Arts Curriculum Framework


Republished in this protected area for the purpose of curriculum development.
Author: Massachusetts Department of Education, HTML Template for Documents
Date: October 17, 1995
URL: http://info.doe.mass.edu/

Connecting and Contributing Strand

As long as societies and civilizations have existed, people have created and performed works that express communal as well as personal ideas. When students in an Adult Basic Education Program teach preschoolers the "Mexican Hat Dance" or a fourth grader and her mother demonstrate how women wear kimonos in their native Japan, they become learners and teachers, connecting the historical and cultural components of the arts to the lives of Massachusetts students. Encounters with works of art from the past--for example, Picasso's Guernica, Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," or Shakespeare's history plays---can stimulate exploration of events, times, and places and help students make interdisciplinary connections.

Perspectives from other cultures can often illuminate understanding of our own society. We live in a society that values technological innovation, so it is important for students to understand how artists have historically invented and used tools and new technologies, and to be knowledgeable, inquisitive, and discerning in their own artistic use of technology. We also live in a society that has created a variety of cultural institutions to preserve the heritage of the arts, and stimulate artistic innovations, so it is important for learners to understand how to use these cultural resources to enrich their lives and to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the community.

Learning in the arts through Connecting and Contributing is represented by four Learning Standards:

Learning Standard 5

Students will investigate the cultural and historical contexts of the arts.

Creators and performers of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts both reflect and shape their societies' values. Students and teachers know that the arts provide significant insights into understanding cultures and history. As they research the arts in their cultural contexts, learners ask Essential Questions such as these:

PreK-4 Standards

1. Identify similarities and differences of works of dance, music, theatre, and visual art from diverse cultures within and outside of the United States.

2. Create and/or perform works of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts inspired by arts from the past and other cultures.


1. PreK-2: Students list and compare the different ways their families use the arts to mark the coming of a new year. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)

3-4: As they study Native American culture, students examine artifacts and photographs or drawings of visual art, architecture, and crafts from North, Central, and South America and discuss the distinctive imagery, design, and use of materials in each region. (connects with Social Studies)

2. PreK-2: Students dramatize folktale themes from around the world. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)

3-4: Students sing from memory songs in their original languages from the United States and world cultures. (connects with World Languages)

Grades 5-8 Standards

Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

4. Demonstrate understanding of how artists in at least three of the arts--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts -- are influenced by and make use of natural resources in their physical environment.

5. Perform works in at least two of the performing arts--dance, music, and theatre,--that demonstrate understanding of their original historical context.

6. Demonstrate understanding of the artistic heritage and culture of the United States.


4. Students research how artists and artisans in ancient cultures used clay, wood, metal, and fiber for musical instruments, containers, clothing and costume, sculpture, weapons, architecture, and jewelry and create a multimedia presentation of their investigations. (connects with Social Studies, Science and Technology)

5. Using historically accurate music and costumes, students create and perform a narrated lecture/ demonstration of popular dances in the United States from 1900 to the present, explaining how the dance styles reflect historical events, cultural diversity, and evolving social patterns. (connects with English Language Arts, Social Studies)

6. As a group project, eighth graders research, write about, and make an illustrated oral presentation/ demonstration on the history of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts in Massachusetts from the 1600s to the present. (connects with English Language Arts, Social Studies)

Grades 9-10 Standards

Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:

7. Demonstrate understanding of the cultural and historical contexts of artists' works in at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre or visual arts.

8. Identify, describe, and analyze cross-cultural influences in works in at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts.


7. After seeing the film Joy Luck Club and reading excerpts of Amy Tan's novel on which it is based, students write about the themes of family and generational conflict from the perspective of Asian and Western cultures. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)

8. Students research the impact of the Dance Theatre of Harlem on audience perceptions of people of color involved in classical ballet, or the impact of the National Theatre for the Deaf on the perceptions of the hearing-impaired as actors. (connects with Health, English Language Arts, World Languages)

Grades 11-12 Standards

Continue the Pre K-10 Standards and:

9. Identify recurring important themes or techniques in the history of at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts-- and analyze their use in specific works.

10. In at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre or visual arts--develop, defend, and apply criteria for evaluating works of different cultures, styles, genres and periods.


