Grant Brings Books to Music, Art, Phys Ed Classes

Reading may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about an elementary physical  education, art or music class, but for three teachers at Sparta Area School’s Ridgeview Elementary, books are a large part of their curriculum.

“If you’re going to teach this level, you need to be into promoting reading because it is the most important skill for this age,” said art teacher Heidi Mitchell.

Mitchell, along with music teacher Venessa Ruffer and physical education teacher Wendi Berwald said they had been incorporating books into their curriculum for a while and a recent $500 grant from the Sparta Education Foundation dedicated to purchasing books for their classes will make it easier. “We were already using books but, now we have more resources,” said Ruffer.

The teachers teamed up to select books from a catalogue that fit into their respective programs. From historical works on classic artists or composers, to books about eating right or getting enough sleep, the teachers agreed that reading is a great way to further the topics they introduce in class.Venessa Ruffer is excited to have Keith Richard’s children’s book Gus & Me to read to her music class

A Larger Perspective

“I selected books based on lessons I teach,” said Berwald, explaining she uses books to introduce subjects she covers such as the importance of fruits, vegetables, and daily exercise.

Mitchell said she likes using books because they give a different voice than her own for the students to learn from. She said books based on classroom-related themes not only help students grasp the material, but also allow her to meet teaching requirements  such as identifying titles and authors for a book.  

Mitchell said that books come in handy when students need something to do between projects, or if they get done early. She said they often pick out a book to read by themselves or with a friend. To students such as Ali, a second grader in Mitchell’s class, books help get the creative juices flowing.

“I like to look at books in art because I can get different ideas from them for my art,” she said.

Ruffer said books help her engage with her students, and help her students engage with the content. “Books help kids appreciate classical music. They won’t sit still and listen to a 45 minute piece,” she said.

Ruffer said she tries to get creative when reading. “We turn books into song. Sometimes I sing them because many books have a rhythm to them,” she said.

Whether used to add variety to lessons, teach a new topic, spark students imaginations, the teachers agree, bookshave been an integral part of their instruction.

“(We’ve) incorporated reading into the curriculum since the beginning. Receiving this grant was a natural fit,” concluded Mitchell.

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