classroom. I teach across the curriculum a great deal as far as language arts, we use a lot of books/poems, and writing. Science and history are pretty easy to teach also. I do a lot of power points on artists/art styles through history to illustrate ideas (I am a visual learner). In February, since it is Washington and Lincoln’s birthday month, we focus on colonial arts all week like weaving, silver-plating, paper quilling, silhouettes, etc. If I need to incorporate math, anything beyond geometric shapes and tessellations will have my head spinning!

    Tiffany Newton

    June 19, 2013

  7. i have been integrating core curriculum / cross curriculum subject matter into my art curriculum with very little difficulty. There are many ways that different aspects of the Core fit into art programs with math and language arts connections. Symmetry, pattern, geometry, it’s all connected. When you use a story to launch a project you are integrating language arts. when the students give a written response to a piece of art or their own art work its language arts. It’s doable if we don’t over analyze it. 🙂


    June 19, 2013

    • Pretty sure those qualities you listed are still important. Common Core in the classroom is really an exciting break through for education. It promotes and encourages thinking based on observation not just rote learning. I love it just am confused how it relates to art.

      Patty Palmer

      June 19, 2013

  8. Hi Everyone, As I understand the NACCS in art will be released June 30. WE (the collective we) are already doing what the NACCS will cover. The only difference is that there is more integration across the curriculum, which we already do to support S.T.E.M. (of which is so 2010) and is now S.T.E.A.M.=Science, Technology, Engineering or as I substitute it for ENGLISH, ART (art, art and more art) an math (lower case since it’s so left brain). Patty the CCS in California break down Art into 5 categories. 1.0=Artistic Perception 2.0=Creative Expression 3.0=Historical and Cultural Content 4.0=Aesthetic Valuing and 5.0 Connections, Relationships and Applications.
    Yes I totally agree with Patty, these are really vague. However as a profession that is always on the chopping block we need to stay ahead of the game and show how we do have CCS and how we will integrate them into our programs. Pre formative and post summative assessment is really easy this provides data and shows growth. We can’t be so open minded that our right brians fall out. Let’s show tangeble data that actually shows how our profession (aka jobs) do make change and impact our students. Hands on DATA provides the validation. The college board has been wonderful providing data showing that SAT score increase when a student is provided Art and Music in there curriculum.
    No more belly aching, Let’s start advocating.
    Day one of my vacation and I’m already spouting off….it is a lot to take in including how the new TPAP and CCS will minimally impact us. Rest assured we already are doing more than enough and then some.
    Just my opinion.
    Creatively Yours,


    June 19, 2013

  9. In Wisconsin, only math and English core standards are being used with social studies and science coming soon. I am taking an on-line class through “The Art of Education” in July about “Connecting the Arts with the Common Core.”. This may be helpful to some of you! I took 2 classes last summer with Jessica Balsley, too from The Art of Ed. They were awesome! Vicky Siegel

    Vicky Siegel

    June 19, 2013

  10. CCSS is only in place for Math and ELA right now and is not mandatory yet. We will be using it next year. I like that it builds consistently through grade levels. I don’t know when it will come through for other content areas, but I integrate as much as I can anyway. My plan is to transition into some of the standards in the coming year and feel pretty comfortable about it. There are great resources online. THANKS for sharing about the classes VIcky-I might look into that!

    Lana Boardman

    June 19, 2013

  11. As others have said, the Common Core Standards are only written for ELA and Math at this time. I don’t believe any reasonable administrator would expect you to explicitly teach those standards as they are not within your content area. Of course, as anyone can see by reading your blog, you make wonderful connections all the time to academic subjects! The more connections we make, the more likely our students are attain true understanding that they will be able to transfer to new learning experiences.
    Having said that- I will also say that arts areas are still their own disciplines with important content. For you, art-making is still at the heart of your work.
    However, arts teachers have a great opportunity to support student mastery of the CCS.
    The CCS talk a lot about “text” and “reading text deeply.”
    The thing to remember is that “text” in an art area is unique to the discipline. “Text” in a Language Arts class might be a fairy tale or an informational book. However, “text” in your art room is a piece of artwork. “Text” in the music classroom is a musical composition. The cool thing is that the kinds of thinking we are asking children to do within the CCS can be learned and practiced using any of those “texts.” When children learn how to interpret the meaning of a piece of artwork and identify evidence to support their thinking, it’s the same thought process they use when engaging with a piece of literature.
    For example, here is a CCS from 3rd grade ELA: The student will ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
    Doesn’t that sound exactly like something you might do with students as they analyze and interpret a piece of artwork (with the artwork functioning as the “text”?)
    Look back over some of the CCS and imagine how you might teach the *thinking* implied within those standards in the context of art rather than teaching those specific standards.
    Sorry so long. I could say so much about this! Maybe I need to write a post of my own on this topic! 😉

