Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity? from

Sir Ken Robinson says that Creativity is as important in education as literacy and should be treated with the same status on You really need to watch this and see what you think.

Here's some information on him from

Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this."

A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Integrated Teaching Through the Arts Workshop January 16th

Keith and Jeff will be offering an Integrated Teaching Through the Arts Workshop at Barnstable High School on January 16th, 2009. This all-day program will focus on the integration of drama, music, movement and poetry into every classroom. The goal of this workshop is to introduce teachers to an arts-based approach to learning that will engage students and energize the classroom. Participants will have the opportunity to learn strategies that they can put to use right away in their own classrooms.

This workshop has filled up very quickly in the past, so all Barnstable teachers should hurry and sign up! Hope to see you there.

Who We Are: Meet Donnie Norton

Donald M. Norton, M.Ed. holds a Masters degree in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University. Over an eight year career he has taught the third, fourth, and fifth grades, as well as English to ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders. Currently Donnie teaches fifth grade English and history at the Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Having just completed directing Weymouth High School's senior class musical, he understands the profound impact the arts have on students of all age and ability levels. As a teacher, singer, actor, dancer, storyteller, poet, and father, the arts are an everyday part of Donnie's world.

He has recently developed a teacher-training course called "The Blossoming Learner" that focuses on practical ways to integrate the arts into the everyday learning process. It is designed to expose educators to various arts modalities in a non-threatening way, making it possible for any teacher to immediately bring the arts into the classroom community. Giving teachers the confidence to use the arts as an instrument of education, even if they have had no previous training in these art forms, is the goal of "The Blossoming Learner."

Donnie believes that the abilities to be introspective and empathetic are the two most humanizing qualities we possess. In order to create better lifelong learners, students must be provided with a skill set wheel complete with introspection and empathy cogs. This can be accomplished by integrating the arts into the learning

Photo Credit: Photo by IrishEyes Photography

Participant Reflections on the K-12 Full-Day Integrated Teaching Through the Arts Workshop

Everyone had a great day at our Integrated Teaching Through the Arts workshop at Barnstable High School on January 18th. Focusing on Creative Movement, Poetry, Music and Drama, the day was full of energy and engagement. Here are some reflections from the participants.

I loved it! I'm excited to go to school next week and try some of the ideas that were presented.

It brought me back to the most important aspect of a child's learning-the process and not necessarily the product.

It gave me more insight as to how some students could learn and understand content better by using kinesthetic methods through the arts.

I got so many great ideas! It was great discussing different subjects and how these ideas could tie into these subjects.

I knew movement was important for children, but now I have some knowledge of how to incorporate it into any area of the curriculum.

Great way of looking at some ways to pique the interest of our students and relay subject matter in a more exciting and engaging way...very successful.

This workshop was totally awesome. It has given me a better insight on how to teach children.

I never realized that using the arts could be done to incorporate so many learning skills.

I spend my whole day trying to get students interacting. This has given me a fresh outlook and great resources to lean on.

Time flew. I never looked at the clock. One of those days I wish I could stay longer in class.

Each of the activities was discussed after and how it could be adapted to different content areas and grade levels.

Provided reassurance that teaching should be student-centered and they should be able to process. It's a journey not a sprint.

Activities were presented with time for the group to experience the activity. Very well done.

The workshop was extremely well organized-minimal amounts of teacher talk- lots of doing. Serves as an example on how to organize and facilitate a workshop.

The workshop was very well organized. The day went by without the need to look at the clock. This is the worst part of the workshop, because it's over!

I will use skills learned in this workshop to raise the comfort level of all students and to lower affective filters.

The group accomplished quite a bit in one day, but the workshop wasn't rushed. I feel like I have a good grasp of each activity and am leaving with confidence and knowledge to try some of the ideas on my own.

I do not believe that it would be possible for a teacher to leave this room today without a new idea and an excitement to get back to work.

I can't come up with any way it should be improved other than making it mandatory for all teachers to participate.

