Elementary Dance, Music, Theater, Visual/Media Arts

  • Philosophy

    Arts education in SPPS fosters artistic development, critical thinking, academic achievement and intellectual curiosity. By incorporating multiple racial and cultural perspectives into arts curriculum, SPPS offers students various ways to creatively explore and construct relevant knowledge and skills. Ultimately, through the arts, students gain a sense of individuality and belonging based on connections with each other, their community and the world.

  • Guidelines

    Suggested schedule and format

    • Elementary and middle schools must offer at least three and require at least two of the four arts areas: dance, music, theater and visual arts.
    • High schools must offer at least three and require at least one of the following five arts areas: media arts, dance, music, theater and visual arts.
    • To meet the required academic statute, at the elementary level a licensed arts specialist teaches one arts subject and a generalist may teach another arts area. See 2017-2018 Elementary Schedule Guide for details.
  • Structure
    Instructional design

      • Base lesson design and implementation on Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in the Arts and National Core Arts Standards, SPPS Scope and Sequences and Unit Pacing Guide (in development).
      • Provide opportunities for students to write, talk, describe, analyze, and critique in alignment with the NCCAS Standards of:
        • Creating – conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work
    • Performing/Producing/Presenting –
      • Performing (dance, music, theatre): realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation.
      • Presenting (visual arts): interpreting and sharing artistic work.
      • Producing (media arts): realizing and presenting artistic ideas and work.
      • Responding – understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning
      • Connecting – relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
    • Include a framework for review of understanding/skills, and introduction, application, and development of new concepts/skills.
    • Base instruction on key concepts, skills, processes and traditions of study in the arts area.
    • Use SPPS arts adopted and recommended resources to support curriculum.
    • Collaborate with others to reinforce arts interdisciplinary connections with Math, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Physical Education.


    Arts Subject Areas

    Do Now; modeling/demonstration; part to whole and add on a step; show all first or whole to part; I do you do; demonstrate and practice; guided discovery; reciprocal; students as leaders; mental rehearsal.


    • Begin with warm ups, stretching and movement.
    • Allow for exploratory learning.
    • Explore dance genres, styles and within historical and cultural contexts.
    • Teach techniques, skills and elements of composition and choreography using relevant style or genre.
    • Encourage sharing and performing.

    Music instructional models such as Kodály, Suzuki, Orff, 3-tiered “To-With-By”, traditional music notation in whole class, small group, independent, partners or sectionals


    • Opportunities for movement, playing instruments, singing alone and with others, use of iPad (e.g. metronome, tuning, skills practice, music creation)
    • Organize time approximately with the framework below (based on a 45-50 minute class session):
      • 10 minute review of previous concepts
      • 30 minute introduce and practice new concept
      • 5-10 minutes closure (incl. exit slip, revisit goals or more practice)
    • Skills addressed in all lessons involve singing, playing instruments, movement, and listening.
    • Skills addressed within some lessons may be notating, recording, improvising, composing, evaluating.
    • Concepts addressed in all lessons involve rhythm and pitch.
    • Concepts addressed within some lessons involve expression, form, timbre, texture, harmony.

    Performance-based classes

    • Establish organizational tasks of finding/using instruments, folders, equipment, reeds, music stands, etc.
    • Practice proper rehearsal/performance etiquette, e.g., good posture (sitting/standing up straight with good posture for breathing), demonstrate proper hand positions on the instruments.
    • Use technical exercises for development (e.g., warm-ups, breathing, ear-training, sight reading/singing, etc.).
    • Use engaging, varied, diverse and appropriately leveled repertoire to learn/rehearse with specific musical sections/concepts addressed for each rehearsal (Vocal - repertoire in multiple languages).
    • (Instrumental) Support correct fingerings (and bowings) on all instruments.
    • (Vocal) Use a regular system of sightreading, such as scale numbers, letters, or solfege with routines to support good vocal health.
    • Use consistent method of counting rhythms, with effective syllables.
    • Use musical terms with review of meanings.
    • Support for tuning problems (matching pitches between players/singers).
    • Use methods for improving tone quality, breath control, balance/blend within a group.
    • Use Destiny as a tool for organization and instrument management.

    Role playing, improvisation, tableaux, curriculum based readers theatre, drama games to develop skills in concentration, problem solving, social skills and group interaction


    • Begin with warm-up games and activities; focus on setting, plot, characterization, sound a dialogue, role-playing, collaboration, dramatization, pantomime, improvisation.
    • Provide opportunities to create scenes based on life experiences and existing literature.
    • Perform a character from an original scene, sequence of scenes or adaptation of an existing piece of literature; present a design for an original scene, sequence of scenes or an adaptation of an existing piece of literature.
    • Provide opportunities for theatrical production – scenery, lighting, costumes, props.

    Visual and Media Arts
    Choice-based (TAB); inquiry based; I do, you do, we do; sequential: whole class, small-group, independent/partner, review, reflect, share, celebrate; protocols: Visual Thinking Strategies; Socratic Seminar, Artful Thinking and other reflective practices


    • Provide opportunities for creation, reflection analysis, critique of personal artwork and work of others
    • Provide opportunities for exploration of media, artists, art history, styles, genres, art forms and folk arts – especially arts that reflect and connect with students’ cultural background, ethnicity and race
    • Use iPads, apps and technology as tools for creation, production, reflection and documentation

    For all arts subjects
    Lesson duration varies and may span multiple class periods. The following elements should be present within a unit but not necessarily within a single class period.

    • Design lessons around a single, clearly defined learning goal.
    • Post, discuss and refer to learning targets throughout the lesson.
    • Discuss Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings to assist students with understanding concepts and the overall picture of the lesson.
    • Use SPPS Arts Scope and Sequences as framework for instruction.
    • Use a syllabus to outline course content.
    • Access prior knowledge and skills.
    • Use direct instruction, demonstration, modeling
    • Provide guided and independent practice.
    • Use reflection, lesson summary; check for understanding and reteach as needed
    • Use formative and summative assessment.

  • Variations

    Flipped Classroom
    Create videos for a week ranging from 5-10 minutes. Students watch at home or in school. Time in the classroom then involves interactive and hands on activities with more direct assistance from teacher.

  • Assessment

    • Use frequent formative and summative assessment to check for student achievement toward goals and standards.
    • Check for student articulation, reflection and monitoring of their progress around learning objectives in order to understand what they need to do to achieve mastery.
    • Assess student products, creations and performances through multiple opportunities and means.
    • Track and analyze student achievement data in order to modify instruction.


    • Informal assessments of the students’ work: individuals or small groups perform brief passages (2-8 measures) being prepared in class
    • Formal assessments of students’ work in sectional tests/quizzes, homework/practice assignments, etc.
    • Performance as a portion of the grade when appropriate in performance-based classes (band, chorus, orchestra), using participation/performance at concerts as an indicator
    • Use Schoology or SmartMusic for student practice and assessment in Music classes.

  • key image For Elementary Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Media/Arts Schoology group access, please contact Jan Spencer (jan.spencer@spps.org) or Robin Lorenzen (robin.lorenzen@spps.org)