9. Students write essays analyzing how the visual arts have been used in history to convey ideas about political power, analyzing specific works such as Benin bronze sculptures, the palace of Versailles, John Singleton Copley's portraits, or political posters and cartoons. (connects with Social Studies, English Language Arts)

10. After listening to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, students write reviews of the composition and compare their opinions to reviews written by critics at the first performances, and by critics. (connects with Social Studies, English Language Arts)

How It Looks in the Classroom:

How is expression in the arts similar and different across cultures? Third graders listen to, memorize and sing a repertoire of music from the United States including folk songs, patriotic songs, Native American music, and spirituals, for example, "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me," "You're A Grand Old Flag," "I'm Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing," "We Shall Overcome." They listen to classical music such as Beethoven's Ode to Joy theme from Symphony No. 9 and Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony and discuss the distinctive attributes of the styles of music.

Sixth graders learn to perform folk, creative and social dances that reflect the diversity of the class and the individuality of the students. For instance, they learn and perform "Afunga," a Nigerian welcome dance, "the Electric Slide," a dance once popular in the United States, and pre-ballet historical European dances such as the Pavanne. They discuss the similarities and differences of the dances, and work in groups to research how the dances developed in their particular times and places

Eighth graders explore how advertising uses visual /dowhile/physical/projects/k12/images in order to sell a product. Students examine a series of ads for footwear from the 1920s to the present and develop opinions about whether the /dowhile/physical/projects/k12/images they see are factual, distorted or exaggerated. They discuss how advertisements communicate expectations for certain behaviors, and how those expectations change or stay the same over time.

How does one's own cultural heritage affect perception of artworks from another time and place? Ninth graders write reviews of works of art that interpret the question of slavery, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Erastus Salisbury Field's painting, The Historical Monument of the American Republic, the political cartoons of Thomas Nast, D. W. Griffith's film Birth of a Nation, Alex Haley's novel Roots, or Ken Burns' film documentary The Civil War. They compare reviews and discuss how the reviewers' ethnic and cultural backgrounds affect their responses to the works.

How do artists take inspiration from their own time and culture? In an English Language Arts class students read and watch live or recorded performances of William Shakespeare's history plays, Henry III and Henry IV. They research how the plays might have been performed at 17th century theatres such as the Globe in London, and define essential questions, such as: For actors and audiences, was the impact of the plays then the same as it is today? Why are these plays still performed in the United States, hundreds of years after they were written? To answer these questions, students examine portraits of national leaders, architecture, music, and primary historical documents from Elizabethan England, and the United States in the twentieth century.

Learning Standard 6

Students will integrate the arts and make connections among the arts and other disciplines.

Dance, music, theatre, and visual arts share common concepts and approaches, and illuminate ideas in English Language Arts, Health, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, and World Languages. Integrating the arts encourages learners to ask Essential Questions such as:

PreK-4 Standards

1. Demonstrate understanding of how to integrate knowledge and skills from at least two arts disciplines--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--in a group project.

2. Demonstrate understanding of how concepts from dance, music, theatre, and visual arts relate to other disciplines.


1. PreK-2: Starting with a folktale from a world culture, students retell a story through a combination of art forms. For example, they make puppets, masks, or costumes, and stage a production that uses music, movement, and spoken dialogue. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages)

3-4: As part of their science study, students make paintings of autumn leaves from observation, and interpret the movement of falling leaves through dance. (connects with Science and Technology)

2. PreK-2: In physical education and visual arts classes, students explore the concept of balance. (connects with Health)

3-4: Students create an exhibition or performance based on the concept of pattern in the arts, mathematics, and science. (connects with Mathematics, Science and Technology)

Grades 5-8 Standards

Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

3. Express a concept from another discipline in least three art forms--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts--and explain why the concept is relevant to the arts and other disciplines.

4. Explain how the arts convey ideas about the nature of human civilizations past and present.


3. Students create and perform works that interpret the concepts of "resilience" or "continuity and change" through their experiences in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. (connects with Health, Social Studies)

4. Students analyze Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica and discuss its significance as a statement about war. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages, Social Studies)

Grades 9-10 Standards

Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:

5. Demonstrate an understanding of how styles in the arts--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--relate to cultural norms and historical events.