Their [the presenters] knowledge, prep and presentation were inspiring as well as enlightening. I want to go back and be a better teacher.

All presenters certainly knew the material well; however, it was truly the belief in what they were teaching that made the biggest impact.

All three presenters did a wonderful job! There was a great flow to the workshop. They managed to keep everyone engaged.

We will be posting some of the activities that we used during the day in the near future. Please feel free to comment and post some ideas that have worked for you. Keep checking the blog for more workshops and graduate level college courses that we'll be offering in the near future. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to have us come to your school and conduct a workshop or a course.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creative Movement Workshop with Doug Victor October 4th

I just want everyone to know that Doug Victor will be offering a Creative Movement Workshop on October 4th in Seekonk, MA. This is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.

Here's some information:


SATURDAY October 4, 2008


Awaken your kinesthetic sense!
Deepen your feelings for movement expression!

The workshop will focus on a natural creative approach to art of body movement which follows an innately known way of being that is inherent in all of us. You will experience this by connecting with yourself and then to others in deeply felt and satisfying ways. You will immerse your total self in a progression of movement studies that will lead to the creation of movement expressions for you as an individual and as a member of a group. Improvisatory by nature, this workshop is for everyone who loves to move or is interested in movement as a means of expression.

WHEN... Saturday October 4... 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM

WHERE... Jacobs Barn Studio, 130 Jacob Street , Seekonk, Massachusetts

TUITION... $50
(some scholarship available)

Contact Doug at

An approach to body movement as an art activity pioneered by Barbara Mettler, student of Mary Wigman in the early 1930s. Creative dance awakens the kinesthetic sense, deepens the kinesthetic capacity for movement expression, and provides the fundamentals to experience the joy of movement for anyone interested.
It is a language whose vocabulary is the interplay of the elements of dance, force, time, and space and whose expression is realized through individual, small and large group improvisation. The study and practice of creative dance supports a primary need for collective movement expression shared by us all.

The workshop serves as an introduction to the art of body movement which comes out of the Mettler-based tradition. This study deepens our understanding of movement expression as a basic human need. It is open to anyone who wishes to further develop his/her capacity for movement expression and move
creatively with others.
Expect to explore movement possibilities, be open to making discoveries as your movement unfolds, and to immerse yourself fully in the experience of your own moving individually and in relation to others. The workshop is
recommended for everyone... teachers, therapists, clergy, dancers, artists, musicians, or anyone who is interested in movement expression. Applications of the work are many and include the fields of education, counseling, recreation, all the arts, and, of course, life itself.

Doug has taught creative dance for over 30 years. In addition to his private teaching, he directs Creative Dance Providence and teaches nationally for the Creative Arts in Learning Graduate Program at Lesley University in Cambridge. A founder of the International Association for Creative Dance, he has taught extensively across the United States, and in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii. Upcoming teaching venues include Georgia, Alaska, and Scotland.

This studio is a beautifully restored barn just 6 miles east of Providence with easy access from Route 195. Surrounded by acres of fields and woodlands, we will be dancing on a heated and cushioned maple wooden floor. The studio has vaulted ceilings and windows on four sides. This natural setting will perfectly support the weekend's creative dance work.

IACD is a full 501 (3) c non-profit membership organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for the study and teaching of Mettler-based creative dance along with networking within the dance community. Among the organization's activities, there is a newsletter published twice yearly and the Creative Dance Congress is produced each summer. In June 2009 the Congress will take place at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Check out IACD's website at It links directly to the Barbara Mettler website.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why Teach Through the Arts? A Compelling Argument.

I came across this on Ms. Molina's Class Page in a post titled "Brainy Language Arts"and thought I'd share it with you. You can read the entire post, and it's well worth the time, by clicking on the title of this post.