    Susan Antonelli

    June 19, 2013

    • Susan,
      Thanks so much for this response. You speak my language! I feel I’m am much father into the process of understanding CCS. Yes, you should write an article on your FAB site!

      Patty Palmer

      June 20, 2013

    • Susan is right on. The only thing I’d add to this is that when we use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) we are already engaging students in this process!

      For most teachers the CCS adds a host of new challenges. I think that WE as art teachers are already doing many of the things I’m hearing in Professional Development. Our students do respond to the “text” (art work) in a myriad of ways – written, visualized, sculpted, assembled, drawn or discussed.

      As the CCS implementation progresses, we may be shown models of what these standards look like at specific grade levels. My hunch is that this is the work they will want us to do around all the CORE subjects and ART. (I’d rather cut paper)

      On the brighter side, The most critical skill the CCS wants students to take home is the ability to create their own meaningful questions about the text.

      I think as art teachers we are closer to this goal on a daily basis whether the text is a student’s sculpture or Starry Night.

      Artists ask questions.
      Artists have choices.
      Artists make decisions.
      Artists create art interwoven with questions, choices and decisions.

      Mary Brown
      Arts Educator
      High School (9 years) Adult School (7 years) and now Elementary (2 years)


      June 20, 2013

    • Susan and MABrown are right and I would like to point out, Patty, that you are already including CCS in your lessons. As a first year art teacher I’ve come to your blog for inspiration for a lot of my projects. But, I’m paid through a grant that requires me to incorporate CCS in every lesson. These standards build on the students knowledge each year and encourages students to think for themselves, yes, but because of your love of books your already reading to your students and using math terms to guide them to draw, and, most of all, you encourage creativity which requires “Thinking”. It might have taken a little more thought at times, but I always decided on a project then figured out how to incorporate CC. It meant spending an extra few minutes on CC stuff. Often, a 45 minute project for you was a 90 minute project for me. Sometimes, even longer if I was teaching them a new art technique or term. From what I’ve seen on your site, your a great teacher. I have confidence that you’ll do fine.

      Alisa LaGroue
      Art Teacher
      Elementary (Pk-2nd grade – 1 1/2 years)

      Alisa LaGroue

      June 24, 2013

  12. Hi patty, I wish someone could write a cheat sheet on sentence needed to be written down for art room lessons. I need to write up my lesson plans using common core language. my mine blanks out whenever I read anything abou t’common core”. The projects my kids do on a daily basic covers so many different areas. If anyone want to compile a list I will gladly pay. thanks!


    June 20, 2013

  13. So would this be meeting these new standards? In 3rd grade at my school they study ecosystems. In art they made a clay sculpture of a wild animal of their choice(also discussing physical and chemical changes of clay). Then they made half of a cube from a square of paper, drew their animal’s ecosystem (it had a place the animal would sleep, food for it, predators, water source, and anything else that might be appropriate in it’s ecosystem). We talked about showing depth (overlapping, changing size, placement, and amount of detail). The animal sat inside the half cube for display. Is that it? Or is it more about having a common core of art objectives going through the curriculum of every grade (which we all already do)?


    June 20, 2013

    • What a wonderful lesson! While it might not have directly addressed a Common Core standard (as your lesson integrated science content and visual art and Common Core is currently only ELA and Math) it is a perfect example of how an arts teacher can incorporate academic content while maintaining the integrity of the arts discipline. Sounds like true arts integration to me! Both subjects (science and visual art) were given equal footing and important concepts were learned about both. Kudos!
      Do you have a blog? I’d love to see pictures of the projects!