6. Describe and analyze the role of creativity in the arts, other disciplines, and the world of work.


5. As a research project, a student analyzes, and presents examples of Romanticism in dance, music, painting, architecture, landscape design, and literature, and relate, these examples to social conditions and historical events in nineteenth century Europe. (connects with English Language Arts, World Languages, Social Studies)

6. Students interview adults about the creative aspects of their jobs: for example, vocational students examine creativity in the computer, medical, and biotechnology industries. They produce a cable television program to display their learning about creativity at work. (connects with Science and Technology, Health)

Grades 11-12 Standards

Continue the PreK-10 Standards and:

7. Identify and analyze links among the arts and other disciplines.


7. As an independent project, a twelfth grade music student gathers, analyzes, and presents data on the economic impact of the performing arts in Massachusetts over a decade. (connects with Social Studies, Mathematics)

How It Looks in the Classroom:

Preschoolers and kindergartners learn counting rhymes in several languages and interpret them through music, movement and visual arts.

First graders look at each others' paintings displayed at their eye level around the room. Each child picks a work other than his or her own to describe orally. In addition, each child writes about the process of making a painting.

Fourth graders read several versions of African and Caribbean folktales about Anansi the Spider, a trickster hero who lives by his wits. Students discuss the characters and plots of the stories, and consider how to show the characters' qualities, thoughts and feelings in illustration and performance. Working in groups, they paint a mural showing the setting, choose characters, develop dialogue and movement, select and make props and costumes and dramatize several of the Anansi stories for younger students.

Are there universal themes and issues? Eighth Graders invent an imaginarycivilization. Working together, they decide who lives and makes decisions in this civilization, what materials are available to them, what they like to eat, what their clothes and houses are like. They consider the kinds of music people in this world listen to, the stories and myths they tell, what they do for work and fun, what they think looks beautiful or ugly, how they distinguish friends from enemies. Students illustrate this world in clay or paint, compose examples of its dances and songs, and write and perform a play about a day in that civilization when something surprising happened. In the course of this project, students demonstrate their skills in imagination, teamwork, improvisation, composition, musical and theatrical performance, drawing, painting and design.

How can we learn about other disciplines through the arts? High school students in a humanities class investigate how humor is communicated through the arts. Their research takes them into the genres of verbal, musical and visual comedy, parody, satire and caricature. For instance, they look at videotapes of commedia dell' arte performances, Shakespearean comedy, political cartoons, comic strips, silent movies, television and film comedy, and listen to musical parodies and comic operas. Students choose an incident from contemporary political or social life and collaborate to produce an exhibition or performance that uses humor to communicate a point of view.

Middle and high school students collaborate with staff from a local hospital to write, perform and produce a series of videos on topics such as AIDS and substance abuse awareness. Their productions are used as television public service announcements in the community.

What can we learn about the arts from the perspective of other disciplines? Mathematics can be a source of inspiration for artists trying to find pleasing form and proportion. Students in a vocational school geometry class study space and measurement, relating these concepts to the golden section. They find examples of ratio in nature and architecture and construct scale models to demonstrate spatial and mathematical understanding.

High school students look at, read, and listen to a number of art works that depict the sea and the relationship of men and women to it. Among the visual works they might consider are: a medieval miniature of Noah and the ark, John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark, Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, Hokusai's The Great Wave from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, Winslow Homer's Eight Bells. They read Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, Julian Barnes' "Shipwreck" from A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, and Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. They listen to Claude Debussy's musical composition, La Mer, and view a film of The River, a dance choreographed by Alvin Ailey, and the Australian film, The Last Wave. They discuss the different viewpoints, use of basic arts concepts, and intentions of each artist and make judgments about how effectively each artist portrays his or her theme of the relationship of humans to natural forces.

Learning Standard 7

Students will use technology in order to create, perform, and conduct research in the arts.

Technology and invention have historically influenced artists and offered them new possibilities for expression. As they explore the potential of technology for the arts, learners ask Essential Questions such as these:

PreK-4 Standards

1. Demonstrate the ability to use a variety of tools, instruments and technologies in dance, music, theatre and visual arts.

2. Explain why tools, materials, inventions, and technologies are important to the creation and performance of, and communication about dance, music, theatre and visual arts.


