Understanding the distinct contribution the arts can make to literacy and numeracy.

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This section provides some background and theory on how the arts can be particularly effective in developing literacy and numeracy skills. If you need to make the case to colleagues or funders for using the arts to help meet LNF requirements, this could be helpful.

Literacy in the Expressive Arts

The arts have a unique way of using language to describe, reflect on and analyse the world. When pupils write or talk about their own performances or the work of others, they develop an understanding of audience and purpose.

Here are some of the ways that learners can develop their literacy skills by learning in the arts:

ORACY

  • expressing and discussing observations, feelings, ideas and sensations
  • listening – considering the relevance of information
  • asking questions to obtain and clarify information
  • making judgements and conclusions and communicating this information to others

READING

  • reading, interpreting and discussing a range of written texts
  • reading, interpreting and discussing a range of visual texts such as symbols, charts, diagrams, scores and pictures
  • comparing works or performances - looking for similarities and differences, describing, analysing, evaluating and interpreting

WRITING

  • planning processes; Structure and organisation
  • choosing structures to recount or retell processes
  • learning and using subject specific, or context specific vocabulary.  Some arts activities also involve specialised ways of using language e.g. in poetry.

In its broadest sense, literacy is evident in the way pupils use language to talk, read and write about their own work, as well as other artists’ work. It is also evident when students use and understand symbols, images, movement, sound and artistic conventions.


Literacy can be developed both in and through the arts by:
1. focused reading and writing activities that address specific skills identified in LNF outcomes e.g. grammar, spelling, comprehension

2. the use of appropriate text scaffolding, such as narrative, response, review and procedures to develop skills in oracy, reading and writing

3. arts content and pedagogy that enhances literacy learning, including the integrated practices of making and appreciating, experiential learning, strategies such as side coaching (when peers provide comment on performance ‘from the side’), hot seating, and specific texts such as artist statements.

Numeracy in the Expressive Arts

As students develop skills, knowledge and understanding in making, performing, organising sound and images, listening, composing and appreciation in the arts, they are required to apply numeracy skills and understanding, in the widest sense.

Students learn to:

  • understand and apply concepts related to measurement, such as size, scale, length, distance, volume and time  
  • understand and apply concepts related to number, such as motifs, patterns, repetition, variation, counting, rhythm, phrasing, sections, round and canon.
  • understand and apply concepts related to space, such as: pathway, form, position, relationships, composition,  viewpoint, dimension, and  perspective.

The arts draw on mathematical ideas in a number of ways:

  • music and mathematics share aspects of structure and form, patterns and rhythm. As a result of learning in music, students understand and apply concepts related to number, such as motifs, patterns, repetition, variation, counting, rhythm, phrasing, sections, round and canon. 
  • visualisation skills developed in the visual arts provide a foundation for developing number relationships, pattern appreciation and spatial awareness. As a result of learning in visual arts, students understand and apply concepts related to space and measurement, such as size, scale, length, distance, volume and time. 
  • space is a key element in mathematics and dance. As a result of learning in dance, students understand and apply concepts related to space and number, pathway, position, relationships, viewpoint, dimension, patterns, repetition, variation, counting, rhythm and form.

Numeracy in its broadest sense can be developed both in and through the arts by:

1. focused numeracy activities that address specific skills identified by LNF outcomes e.g. identifying number patterns, calculating volume or size

2. the use of numeracy strategies, such as counting, identifying rhythmic patterns, graphing, mapping, perspective and scale to develop numeracy skills 

3. focusing on arts content and pedagogy that enhances numeracy learning, e.g. constructing three-dimensional artworks, notating rhythm patterns and form in music, composition in music, dance and visual arts. 

Adapted and inspired by the State Literacy and Numeracy Plan of New South Wales.