Seattle Public Schools

The Creative Advantage

Introducing the School Arts Plan to Staff

Get your staff excited and ready to participate in implementing the arts plan 

Start with an art-making activity

Demonstrate how even a short arts making experience can warm up people for learning and support important student habits such as creativity, communication and collaboration.

Here are two sample activities to use when introducing your staff to the Arts Plan.  Both come from the book,Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults, and Communities by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy.  This is the book provided to each arts team at their Fall Arts Team Launch Meeting.

Visual Art Activity: Pass Around Drawing
Theatre Activity: This Is Not A…

Here is another theatre arts integration lesson developed by Gail Sehlhorst
Theatre-Literary Arts Integration Dynamic Understandings Lesson Plan

Theatre Activity: This Is Not A…

This is an easy, fun theatre activity you could use in a staff meeting before introducing your staff to the Arts Plan.  It is from the book,Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults, and Communities by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy.  This is the book provided to each arts team at their Fall Arts Team Launch Meetings. From page 205-209 of Catch the Fire.

This starter game is low risk and lots of fun.

Book cover with title "Catch the Fire" with a colorful hand and sun.

Materials: A variety of simple objects, one for each group.  For example, stick, water bottle, magic marker.


  1. Ask people to form circles of eight to twelve, with one leader in each group.  This is a go-around game, so each person will have a chance to play in sequence.
  2. The leaders (A) holds the stick (or other object) and says, “This is not a stick, it is a [fill in the blank with another made-up object – a microphone, for example].  They then demonstrates using the stick as a microphone, making appropriate motions and sound effects.
  3. The leader then passes the stick to the person on their left (B).
  4. B repeats the leader’s demonstration of the microphone copying their movement and sound  as accurately as possible while saying, “This is not a microphone.” They then give the stick another identity, saying, “This is a [fill in the blank – say, a pair of scissors with movement and sound then passes it the stick to the person on their left.And you continue around the circle.


Encourage players to use exaggerated movements and sound to demonstrate their objects.  Getting the body and voice into the action helps people let go of their self-consciousness.  Ask participants to copy the person before them as accurately as possible.  If a participant tells you all their ideas have been taken, remind them that the stick can be anything and does not have to be limited by its actual size and shape.  There is only one criteria: you can’t repeat anything that has already been done.

Here is another theatre arts integration lesson developed by Gail Sehlhorst
Theatre-Literary Arts Integration Dynamic Understandings Lesson Plan

Title: Dynamic Understandings

Discipline : Theatre-Literacy Integration (can be modified for other content areas)
Grade(s) : K-12 (modify for K-2)
Length : 30-60 minutes

: Students show their understanding of a piece of text or concept through vocal and physical expression while exploring the 21st century skills of communication and collaboration.

Enduring Understanding 
: The central understandings that have lasting value beyond the classroom. The arts are a means for communication.
Essential Question : A provocative question that fosters inquiry, understanding, and transfer of learning. How and why do artists work together to make choices to create a dramatic work?

Learning Objectives 
: What I want my students to know and be able to do.

  • Create a dynamic presentation that represents key ideas in a section of text.
  • Present essential words and phrases with a beginning/ending freeze; at least one choral word/phrase; and at least one sound effect.

Washington State K-12 Arts Learning Standards:

  • Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Washington State K-12 ELA Learning Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.LS.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively


  • Theatre: audience, body shapes, dialogue, emotion, facial expression, gesture, physical choice, tableau, vocal choice
  • Literacy: character, evidence, inference
  • 21st Century Skills: collaboration, communication

Materials / Resources / Space:

• Text
• Slips of papers with text or highlight specific sections
• Open space for students to rehearse
• Presentation space

Differentiation Strategies for Diverse Learners:

Additional supports that will enable all students to perform at their maximum ability.
• This assessment should be adapted as necessary to meet the needs outlined in an
individual student’s IEP or 504 • Glossary of terms with possible translations for ELL students
• Additional time
• Additional adult support for students with special needs, e.g. English language learners,
reading below grade level, physical or developmental challenges
• Partner/group non-speaking students or English language learners with more verbal
students, and/or struggling or reluctant students with more experienced students

Step One: Introduction
• Introduce the lesson: Reflecting on a piece of text and synthesizing understandings by
creating a dynamic presentation that represents key ideas.
• Pass out text.
• Give students time to read the text individually, make notes/annotate.
• Pair-share something that stood out to them.

Step Two: Model

• Explain the activity: Create a dynamic presentation that represents key ideas in a section
of text.
• Explain the criteria for the activity—what students create to show understanding. Post
criteria on wall or Power Point so students can refer to it as they work.
− Read the text before and after scene to help the audience understand and interpret
the text
− Begin and end in a freeze
− Incorporate at least one movement or gesture
− Present essential words or phrases—at least one
− Say at least one choral word
• Model the activity: Show students what the final product might look like using a
different piece of text.

Step Three: Independent Practice

• Put students into groups (count-off, table groups, etc.)
• Pass out slips of text to each group.
• Give students 10 minutes to communicate their interpretations and work collaboratively
to rehearse their piece.

Step Four: Present

• Each group presents their piece.
• Give a “unified clap” so all groups get the same appreciation and the scenes move

Step Five: Reflect

• After all the groups present reflect:
− What’s your take away from participating and watching the text brought to life?
What stands-out?