1. PreK-2: Students construct and play simple musical instruments.

3-4: Students manipulate photographic /dowhile/physical/projects/k12/images using computer graphics software or by using photocopied /dowhile/physical/projects/k12/images in a collage.

2. PreK-2: Students make a classroom exhibition of inventions that help people use their senses (such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, microscopes) and technologies that make the arts available to many people (such as printing, television, recordings. and computers) (connects with Health, Science and Technology, Social Studies)

3-4: As they study Massachusetts industries, students make paper from natural materials and visit a paper mill, discussing how the paper from each source differs. (connects with Science and Technology, Social Studies)

Grades 5-8 Standards

Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

3. Demonstrate the ability to use contemporary technology to create works in the performing and visual arts.

4. Demonstrate the ability to use communications technology to collaborate in creating works in the performing and visual arts.


3. Students use machines commonly found in schools, such as woodworking power tools, metal fabrication tools, sewing machines, projectors, video cameras, tape recorders, and computers to create art works.

4. Students music students use the Internet as a means of creating collaborative musical compositions with students in another location.

Grades 9-10 Standards

Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:

5. Compare and contrast the qualities of different kinds of technologies used in at least one of the arts--dance, music, theatre, or visual arts.

6. Integrate technologies to create and present in the arts.

7. Demonstrate the ability to use communications technology to conduct research in the arts.


5. Students create and perform music on traditional acoustic instruments and on electronic synthesizers, and compare the differences in the composition process, playing, and overall effect.

6. Working with artists in residence, students create performance art by combining video/film, computer animation, and live performers interactively in the same performance.

7. A landscape design student in a vocational/technical school uses the Internet to interview the architects, city planners, and landscape designers about a new community in another country. (connects with English Language Arts)

Grades 11-12 Standards

Continue the PreK-10 Standards and:

8. Demonstrate understanding of how arts and artifacts of a culture are affected by technological invention.

9. Demonstrate understanding of the applications of technology in arts organizations in the community.


8. Working with a local historical society, students create an interactive display and exhibition catalogue examining the design of everyday things in the United States in 1900, 1950, and the present. (connects with Social Studies, Science and Technology, English Language Arts)

9. A music student in a school-to-work program serves an internship with a local television station, learning the technical aspects of television production. (connects with Science and Technology)

How It Looks in the Classroom:

What is technology? For their Community Service Learning projects, high school music students work with first graders and their teachers to explore percussion instruments from around the world. Together they make instruments from materials such as sticks, seeds, beans, bottle caps, plastic and metal containers. They play their instruments and compare their sounds to school rhythm instruments.

The wheel is an ancient technology that has more than utilitarian uses. Inspired by a performance of disabled dancers who choreograph works for people and wheelchairs, middle school students in a dance class explore the possibilities of movement using various forms of wheels such as shopping carts, baby strollers, wheelchairs, and skateboards.

How has the development of new tools, materials and technologies affected artists throughout history? Tenth graders examine how the invention of photography in the 1840s influenced artists. They visit the Impressionist collection of the Clark Institute in Williamstown, conduct research, and discuss how Impressionists of the 1870s made use of photographic studies, and the impact of Edward Muybridge's photographs of animals and people in motion on the works of realist painters in the United States, such as Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer in the 1890s.

How will technologies of the future transform the arts? After using synthesizers and graphics software in their arts classes, high school students research how the evolution of technology in the recording industry has affected the work of composers such as Quincy Jones and other contemporary performers, how changes in theatre technology have affected Broadway theatre productions and the development of theme parks such as Disney World, or how technology is used to create special effects in films. They visit a commercial or university multimedia studio and interview artists and technicians about emerging technologies in the arts.

Learning Standard 8

Students will participate in the community's cultural and artistic life.

