MEETING INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
essential when figuring
out how to address this
Making art concepts stick with students is hard enough without throw- ing language problems
into the mix. ELL (English Language
Learner) students often have a hard
time understanding the concepts so
many art educators stress in their
lessons. I teach kindergarten to fifth-grade art and more than 90% of my
students are classified as ELL. Not
only is it difficult to
cover concepts, it is
a challenge to bridge
the gap and reach
all of my students
without the use of
layered strategies in
every lesson I teach.
In my quest to
reach all my students, I have found it
extremely helpful to incorporate other
academic areas into my lesson planning. Reaching out to my peers was
The First Day
When my kindergarten students walked
through my doors on
the first day of school,
I could see the fear in
their eyes when I said
“Good morning, students.” Panic swept
through me as I realized that they had no
idea what I was saying.
How was I going to get
through this forty minutes every day?
It became clear that
to address higher-level
thinking or even a basic
level of speaking, I
would have to use lan-
guage side-by-side with
art. Studies have shown
that reading to children
increases vocabulary as
well as reading skills.
Why not incorporate
this into art? With the help of col-
leagues, I developed Letter Books, an
ongoing project that I now use with
my kindergartners to emphasize the
importance of the arts while helping
them acquire the English language
skills they need to be successful in
ter, and having students use the letter
in an alphabet book.
First, we identified the letter to be
covered that week. For example, when
we covered A, I wrote a capital “A”
and a lower case “a” on the board and
we brainstormed different words that
start with A. We also used hand gestures and the volume of our voices to
differentiate the capital and lower case
letters. Then we read and discussed
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg.
Next, students each created two
pages for their letter books. I gave
them two sheets of paper that showed
the letter A. They could color the
first sheet however they liked. On the
second sheet they could practice writing the letter and drawing pictures of
objects whose names began with it.
Finally, students completed an art
project that incorporated the letter.
For example, for the letter A, using
the book Two Bad Ants, students constructed movable giant ants.
We followed this basic process for
every letter in the alphabet. I kept
the pages all year, and at the end of
the year, students put all their pages
together and made covers for them.
I have found that because I am
covering the same letter as the classroom teachers, but choosing different
literature, students are learning different contexts for the vocabulary. I have
also witnessed a new level of confidence in my students and in my teaching, knowing I am enriching their
lives on many different levels through
Reinforcing the Alphabet
Our kindergarten uses a curriculum
calendar to map out
what teachers are
covering each week.
focus on one letter
of the alphabet for
a week, covering A
to Z over the course
of the year. Each
week when my students came to me, I
reinforced the letter they were already
learning about by reading them a chil-
dren’s book that incorporated that let-
In my quest to reach
all my students, I have
found it extremely
helpful to incorporate
other academic areas
into my lesson planning.
Kathryn Granchelli is a K– 5 art teacher at
San Cayetano Elementary School, Santa
Cruz Unified School District #35 in Rio
Students identify connections
between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.