Visual Art Activity: Pass Around Drawing

This visual art activity helps people find their flow with visual arts.  It comes from the book, Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults, and Communities by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy.  This is the book provided to each arts team at the Fall Arts Team Launch Meetings. From page 172-173 ofCatch the Fire.

Materials: 18″x24″ paper, crayons, oil pastels or markers


  1. Break into small groups of six or eight people sitting around a table.  Give each person a blank piece of paper, and place oil pastels, crayons or markers in the center of the table.
  2. Ask participants to close their eyes and imagine a time they felt happy and creative.  Have them begin drawing an image that represents that feeling.  Once the drawings have gotten started, ask everyone to pause.
  3. Preface the next instruction by saying, “What I’m going to ask you to do next may make you feel uncomfortable, but please go along with it anyway.” Then ask people to pass their picture to the person on their left.  Now everyone gets to add images to the new picture just received,  After a minute or two call out, “Pass the picture to the left.”
  4. Ask people to imagine they are giving the originator of each drawing a gift as they add new images to each picture.  Invite them to use words as well as images, but with a focus on images.
  5. Once the pictures have gone all the way around the circle, each person adds some final touches, then looks at their picture and adds a short title.This activity release a lot of creative energy and generates a good deal of delight.  The groups have fun talking about the process and comparing their pictures.  Of course, the real learning has to do with freeing the voice through the arts. (See this research study on how drawing impacts writing skills.)

Introduce the Arts Vision and Arts Action Plan

Distribute copies of the Arts Plan in advance to all staff and ask everyone to read in advance.  Also bring hard copies of the plan to the meeting for participants to review during the conversation.

Introduce the Arts Team members, including the Arts Team Lead.  Have members of the Arts Team or larger faculty read elements of the School Arts Vision aloud. Then have participants look at the School Arts Plan and its major initiatives or goals.

Facilitate the Focused Conversation below, using a selection of questions that best fit your situation.

Objective Questions:

  • When you review the plan, what words or phrases stand out for you?  [Go around the room and have everyone answer this first question.]
  • Are there any questions about the elements of the School Arts Vision?
  • What goal stands out for you?
  • What catches your attention about the steps in the plan?
  • Who are some of the key players who will implement the plan?

Reflective questions:

  • What excites you about the plan?
  • As we look at the goals of the plan, what will be the easiest for us to do?
  • What will be more challenging to accomplish?

Interpretive questions:

  • Which elements of the Arts Vision and the Arts Plan might family members respond to most favorably?
  • If our school could accomplish only one thing this year, what would it be?
  • What insights are you having about how we can accomplish this?
  • What strengths or resources can we take advantage of in the next two years to build the arts at our school?

Decisional questions:

Document the answers to these questions.

  • What are some of the first steps we need to take as a staff?
  • What kind of support needs to be put in place to assist the teaching staff in implementing the Arts Plan?
  • What kind of structure (committee or scheduled check-in points) will help us to communicate and stay on track with the Arts Plan? [Ideally, each arts Plan goal already has an identified point person who will shepherd the work forward. Consider having this person announce the goal, describe their excitement about it, and enlist volunteers to work with them. Record the names of new volunteers.] 
  • Who can we reach out to for help and support?
  • What does each of us need to do first?


In a follow-up email or a note in meeting minutes that are shared with all participants, recap the answers given to the decisional-level questions and remind everyone of the workgroup assignments and point people.

Tips and Speaking Points for Introducing the School Arts Plan

Here are some suggestions and ideas from principals who have completed school arts planning:

  • Use a full staff meeting soon after the plan completion.
  • Obtaining a critical mass is key to developing buy-in and advancing the plan in a sustainable way. Therefore, it’s important to find a time to share information about the School Arts Plan when you have the whole staff together.
  • Provide staff with an initial arts experience (such as one of the arts activities from the PAL Catalyst Workshop Module). Then have staff debrief or reflect on the experience as a group so that the value of the activity becomes clear.
  • Have each Arts Team member who is a point person for an Arts Plan goal speak briefly about what they will be doing. Following the presentations, ask for volunteers from the staff to help with each area or project so that there is a small committee established for each goal (see Decisional questions).
  • Create momentum and make the plan common knowledge:
  • Create a display of the Arts Team members, with photos, bios, and some of the artwork they made at the Catalyst Workshop.
  • Incorporate your Arts Plan into grade-level or school improvement plan professional learning communities. Consider asking each grade level to come up with their own commitments in the arts for the year and to request appropriate professional development to support their commitments.
  • Introduce one action step per quarter or trimester.
  • Roll out the plan in small pieces. Maybe focus on only one goal at a time. Do something well rather than spinning your wheels on too many initiatives.
  • Include one arts experience at every staff meeting. Or have a meeting that focuses on the arts at least three times a year.
  • Pick low-hanging fruit. What’s already going on? How can you take the next step in an area or program that already exists?

Be explicit when speaking with staff

  • Acknowledge that it will take time and not everyone will initially embrace the work. It may be that not everything in the plan gets done in the first two years.
  • Know that it’s a constant juggling act, with all of the priorities Principals have.
  • Remind your staff regularly that arts education and the School Arts Plan are priorities, so that staff members maintain awareness and commitment.
  • Encourage everyone to work together, as well as to do the things each can do individually, so that collectively, the school can ensure that the important work is completed or advanced.