Students who have learned to practice and respond to the arts within schools are prepared to participate in and enjoy the activities of cultural institutions such as neighborhood arts centers, museums, orchestras, choral societies, bands, dance, and theatre companies. As learners share their accomplishments in and knowledge of the arts, they explore questions such as these:

PreK-4 Standards

1. Demonstrate understanding of community cultural institutions.

2. Demonstrate understanding of the kinds of work artists do for a living.


1. PreK-2: As they learn about their community, students identify places where people can enjoy the arts. (connects with Social Studies, Health)

3-4: Students visit a history museum to discover how families of previous generations lived, and demonstrate their understanding of the function of museums by creating a classroom display about their own families. (connects with Social Studies)

2. PreK-2: Students interview a children's book author or illustrator about her working methods. (connects with English Language Arts)

3-4: To commemorate an important community, school or classroom event, students work with a musician to compose music, write lyrics and perform their work

Grades 5-8 Standards

Continue the PreK-4 Standards and:

3. In at least three of the arts --dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--demonstrate awareness of the works of practicing artists, including how and where they perform or exhibit their work in the community.

4. Demonstrate the ability to use at least three of the arts--dance, music, theatre, and visual arts--to contribute to community life.


3. After listening to a live concert in their school, students and musicians discuss and analyze the differences between performing for an audience and performing in a recording studio. (connects with Science and Technology)

4. Students use their writing, interviewing, photography/illustration, and graphic design skills as they research, write, illustrate, and publish biographies of artists in their community. (connects with English Language Arts)

Grades 9-10 Standards

Continue the PreK-8 Standards and:

5. Demonstrate the ability to document how cultural institutions--dance, music, and theatre organizations, film companies, public television stations, and art, history, and science museums--preserve artistic heritage and create new traditions.

6. Demonstrate the ability to gain and share information about artists and cultural institutions through a wide variety of sources.


5. Students work with a community dance group to learn about classical dance in India. They conduct videotaped interviews with the dancers about their training, and film live performances for cable television broadcast. (connects with Social Studies, World Languages)

6. Students write an arts column for their community newspaper, or use a computer bulletin board to share information on the arts with students in other countries. (connects with World Languages, English Language Arts, Science and Technology)

Grades 11-12 Standards

Continue the PreK-10 Standards and:

7. Demonstrate understanding of cultural institutions as a resource of lifelong learning opportunities for people of all ages.

7. Music students perform with adults in a community orchestra, chorus, or musical theatre.

How It Looks in and outside of the Classroom:

What does my community offer to people who enjoy the arts? As they prepare for a family arts festival, second graders make a list of the artists everyone in the school community should have the opportunity to meet. One child talks about the school music teacher, another mentions the calligraphy teacher at her weekend class in the Chinese community center. A girl remembers a teacher from her church who helped her make decorations to celebrate Kwanzaa, a boy talks about the uncle who taught him to tap dance, and other children mention storytellers and puppeteers. With the help of the students' families, the teacher invites these people to school for a family day in the arts.

How can I use the arts to assist and inspire members of my community? Fourth graders visit a retirement home to perform concerts, share their stories, and create and display artworks. Their teacher has the help of high school arts students who volunteer their time to give younger students instrumental lessons, and organize younger children in their Community Service Learning project.

Seventh graders study public art in Massachusetts. They visit outdoor sculpture installations at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, the Worcester Art Museum and at Chesterwood near Stockbridge, the house museum of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. With their teacher and museum educators the children learn about the history of public sculpture and find examples of art accessible to everyone in places like Boston Public Garden, the subway, town squares and post offices. Working with an artist, they create a collaborative artwork for their school or other public setting.

How can I preserve important examples of the arts for the next generation? Middle school music students attend a performance of Bach's music performed by a ensemble, such as the Handel and Haydn Society, that specializes in recreating and using authentic instruments of the period. After the performance, students, their teacher and musicians compare the differences between period and modern instruments in interpreting Baroque music.

Adult Basic Education students sketch and research historic architecture in their neighborhood, and read about programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to save endangered old buildings from destruction. They talk to local preservationists, architects, and real estate developers about the future of older buildings in their community, and publish an illustrated pamphlet summarizing their findings about architectural preservation in the community.

What traditions are we creating today? High school theatre students visit a regional theatre repertory company to see a performance of a new work such as Maxine Hong Kingston's The Warrior Woman. In the course of their visit, they meet technical designers, the director, and some of the actors, who discuss how they worked to translate the script into a performance. In class, students write dialogue from stories reflecting their own cultural history and perform them for the artists who work in the theatre repertory company.

Next || Previous || Table of Contents