Instructional Time for Art

What does every teacher need more of? TIME! Time to teach, time to plan, time to do their incredibly difficult jobs to the quality their students deserve. This is just as true for elementary art teachers as it is for elementary classroom teachers.

But the daily schedule of the art teacher is a very different thing from that of the elementary classroom teacher. The classroom teacher plans instructional blocks for various subjects and lessons based on the instructional time available in their day. They might plan (or be required) to teach a long, 90 minute instructional block of language arts, another long block of math instruction, and shorter lessons and activities where they can fit into the day. The art teacher has a predefined amount of time in which they must fit all instruction.

So, what is the right amount of instructional time for art?

#4: Waiting for Today, Laura E. Atkinson

Quality instruction should include:

  • an opportunity to engage and connect to the topic at hand
  • a chance to participate in meaningful discussions around essential questions
  • time to practice skills
  • time to apply knowledge and skills to a relevant task
  • and time to reflect

All of these things can’t be done in 30 or 45 minutes. And when the students won’t return to art for a continuation of instruction for a week, it becomes that much more important that all of these elements are included to support positive learning outcomes. A skilled art teacher can provision students, facilitate clean up of art supplies, AND make all of these things happen if they are given a full hour of instruction.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you instructional time impacts learning outcomes. The visual arts lend themselves very well to teaching problem solving, creative and critical thinking, and many other skills that school systems are promoting as essential to a 21st Century education. Unfortunately, many school systems across the country have only managed to provide 30-45 minutes of art instruction per week, or less, at the elementary level.

I know! Time is money. More instructional time means more art teachers, and that has a cost associated with it. But schools and school systems that have made the investment are reaping benefits in the form of more meaningful learning experiences for their students, as well as additional planning and collaboration time for the classroom teachers.

How much time is given to art in your school?


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