How do the Arts develop transferable skills?

“We need people who think with the creative side of their brains—people who have played in a band, who have painted…it enhances symbiotic thinking capabilities, not always thinking in the same paradigm, learning how to kick-start a new idea, or how to get a job done better, less expensively.”

Annette Byrd, GlaxoSmithKline

As a drama teacher at Sotogrande International School,  one of my objectives is to help students understand the value of the skills they acquire studying with me. These distill into a rather tidy alliterated list: creativity, confidence, co-operation, communication and critical analysis. These skills are form part of any single Arts lesson on any single day whether it is within an film, music, art or drama class. We count ourselves lucky as Arts teachers that we find it part of the course delivering these somewhat crucial life skills that teachers are encouraged to incorporate into their lesson plans under the title trending at the time. Indeed it would be hard NOT to have these skills as an integral part of any Arts lesson plan. Educational programmes across the world recognize these skills as equal in value to the subject specific content and knowledge delivered in a curriculum lesson. The IBO has identified these as ATL´s (Approaches to Learning) and Sotogrande International School is at the forefront of ensuring our students focus on developing and refining this ´tool box´ that will allow them to become both effective as individuals and effective as learners. These ATL´s include reflection, creativity, time management, collaboration, intercultural understanding & organisation amongst many others.  All fall under the umbrella titles of research, thinking, social, communication and self-management. Once mastered these transferable skills are for life and will be drawn upon in many aspects of a person’s working life and indeed in life generally.

An introductory Arts lessons for M1 Secondary School students collaborating in the creation of a marshmallow & spaghetti architectural wonder!



Here are some snapshot examples of how we hone these skills in the Arts using M3 as a case study.


Descending the theatre stairs into one M3 class you will see groups of 6 applying their knowledge of Victorian Melodrama acting technique and stock conventions to the development and production of a silent movie. The group is deciding what they want to have in the selected scene and rehearsing it ready to film. ATL skills explored in this single lesson – planning, collaboration, research, interpretation, communication, thinking, creativity, organization, time management, negotiation, encouragement and action.

Main ATLs being addressed during the unit- Research & communication.





Swing open the wooden door of the music room and you will hear students experimenting with rhythm and beats inspired by the percussion company Stomp. Students notate their own original compositions and practise this score ready for performance in our year group showcases. The most recent show case had students devising acted out scenes where the notated rhythms were delivered in an imaginary setting: The basketball team bouncing balls, pulses of lights in a haunted house and students beating time on a table whilst in an English class.

Main ATLs being addressed during the unit – Communication and self management.


An exciting new addition to the M1- M3 curriculum is Film as a specialist subject. This program has kicked off with MYP units that include teen drama and science fiction. There is already an extracurricular film club and an international trip to a student film festival in Geneva is being offered to students from M2 – M5. M3 have been looking at making documentaries and have already been introduced to film techniques such as the rule of thirds, interview techniques, b-roll and creating natural sounds.

Main ATLs being addressed during the unit – Research with a specific focus on media literacy.


Stepping into our wonderful new art block you might encounter any number of visual arts skills being explored and developed. The Art department is now able to extend the breadth of Visual Arts learning throughout all year groups to include printmaking and ceramics using our newly installed kiln. Currently in M3 the students are using clay to craft animal forms that unite imagination and reality. This unit focuses on research skills and creative thinking that explores the various routes that artists may take to develop ideas and final resolutions. The new kiln and glazes will extend students’ experience of ceramics and 3D sculpture.

Main ATLs being addressed during the unit – Communication.


Christine Barling

Leader of Learning SIS Arts

DP Theatre & MYP Drama teacher

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