Test II: Health Education, Physical Education, and the Arts Study Guide for the GACE

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The Arts

The arts fall into four basic categories:

  • Visual arts
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theater arts

During a professional presentation, the four basic art categories are often combined in various ways. For the purpose of education, the four art categories are usually taught separately.

Art and Child Development

As children age and develop, they should be exposed to each of the four categories in an age-appropriate manner. Younger students are exposed to the basics of each type of art and asked to participate in creating art in a rudimentary way. Older students are exposed to more complicated forms of art and begin analyzing art. High school students are exposed to complex art forms and engage in artistic critique.

Exposure and Art Talent

Some students come from a background that is “arty”. Do not be surprised if a random student displays an advanced art skill set at an early age. A tiny handful of students have intense exposure to (and have participated in) various art forms.

The Fundamentals of All Art Forms

Art has its own vocabulary of technical terms. Most of the technical terms are obvious. There are six fundamental concepts that a teacher should understand:

  • Emphasis
  • Rhythm
  • Balance
  • Contrast
  • Harmony
  • Movement

Each of these fundamental concepts is used in all four of the art categories. The following is a brief explanation of each.

Emphasis—similar to the “main idea”
What is the primary focus of the presentation? What are you supposed to be looking at or listening to? What is the melody?

Rhythm—repeating elements or something that happens over and over
Music has the rhythm of the drum. Visual arts use repeating visual elements. Dance uses repetitive movement.

Balance—placing the elements so that no single element dominates the composition
If two halves of a picture are mirror images, then you have created “symmetrical balance.” Another way to create balance is to have one large item on one side of the paper, and two small items on the other side of the paper. When music is balanced, the various instruments play at relatively the same volume. Dance and theater can also be balanced (e.g., the stage picture, blocking, and volume).

In many ways, balance is the opposite of emphasis. However, neither should overpower the composition.

Contrast—the difference between any two themes or elements in the composition, such as:

  • Large vs. small
  • Loud vs. quiet
  • Fast vs. slow
  • Smooth vs. abrupt
  • Major key vs. minor key
  • Colorful vs. drab

Harmony—using dissimilar parts to create a pleasant whole
A composition that is harmonious will have many different images or sounds that are different (perhaps vastly different); however, the elements work well together.

The word harmony has a second, special meaning in music. In music, harmony indicates two (or more) musical notes that form an interval (e.g., a third, a fifth, an octave) or (sometimes) a chord (e.g., major key, minor key,).

In many ways, contrast is the opposite of harmony.

Movementmotion, something that is moving In dance and theater, movement is literally physical movement.

In the visual arts, movement is implied. Lines can be drawn to suggest change. Painted characters’ eyes look in a specific direction. Objects are painted or arranged that draw the observer’s eyes in a certain direction.

In music, movement is harder to describe. Movement is not merely the melody or the harmony. Movement is how the music tells a story, and how the music changes form as the musicians play through the score.

The Basics of Different Art Forms


Dance combines music and movement. It involves the interpretation of sound and kinesthetic activity. Through dance, students gain awareness of body, motion, music, and rhythm.

Young students can be taught to move in groups in time with the music. Simple sing-alongs can be combined with body motions and/or clapping. Advanced students can be given dance solos, set dances (square or line), or paired dances (ballroom). Older students (high school) can learn to interpret and dance in various styles.

Set dances (square dances with a “caller” or line dances) are more advanced than group dances, as they require all the dancers involved to be able to perform all the dance steps. Ballroom dancing is even more difficult and is usually for the most advanced students.


Children benefit from exposure to music and musical instruments. Early exposure to music improves:

  • Concentration
  • Brain activity
  • Fine motor skills
  • Mathematical skills

The ability to identify and maintain the rhythm of the music is an important skill to obtain early. It can be developed by simply clapping along with the music.

Theater Arts

Students can benefit by watching and performing theater. Reading scripts in front of other students, memorizing short dialogues, etc., can improve a student’s self-confidence and lead to improvement in other areas. Imaginative play can help students express themselves.

Visual Arts

Very young students will be most interested in bright colors and simple geometric patterns. They can learn to create art by:

  • Forming materials with simple tools (scissors and glue)

  • Creating pictures of family groups, images of animals, abstracts, etc.

  • Using fine muscle control to shape and change raw material

Older students should be encouraged to make more subtle illustrations and create more complicated concepts.

Techniques, Tools, Processes, and Materials

The focus of art should be on the students’ expression and personal growth. The exact techniques/process shouldn’t be a primary focus. In many ways, the final “quality” of the art isn’t necessarily the point of art. What follows is a list of suggestions.


The dance process starts with a choreographer providing the choreography (a series of dance steps). The dance captain teaches the choreography to the dancers. The dancers learn the choreography, usually by repeating it over and over. Music is added fairly early in the teaching process. In a small company/school, the choreographer and the dance captain will be the same person (usually the school teacher) and the teacher will handle all the responsibilities of presentation.



Musical notation is a series of symbols on a musical staff.

The symbols show:

  • Lengths of notes
  • Pitch
  • Rests
  • What sort of note gets a single beat
  • How many beats per measure
  • Musical key (not a concept for the youngest of students)
  • Tempo
  • Volume
  • Repeats
  • Italian annotation (high school students)
Other Elements

Melody—a sequence of notes
Harmony—a sequence of notes (or multiple simultaneous notes) that form an interval(s) with the melody
Chord—a combination of one melody note and one or more harmony notes or zero melody notes and multiple harmony notes


Musical instruments fall into three basic categories:

  • Melodic instruments: xylophone, flute, recorder, etc.
  • Rhythm instruments: drum, triangle, block, etc.
  • Chording instruments: piano, guitar, autoharp, etc.