      Susan Antonelli

      June 20, 2013

  14. Here in northern Virginia, where the Common Core has not been adopted unfortunately, I’ve been using a discipline based core curriculum from the time I began teaching, and continue to love working it as it is a way to not only support the language arts, social studies, science and math by scaffolding concepts children need to learn, but use the core as a launch point for creative. I’ve developed arts-mediated assessments, because removing assessment from the project is a useless waste of everyone’s time. You’ll love working with core. Reinstating Art as a core and vetting the common core with art and music teachers is a job for which we need national leadership. In our school system Art was removed from core and they’ve been scrambling around to find ways to “justify” its continuance. I believe in DBAE and think the common core will inspire its re-emergence. Thank you for your wonderful postings and write to me if you need more ideas! I’m old and full of them!

    sue goncarovs

    June 21, 2013

  15. Patty,
    You’re the best! You’re not afraid to get to the meat of our pursuits! I haven’t taken the time yet to delve into Common Core as of yet, but this post has given me some good info. Love Susan’s response. Thanks for instigating it.
    It’s been awhile since I’ve visited my art bloggy friends & it’s so great to see your new site and your new store. It’s super impressive & you have been super busy!!!! (I have to smile when I see your current self pics & remember the old Patty profile pic on your bike having fun w/ your feet off the pedals. Sometimes I long for the good ol’ days when it was easy to sit down for a couple hours and see every art teacher’s blog & not get overwhelmed with ideas.)

    Tisha Smith

    July 17, 2013

  16. I teach high school in NJ, we are implementing the core standards in September. I think the core standards are pretty straight forward. I think they are starting to gear art classes more like college art courses, in a sense. Even in studio courses there is a fair amount of reading, analyzing and quantifying. I think its a step in the right direction to teach art not only as a studio discipline but also as “artistic practice”. I feel as a practicing artist the history, society, literature, scientific advances and culture of a people make the art what it is. Adding these components by implementing common core curriculum help a student understand the far reaching implications of art and its place in society. Much of contemporary art is based on these components and a child entering college will need these building blocks to succeed in a college level course. For example, I would include literature about Gilgamesh and history of early writing forms to supplement an are class on near Eastern or Babylonia art. I think most teachers are already doing this in one form or another, now we just need to get the jargon down.

    Eryn Lewis

    July 22, 2013

  17. The National Coalition For Core Arts Standards ( NCCAS) is working on finalizing a set of national core arts standards. These standards were written and reviewed by a team of writers and arts organizations and arts educators this past summer. The final results will be voluntary and hopefully available by January 2014. As a NYC art educator k-8, it is very difficult to have to incorporate a set of standards that as yet do not exist…however, we are all held accountable. For now it appears that we must still adhere to the Blueprint For Arts Education as well as the common core state standards for ela and math. Not fair…


    September 6, 2013

    • Two comments: one is that NCCAS has a public set of standards that they are asking specialists to review! Follow this link: http://nccas.wikispaces.com/
      The second one is that arts are common core! CCSS asks students to think critically, collaborate and create and communicate about it! The most important thing to know is that the art medium is considered text, so if you look at the E/LA standards, you are teaching them through art.

      Stacy Young

      October 10, 2013

  18. I am pretty sure the standards need to be implemented by the spring of 2014. They have not finalized them yet.


    December 20, 2013

  19. Please artists and teachers! Don’t be afraid of math!! I am a math phobic and have even had to teach it!! I am an art and special Ed teacher, so you can imagine how much I have done in the left brain world. Let me tell you, mixing colors is science, and math has a lot to,do with proportions and measuring, estimating… Geometric shapes can really be very much fun and refreshing!, try a hot air balloon with a cube for a basket! I have found enlightenment in using math with art, after all, it is all related, isn’t it ?!


