May 2019

May 2019

Only at LSU: Arts Integration for Elementary Preservice Teachers


The Louisiana administrative code stipulates an arts education licensure requirement for all elementary preservice teachers. The compulsory ‘arts’ class totaling three semester hours takes on different forms at different colleges and universities across the state. All preservice arts classes for elementary candidates in Louisiana focused around visual arts and/or music, until recently.

Countless literature reviews, books, and empirical articles promote a pedagogical strategy called arts integration for its positive effects on students’ cognitive and noncognitive skills alike.

LSU education students participate in class activity where they stand in a circle and put one foot inside the circle

Math (2D and 3D shapes) with dance choreography.Photo by Jamie Hipp, PhD

This approach marries a concept from a discipline considered ‘core’ (math, science, social studies, or language arts) with a concept from an artistic discipline (dance, theatre, music, or visual art). Examples of arts-integrated lessons may include pairing a scientific process (metamorphosis or erosion) with dance choreography or pairing a historical event which students are learning in social studies with theatrical tableau vivant.

The existing research served as a basis for adapting the required ‘arts’ class into a fully arts-integrated one. In the fall 2016 semester, I debuted the new iteration of the ‘arts’ class as a co-instructor alongside Dr. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell, director of LSU’s elementary teacher education program. Coursework included elementary standards-based activities and experiences inclusive of all art forms, a departure from a semester of only visual arts or music methods.

As per LSU’s elementary teacher education course progression/sequence, the arts integration course is taken concurrent with the program’s capstone experience – student teaching. This simultaneous commitment has its benefits and drawbacks. Coming to campus one night each week for class after teaching all day can be exhausting. Alternatively, student teachers can immediately implement arts integrated content into their placement classrooms, which act as arts integration labs for student teachers to further develop their pedagogical repertoire.

The course is multi-faceted, initially immersing students into arts integration research and encouraging them to explore integrated demonstration lessons as learners. Student teachers emphasize that the class, “Puts the fun back into teaching and learning,” and, “Allows all students to be successful, even if [they] don’t have a background in the arts.”

Middle-semester weeks showcase discussions with local arts integrationist educators and initial arts integration lesson planning. Final weeks culminate with student teachers facilitating arts integrated mini-lessons to their peers and sharing artifacts and reflections from integrated experiences in their student-teaching placements. 

Ten LSU students practice arts integration in a social studies lesson

5th grade Social Studies with Tableau Vivant. Photo by Jamie Hipp, PhD

The “Arts Integration in the Elementary School” EDCI 2271 course, now in its sixth semester, remains a novel course for the state.

A January 2019 review of course offerings at the sixteen other Board of Elementary and Secondary Education-approved elementary teacher preparation programs shows their ‘arts’ classes’ exclusive focus on visual arts and, to a lesser extent, music.

LSU’s adaptation of the arts course into a fully integrated experience symbolizes the School of Education’s commitment to transform education, remaining current with educational trends and methods and embracing diverse pedagogical strategies which meet the needs of today’s learners (both undergraduate and elementary). EDCI 2271 preservice teachers engaged in arts integrated lesson activities are pictured below.

Teacher Resources for Getting Started with Arts Integration


Written by:

Jamie Hipp, PhD is an adjunct professor in the LSU School of Education, a Fellow with Louisiana A+ Schools, and is the founder of Arts Are Hipp – Creative Professional Development.