Resources

For Teachers, Folklorists, Academics, and Beyond

Folk arts contribute not only to students’ understanding of cultural traditions but also to their ability to think critically, gather and analyze evidence, and express their ideas and interpretations through personal creativity. Folklife and the tools of the folklorist can support learning in all subjects, including the arts. Folk arts are uniquely suited to explore the ways in which traditional art forms reflect the history, culture, geography, and values of different cultures and communities.

Everyone has folk traditions — expressive customs practiced within a group and passed along by word of mouth, imitation, and observation. Calling on the work of folklorists and the field of folklore in the classroom educates, motivates, engages, and fosters the creative expression of students and powerfully links them to their communities. Integrating the study of folk arts into existing curricula awakens self-awareness in students of their own roles as tradition bearers, their families as repositories of traditional culture and history, and their communities as unique resources.

(Text above adapted from: Local Learning: A Folk Arts Integration Handbook)

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Learning Activity and Lesson Plans

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Introduction to Mosaic

By studying mosaics across time, students could put a local artist into the context of art history. The lesson also heightened awareness of mosaic art in their community. After a two-part residency (demonstration, interview), the artist and teacher devised an extension to create a large class mosaic. Students made individual leaves for The Collaboration Tree to reflect their own sense of cultural identity. They focused intently and worked hard together and with the artist. Creating a beautiful work as a team allowed them to realize that each of their contributions is important artistically and created a beautiful, meaningful outcome in the mosaic Collaboration Tree.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Step Dance

Step dance is a dynamic, vital tradition that is widespread among African American fraternities and sororities. Many high schools have step teams. Other students may be unfamiliar with step dance, so learning about it—how to do basic steps—enriches all students.

Culture, Community, and the Classroom: Ritual, Dance, Theatre - An Introduction to Sattriya

By asking students to dig deeper than they usually might to consider their personal traditions and identities and sharing their responses with the artist, this teacher created a pathway to a deep connection between students and the artist. During their planning conversations, the teacher and the artist found similarities in their passions, drama and dance, and developed a close rapport. The teacher introduced the artist by asking students to read her Artist Statement and closely observe her Artist Portrait, which the artist developed during the summer workshop. This allowed them to inventory their assumptions and prepare questions.

Seasonal Round Lesson Plan

Use the Seasonal Round lesson plan to introduce students to your classroom or school culture, as well as their own. Students can learn about themselves, their families, their region, and the world by examining the seasonal round.

Research and Readings

Local Learning: A Folk Arts Integration Handbook

This 24-page handbook outlines how to incorporate folk arts and folk artists into arts integration programs.

Artists as Educators

Our featured artists consider educating young people essential to their lives as artists. Their stories of sharing a specialized skill or passing on knowledge of a culture or tradition offer insights into effective practices and ways of teaching and learning that are underutilized. They collective make the case for preserving pedagogical diversity in education. Read […]

Interviews: The Heartbeat of Our Inquiry

A 1st-grade teacher demonstrates how much even young children can learn from interviewing. “Books and the Internet are useful, but perhaps the most child-friendly and exciting way for young people to find answers is by interviewing people in their community. Information and concepts children can discover at an interview often go well beyond what they […]

Fieldwork Builds Learning and Community

Elementary school teacher and folklorist Mark Wagler shares fieldwork methods he uses with his classes. The article includes exercises and inspiration for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum. “I am convinced”, he says, “that the single most important factor for teaching folklore in the K-12 curriculum is for teachers to think of themselves, and act, […]

Writing Exercises

“One of the toughest tasks for educators teaching young writers is to get them to see that poetry is everywhere in our lives….The “site” of the Work Poem is a good place to engage young writers to focus on a specific subject matter and to encourage them to explore the language that surrounds the jobs […]

Poetry Contests and Improvisations

An international and historical overview of poetry contests and improvisation.

Poetry Slam in the Classroom

A detailed description of poetry slams and the pros and cons of hosting them with young people in a classroom.

The Blues

“‘What are the blues?’ Well, as Louis Armstrong said about jazz, cousin to the blues, ‘Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.’” That said, folklorists, Amanda Dargan and Steve Zeitin provide a brief history of blues poetry—with examples.

Fieldtrips to Find Poetry

The Handbook of Poetic Forms published by Teachers & Writers Collaborative regards a ‘found poem’ as a piece of writing that was not intended as a poem, but is desclared to be by its ‘finder.’ Poetry can be ‘found’ in everything from newspaper articles, store signs, lists, scraps of conversation, and other everytday uses of […]

Cowboy Poetry Adventures

“Imagine herding 21 high school students from the coast of Oregon to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada over nine days in the middle of the school year….” Join Paddy Bowman as she chronicles the literary adventures of two teachers and 21 students (cowboy poetry resources provided).

Finding Folk Arts in Teachers' and Students' Lives

How teachers can identify folk groups and incorporate cultural explorations into the classroom learning experienceHow teachers can identify folk groups and incorporate cultural explorations into the classroom learning experience. .

How to Teach Folk Arts to Young People: The Need for Context

In a a speech at New York University, Chalmers challenges the practice of “aesthetic scanning” by providing art teachers with ways to teach students the social context in which art is created.

Negotiating Pitfalls and Possibilities

Kodish and Westerman outline the steps taken toward understanding folk art and locating it within communities. They also explore how students come to understand the history, economics, style, culture and traditions of people through folk arts.

Passing it On

Excerpts from the now classic folk arts-in-education book, Passing It On which explores collaborative programs between classroom teachers and folk artists/community educators. We have excerpted four sections that map the New Jersey Main Road School’s sixth grade residency with auctioneer Andrea Licciardello. Licciardello worked with classroom teacher Glenn Christmann to present a study of auctions […]

An Accessible Aesthetic

The folk artist is very much like a curator and the community is a living museum. In unpacking this metaphor, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett explores how the folk artist learns various traditions and then teaches adults and children to develop strong ties to their communities and cultural history.

Folk Arts in the Classroom: Changing the Relationship Between Schools and Communities

The publication of this article launched Local Learning in 1993.