    December 24, 2013

  20. I am sitting here alone on a PD day supposedly working on developing art lessons aligned with the Common Core. Thankfully I do not have to sit on the Common Core workshop going on in the room across the hall, on writing I believe (that has happened in the past). The Common Core initiative has in many ways turned my schools upside down, impacted everyone’s schedule (not for the better). It has taken valuable teaching time away from classroom teachers as they try valiantly to keep one step ahead in planning the new lessons required to meet CC standards. Although there may be good things in the CC, what I have experienced in its implementation has left me feeling, well…mainly sad. After 30 plus years of teaching all I see is what is being lost, and I have yet to see that all this upheaval is going to be worth the price we are paying. And in my school system they are trying really hard to support the teachers through the process; I can’t imagine what it might be like with little or no support. And because the lesson/ units are still being developed I really do not know where I might be able to tie in an art project? I was looking online for ideas when I ended up on this site. I used to do a lot of lessons tying into social study and science units, but with the emphasis on testing , those units are ancient history. Will CC bring them back? Not likely. I miss making paper mache animals of the rain forest or creating islands out of clay with 10 identifiable land formations. It was fun and easy to coordinate my art objective with these classroom topics (not that I would want to do that exclusively, but tapping into student’s prior knowledge and adding a visual component to their learning can be powerful experience). At this point I am confident enough in my art program that I just try to creatively make the CC standards fit what I do, and not the other way around… I know what I do is solid; based on the State and National Standards for Art.

    Karen Anger

    March 31, 2014

  21. I feel the same as many of you. As I look through the samples of lesson ideas, all I see are ties in with literature and as someone earlier said, students doing art critiques. That’s not all bad. I do them with my upper elementary and middle school students. This is good because of the analytical and critical thinking it promotes. My concern is the actual visual art students create. To me, the focus is shifting from creating art per the guidelines laid down, allowing students to solve their own problems to a focus on being able to use skills from language arts to deduce and infer from visual clues. I suppose students will be learning about the artists, their place on a timeline and their genre or media used. But I’m more interested in allowing children to explore how their imagination and creativity can be enhanced, how they can create problems and solve them. Thanks for a blog I can air my concerns where others who are visual artists understand. Where are the visual artists in this panel of educators undertaking the transformation into CC? I’d like to know if they are having the same concerns I have.

    Nancy Lambert

    April 14, 2014

  22. Haven’t we all been implementing everyone else’s standards into our art curricula already? All of the sudden it’s called Common Core? Just one more example of reinventing the wheel! I for one resent my administration reducing me to a number based on the high stake testing of my students who live in an impoverished section of Anderson County Tennessee. As an art teacher I’ve been so put-upon that I now teach (in addition to 6 classes a day) an intervention class focusing on the bottom 10% of our learners. It’s a disservice to them to saddle me with them, since I have a master’s degree in art education but failed to get any degree in teaching Language ARTS. Or math for that matter! Give me back my DBAE where all my kids create every day and I don’t have to pretend to be anything other than an art teacher!

    Nancy Adams

    September 25, 2014

  23. Amen to Karen Anger! And what an appropriate last name, I might add. I think I’m going to change my name to Nancy Anger ; )

    Nancy Adams

    September 26, 2014

  24. I find this discussion fascinating because I am coming from the childless business world of office work to the world of educating young children about art, simply because I have a degree in Italian, Art History and Construction Technology. I used to be a travel agent which is why I chose to study this stuff when I finally went back to college to get a degree. Maybe I am looking at things in reverse because after surviving in the Real World for so many years, I am looking at the workings of the educational system that seems to be going through an upheaval due to this Core Curriculum Standard. To me, the thought of integrating Math and Language Arts into the Fine Arts not only makes sense, but now that I think about it, even Leonardo Da Vinci was integrating math, science, and literature(biblical)in order to solve real world problems with his ingenious ideas. All I can say is that artistic ability matters more than ever in critical real world disciplines from engineering to medicine to marketing to economics of remote villages whose survival may depend on their artistic attractions for tourism or the artistic works they can produce. Hopefully you can find encouragement in these words to give the CCS a try for your art curriculum.


    December 29, 2015

    • So well said! Thank you.

      Patty Palmer

      December 30, 2015

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