Erin Hooley, Associated Press
Foxboro Elementary's Susan Harry, left, Lincoln Elementary's Lindsey Daines Hoffman, right, and other teachers improvise a dance.

LAYTON (AP) — Jangling bells, lively dance steps and colorful books are important tools that can push forward the learning process, even for such subjects as language arts, science and math.

About 130 elementary school teachers in the Davis School District danced and painted and perused the narrative voices in children's literature recently to test that hypothesis during the annual Fine Arts Academy at the Davis Conference Center.

Donna Croft, fine arts supervisor for the Davis district, told the teachers, "Just for today, become a little child — go back to when you weren't self-conscious and weren't afraid to participate."

She led the teachers in their quest to teach core subjects with the help of the arts.

Such art forms as music, drawing and dancing have their own particular language that adds another dimension to teaching language arts, science, social studies and math, Croft said.

"I want you to become bilingual," she said in reference to the language of the arts.

"The more languages teachers use, the better able they are at reaching a diverse classroom of children."

Many children easily catch on to concepts by reading textbooks, listening to teacher instruction and completing work on a chalkboard, Croft said, but a lot do not. By using more tools, teachers can reach more children, she said.

The conference was funded in part with a $20,000 grant from Art Works for Kids, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by philanthropist and arts education advocate Beverley Taylor Sorenson, a Salt Lake City native.

Substitute teachers, paid by the school district, took the helm in classrooms across the Davis district so elementary teachers could attend the conference.

Five out of six workshop instructor salaries were paid for by the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program.

The Crayola Company provided the instructor for the color workshop.

The Davis district also paid teachers in attendance for a teacher development day and furnished the lunch.

In music and dance classes, teachers were told that music is an extension of language that stimulates specific parts of the brain.

Teachers in the visual arts workshop used paints, crayons, markers and colored pencils to make a book, discovering that students who make their own books become more interested in the topics they write about and illustrate.

While studying aspects of drama gained from storytelling, teachers divided a book into four parts and studied the book's characters and the significance of illustrations to gain greater understanding of the whole story.

Each workshop instructor provided teachers with a lesson plan in the district's Davis Essential Skills and Knowledge curriculum format.

Amy Jorgensen, first grade teacher at Valley View Elementary in Bountiful, said she attended the professional development workshop to find new ways to teach.

"New teaching methods make school engaging and provide more motivation for learning."

Michelle Jensen, first grade teacher at Adams Elementary in Layton, said she liked the way the dance workshop demonstrated the use of movement and dance to tell stories, something she would find useful for teaching language arts.

"I am a big believer in integrating the arts with education," she said.