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A structure for the arts
Dance class at Riverside school

The creative arts are probably best viewed as process-based learning, where SMART individual targets may not be the best approach to teasing out the creativity of pupils with severe learning difficulties. So it is probably always best to put structure in place first to establish a firm foundation for learning.

Teaching the arts is not easy and may not be a skill given to everyone. Teachers and teaching assistants should not get anxious about this. Pick one of the arts – music, art, drama, dance – that you feel most comfortable with. Start by setting up routine, order, structure and certainty in your class so that you can find your own and your pupils' comfort zone. Stay there for as long as you need to but not for too long!

The creative element
Drama lesson

Melanie Peter (1998) believes teachers should temper structure with creativity. She thinks teachers should guide pupils into a tripartite relationship with artistic learning. That is, promoting pupils' knowledge, understanding and skills in:

  • Making the arts – developing their skills;
  • Presenting the arts – realising a work of art, choreographing a dance, composing a piece of music, scripting a play; and
  • Appraising their own work and that of others both discriminately and constructively.

Peter (1998) also suggests teachers should

...take a sideways step and present themselves as enthusiastic co-learners alongside their pupils and collaborators in a creative venture. Children's genuine self-esteem will grow through their developing awareness of their own personal powers, and their being able to make real choices, decisions and changes.

Pick one or possibly two of the arts (art, music, dance, drama) that you might be interested in. What do you think the key learning elements for those with learning difficulties might be? Click here to reveal some answers for the subject you have chosen:





Find out more

Peter, M. (1998) Good for them, or what? The arts and pupils with SEN. British Journal of Special Education. 25 (4) 168-172.