Arts Standards by Grade

K-4 Standards in Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts

What students should know and do in kindergarten through fourth grade


The standards in this section describe the cumulative skills and knowledge expected of all students upon exiting grade 4. Students in the earlier grades should engage in developmentally appropriate learning experiences designd to prepare them to achieve these standards at grade 4. Determining the curriculum and the specific instructional activities necessary to achieve the standards is the responsibility of states, local school districts, and individual teachers.


Children in grades K-4 love to move and learn through engagement of the whole self. They need to become literate in the language of dance in order to use this natural facility as a means of communication and self-expression, and as a way of responding to the expression of others. Dancing and creating dances provide them with skills and knowledge necessary for all future learning in dance and give them a way to celebrate their humanity.

Dance education begins with an awareness of the movement of the body and its creative potential. At this level, students become engaged in body awareness and movement exploration that promote a recognition and appreciation of self and others. Students learn basic movement and choreographic skills in musical/rhythmic contexts. The skills and knowledge acquired allow them to begin working independently and with a partner in creating and performing dances.

Experiences in perceiving and responding to dance expand students' vocabularies, enhance their listening and viewing skills, and enable them to begin thinking critically about dance. They investigate questions such as "What is it? How does it work? Why is it important?" Practicing attentive audience behavior for their peers leads to describing movement elements and identifying expressive movement choices. Students learn to compare works in terms of the elements of space, time, and force/energy and to experience the similarities and differences between dance and other disciplines.

Through dance education, students can also come to an understanding of their own culture and begin to respect dance as a part of the heritage of many cultures. As they learn and share dances from around the globe, as well as from their own communities, children gain skills and knowledge that will help them participate in a diverse society.


The study of music contributes in important ways to the quality of every student's life.  Every musical work is a product of its time and place, although some works transcend their original settings and continue to appeal to humans through their timeless and universal attraction. Through singing, playing instruments, and composing, students can express themselves creatively, while a knowledge of notation and performance traditions enables them to learn new music independently throughout their lives. Skills in analysis, evaluation, and synthesis are important because they enable students to recognize and pursue excellence in their musical experiences and to  understand and enrich their environment.  Because music is an integral part of human history, the ability to listen with understanding is essential if students are to gain a broad cultural and historical perspective. The adult life of every student is enriched by the skills, knowledge, and habits acquired in the study of music

Every course in music, including performance courses, should provide instruction in creating, performing, listening to, and analyzing music, in addition to focusing on its specific subject matter.

Performing, creating, and responding to music are the fundamental music processes in which humans engage. Students, particularly in grades K-4, learn by doing. Singing, playing instruments, moving to music, and creating music enable them to acquire musical skills and knowledge that can be developed in no other way Learning to read and notate music gives them a skill with which to explore music independently and with others.

Listening to, analyzing, and evaluating music are important building blocks of musical learning. Further, to participate fully in a diverse, global society, students must understand their own historical and cultural heritage and those of others within their communities and beyond. Because music is a basic expression of human culture, every student should have access to a balanced, comprehensive, and sequential program of study in music.


Theatre, the imagined and enacted world of human beings, is one of the primary ways children learn about life -- about actions and consequences, about customs and beliefs, about others and themselves. They learn through their social pretend play and from hours of viewing television and film. For instance, children use pretend play as a means of making sense of the world; they create situations to play and assume roles; they interact with peers and arrange environments to bring their stories to life; they direct one another to bring order to their drama, and they respond to one another's dramas. In other words, children arrive at school with rudimentary skills as playwrights, actors, designers, directors, and audience members; theatre education should build on this solid foundation. These standards assume that theatre education will start with and have a strong emphasis on improvisation, which is the basis of social pretend play

In an effort to create a seamless transition from the natural skills of pretend play to the study of theatre, the standards call for instruction that integrates the several aspects of the art form: script writing, acting, designing, directing, researching, comparing art forms, analyzing and critiquing, and understanding contexts. In the kindergarten through fourth grade, the teacher will be actively involved in the students' planning, playing, and evaluating, but students will be guided to develop group skills so that more independence is possible. The content of the drama will develop the students' abilities to express their understanding of their immediate world and broaden their knowledge of other cultures.

Visual Arts

These standards provide a framework for helping students learn the characteristics of the visual arts by using a wide range of subject matter, symbols, meaningful images, and visual expressions, to reflect their ideas, feelings, and emotions; and to evaluate the merits of their efforts. The standards address these objectives in ways that promote acquisition of and fluency in new ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning, and investigating. They emphasize student acquisition of the most important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas, and knowledge offered by the visual arts. They develop new techniques, approaches, and habits for applying knowledge and skills in the visual arts to the world beyond school

The visual arts are extremely rich. They range from drawing, painting, sculpture, and design, to architecture, film, video, and folk arts. They involve a wide variety of tools, techniques, and processes. The standards are structured to recognize that many elements from this broad array can be used to accomplish specific educational objectives. For example, drawing can be used as the basis for creative activity, historical and cultural investigation, or analysis, as can any other fields within the visual arts. The standards present educational goals. It is the responsibility of practitioners to choose appropriately from this rich array of content and processes to fulfill these goals in specific circumstances and to develop the curriculum

To meet the standards, students must learn vocabularies and concepts associated with various types of work in the visual arts and must exhibit their competence at various levels in visual, oral, and written form.  In Kindergarten-Grade 4, young children experiment enthusiastically with art materials and investigate the ideas presented to them through visual arts instruction. They exhibit a sense of joy and excitement as they make and share their artwork with others. Creation is at the heart of this instruction. Students learn to work with various tools, processes, and media. They learn to coordinate their hands and minds in explorations of the visual world. They learn to make choices that enhance communication of their ideas. Their natural inquisitiveness is promoted, and they learn the value of perseverance.

As they move from kindergarten through the early grades, students develop skills of observation, and they learn to examine the objects and events of their lives. At the same time, they grow in their ability to describe, interpret, evaluate, and respond to work in the visual arts. Through examination of their own work and that of other people, times, and places, students learn to unravel the essence of artwork and to appraise its purpose and value. Through these efforts, students begin to understand the meaning and impact of the visual world in which they live.

Email Print Share


- +
Email a link to this page
Share This Page


National Core Arts Standards

National Core Arts Standards

The Standards found on this site reference the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. Arts learning standards were recently revised and published as the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org). The new standards outline a conceptual framework for arts learning for K-12 students in Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts. ARTSEDGE is working to include the new standards along with existing standards during the transition period.


Please contact the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education at http://www.seadae.org for copyright guidelines.



© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center 

with the support of

The US Department of Education 

ARTSEDGE, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David Rubenstein.

Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Center education and related artistic programming is made possible through the generosity of the National Committee
for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions


You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.