Artful Reading

Introduction to Artful Reading (AR)

CTL’s AR is a Pre-K-5 classroom, grade-level, or school-wide literacy program that integrates the arts into literacy instruction, while meeting both National English Language Arts Standards and Core Arts Anchor Standards. AR promotes a thoughtful approach to reading, writing, speaking, and listening by utilizing high-interest and varied texts, arts materials, and lesson plans. Each module taps into the classroom teacher’s prior knowledge about literacy instruction and arts integration. The materials are built around a structure for before, during, and after reading that addresses key literacy developmental skills (including vocabulary development, reading comprehension, speaking, listening, observing, writing), using arts-based strategies and contexts to deeply engage students in learning.

 In addition to providing opportunities for core arts experiences, the materials immerse students and teachers in learning in, through and about the arts, using music, dance, theater, and visual arts to: connect to high-quality texts, set schema for student learning, and provide opportunities for students to create and demonstrate their learning.

 Students engage with texts through arts-based experiences focused on developing the skills of visualization, prediction, inferencing, analysis, questioning, creating, and synthesis. CTL builds on brain-based research to design instruction to improve learning.


Specifically, AR advances:

  • Arts integrated approach to teaching and learning that is student-centered
  • Summative writing tasks with rubric development support
  • Tiered vocabulary instruction around everyday words to domain-specific academic vocabulary
  • Reading comprehension activities for before, during, and after reading
  • Student to self; student to student; student to teacher dialogue opportunities
  • Writing to learn opportunities to make meaning of new learning
  • Authentic writing tasks in forms, purposes, and audiences
  • Gradual release process from teacher-directed to student-directed
  • Cross-disciplinary extension activities within the classroom and beyond

 AR aims to improve the skills of teachers to successfully and reciprocally link the arts and literacy to promote student learning. AR networks teachers across grade levels and combines formal training with job-embedded coaching and modeling to ensure that local capacity is built to sustain and grow the use of the program as a deliberate component of literacy instruction in the school.

Professional Learning

CTL has developed and tested its Artful Reading (AR) program through multiple projects, including the schools across the country. The purpose of AR is to support classroom teachers in implementing an arts-integrated approach to literacy using modules. Each module contains a core text, a blend of informational and literary supplemental texts, arts materials, lesson plans and a standards matrix. Implementation of the program involves a commitment to intensive professional learning, rooted in job-embedded coaching, with regular on-site and distance engagement of teachers and administrators. 

 The model includes:

  • Foundational training provided via a 2-day summer institute
  • Capacity building throughout the year via job-embedded coaching (modeling, co-teaching, pre/mid/post-observation, co-planning, etc.)
  • Continuing trainings that are teacher-driven and promote reflection, planning, and fidelity of implementation
  • Consultation with content resources throughout the year via distance and face-to-face to support extension activities
  • Literacy leadership team development, consisting of teachers, support staff, and administration, to ensure sustainability of professional learning and practices outside the life of the grant
  • Where applicable, CTL offers job-embedded coaching for school and district literacy coaches as they develop their capacity to lead and support teachers in the program’s design

 All of CTL’s professional learning models meet the Learning Forward Professional Learning Standards for effective student learning.

Personalized Professional Coaching

While AR brings educators together to regularly engage in collaborative professional learning, the program honors the individual needs of participating practitioners. CTL coaching provides a space for assessment, reflection, and refinement that is educator-driven, and proven to enhance engagement, motivation and instructional practices. Whether virtually or in-person, CTL staff engage in side-by-side instructional planning, pre/mid/post observations, reflection cycles, analysis of student work protocols, and other timely and relevant coaching experiences with teachers. CTL’s personalized professional coaching helps to create a school-wide culture of continuous improvement, which pays dividends both in the classroom and in the professional learning communities.

Leadership Capacity Building

CTL staff works closely with school faculties in implementing the model. Summer Institutes, half-day training sessions throughout the year, on-site and distance coaching and leadership seminars all support efforts to develop professional practices leading to improved student literacy skills. Initially, CTL staff works alongside Artful Reading with teachers while they develop the capacity of the school-based instructional coaches and the administration, to assume responsibility for improved instruction. Over time, CTL staff applies a gradual release approach, to support literacy leadership team members, coaches and principals more directly as they assumer greater responsibility for the ongoing success of Artful Reading.