Theater Arts

One of the first types of theater arts that younger students usually perform involves retelling commonly known fairy tales. The stories of “The Big Bad Wolf” and “Little Red Riding Hood” are commonly performed for the very reason that they are easy to understand and are part of the common culture.

A teacher confronted with a tiny number of students might turn to puppetry. This allows three to four students to represent a dozen characters.

Theater can also be combined with other art forms, such as music, visual arts, etc.

Theater has a long history, dating back to ancient Greek civilization. The specialized vocabulary of theater runs into hundreds of terms. These are some of the basic ones:

  • Play—the presentation
  • Actors—the people that perform
  • Cast—a group of actors that are performing the play
  • Dialogue—words spoken by two or more people
  • Monologue—words spoken by one person
  • Script—a listing of the dialogue (or monologue) of the actor(s) in the play
  • Blocking—the movement of the actors on the stage
  • Stage direction—the blocking as written in the script (either provided by the director or pre-printed in commercially available scripts)
  • Scene—a small section of the play
  • Act—a collection of scenes
  • Set—the scenery, including furniture
  • Props—items held and/or used by actors
  • Costumes—clothes worn by the actors
  • Royalty—money paid to an author for permission to use his work/words

Visual Arts

The techniques for producing visual art are practically unlimited. Anything that can be attached to anything else, covered in paint, or marked in any way can be considered art. Metal can be glued to fabric. Plastic can be nailed to wood. Paper can be covered in random markings with paint or pencil. Pinecones can be covered in glitter. Computers can be used to create images that can be easily copied and distributed. Image manipulation software is easily obtained and usually cheap or free. The techniques of visual arts are constrained only by the artist’s imagination.

Uses of Art

One of the best uses of art (especially with younger students) is to help with self-expression, communication, and creativity. Young students might not be able to fully express themselves verbally or using the written form; however, expression using artistic display can communicate ideas, concepts, emotions, stories, and more. Teachers should encourage students to express their feelings.


One of the reasons that art is taught in school is to improve fine muscle control; “painting between the lines.” However, sometimes art projects become rigid in concept, execution, and display. Although these displays might be “pretty”, there is little self-expression. Arguably, a piece of paper with paint randomly splattered on it is art. Also, arguably, a lovely and perfect “paint-by-numbers” painting is not art. A careful teacher needs to balance both “painting between the lines” and free expression.


Some forms of art require no words to communicate ideas, concepts, or emotions; ballet is a prime example. Other forms of art are very “wordy”. Reader’s theater is a prime example. Students should be able to view art and express an opinion about what the artist is trying to say or express. This might be something as vague as “it makes me feel sad” or “it is very colorful and happy.” These will be opinions. There will not be any wrong answers.

Social Expression

Much art is devoted to expressing an opinion or a view of life in general, especially in terms of societal conditions or a worldview. Some political art is probably inappropriate for the youngest students.

Critical Analysis and Understanding

Emphasize with students (especially younger students) that there is no “right” or “wrong” when creating or critiquing art. The purpose of art is to express emotion, a message, or symbolic information.

Younger students will be unable to give an analysis of art in scholarly terms, but they should be encouraged to describe art in its physical appearance, and in terms of “how does it make you feel?” (emotional impact).

When teaching critical analysis of art, a teacher should use publicly available, published art. Never critique a student’s art. Never use a student’s art as a topic of discussion with other students. This creates critique and/or judgment issues, and could lead to self-esteem issues.

The Role and Function of the Arts

Art has been used by countless cultures, in various ways, and for various reasons.

There is no “new art”. Every artist bases his or her art on what came before. Each culture and each generation draws inspiration from previous art. Even abstract, modern art draws on the work of previous artists. Current “modern art” can be linked indirectly to the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Africans, Japanese, Native Americans, etc. Modern art is based on previous art, some of which was created hundreds (or thousands) of years before.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. The production of art and the appreciation of art is highly dependent on the culture that created it. Not only a culture’s location but also a culture’s period in history. For example, the music of ancient Greece is very different from the music of modern Greece.

Throughout History

In Western Europe, during the classical era (Greeks and Romans), art emphasized the beauty of the human body. In the Middle Ages (roughly 500 A.D. to 1400 A.D.), emphasis was on expressing a message and symbolic images of Christianity. In the Renaissance, the emphasis was on realism. Art and the perception of beauty changed over time, not only in Western Europe but all over the world.

In Various Cultures

Chinese art (from 1st century B.C. to 19th century A.D.) focused on jade, pottery, calligraphy, and landscapes. In the 19th century A.D., China was influenced by Western culture and changed its focus to realism.

Other Asian cultures created their own distinct art. But in some measure, most Asian art (prior to the 19th century A.D.) was a reflection of China’s art. China was perceived as the dominant social, political, and economic power in Asia.

Other world regions have different emphases:

  • African art focuses on the human form.

  • Native American art focuses on creating practical objects of great beauty, such as carving, beading, weaving, basket work, etc.

Students should be exposed to the art of various cultures.

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