"Why teach with the arts and the brain in mind? Eric Jensen, another pioneer in brain research states, " I support constructivism over mindless factual accumulation, and I favor depth over breadth of knowledge. I favor variety in education over one-size-fits-all." These statements leave little doubt in the reader's mind that Eric Jensen believes in the arts-not test scores alone...He makes it very clear that educators should appeal to the Multiple Intelligences, and that those intelligences lend themselves most efficiently to the arts. From his point of view, he is more concerned with developing thinking, balanced human beings, than developing automated computer-like individuals. His philosophies indicate a belief in the uniqueness of man...a uniqueness in thought and emotion that needs to be nurtured; he claims that it is especially important with the acceleration in technology. He further contends that learning through the arts is long term; knowledge that is memorized specifically for a test, on the other hand, lasts only a short time unless that content is transferred and applied. He points out that creating lessons that use higher modalities of thought give students long lasting skills and concepts. Activities or assessments that require a transfer of concepts take a long time to develop the synaptic functions, but when developed, provide fine motor skills, creativity, and emotional balance into adulthood. That is quite a claim, but one worth striving for....He supports this claim writing that the arts enhance learning because the systematic integration of the arts developed sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capabilities-all are necessary in the learning process. In other words, the arts develop the brain! As a bonus, the arts reach students who normally disengage from the traditional setting-integration of the arts allows students to discover, find their own level, and most of all, experience real world learning."

I put the last sentence in bold letters, because that is one of the most important parts of arts-based teaching--engaging all of those students who otherwise wouldn't be reached.

If you would like to read more of Eric Jensen's work, we recommend:
Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Integrating Poetry and Music into a Math Class? Yes!

Have you ever thought of integrating poetry and music into your math lessons? It sounds like a great idea to me, and I would think that students would enjoy it as well. Check out the lesson
"A Geometric Song:Patterns in Math and Music" from the Kennedy Center's ARTSEDGE website by clicking on the title of this post. There are a wealth of lessons spanning all grade levels, all subjects, and all arts modalities on the site. It's worth a long look.

You can also get to the site by clicking on it in the links section at the lower right side of your screen. Have fun exploring!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Creating a "safe container" and a judgment-free classroom

I had been thinking about posting about creating a "safe container" and a judgment-free classroom, since that's what we've been focusing on in the first few days of classes. And after reading Donnie's "Set the Tone" post, I wanted to "piggy-back" on some of his points.

I would guess that most people, if not all, who have been made to feel stupid or embarrassed in a classroom setting, put up their defenses and shut themselves down. Why would someone open themselves up to that again? When that happens, creativity is crushed and people feel guarded. To make sure this doesn't happen in my classroom, I lay the groundwork immediately and make it very clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in a firm, yet gentle way. Clearly setting boundaries is an important early step in the process.

Creating a "safe container" and judgment-free classroom is not difficult, but it does take effort and follow-through on the part of the teacher and students. I foster this idea in my classroom by starting out the year doing icebreakers and energizers that help students get to know each other and feel more comfortable in the class setting. But before I do any of this, I let them know in a firm, yet gentle way, that everyone in the classroom is valued and that laughing at someone, putting them down, or just making a gesture (like rolling of the eyes) will not be part of our classroom practice. If it does happen, I simply stop the activity and use the teachable moment to remind students of our classroom practices. I usually only have to do this once or twice if at all. Try it. It has worked wonders in my classroom.

Once students feel safe in my classroom, it becomes an enjoyable and exciting place for them to be, and they start looking forward to being there. And, of course, creativity flourishes and learning soars!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Set the Tone

As we begin the journey that will be school year 08-09, let us be conscious of setting the tone early and often. We must be sure to guard against any intolerance and judging from the outset. These negative factors will keep some of your students from truly expressing themselves through the arts because they will be concerned about the impending backlash. However, we can create a safe zone by being vigilant and not allowing these negatives to be allowed in our classrooms. Even the "playful" jibe is enough to worry our most self-conscious student. Best of luck to all and remember, we inspire best when we ourselves our inspired to do our best!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Integrating Poetry into the Classroom

This group is in the early stages of creating a group poem. The next steps are to lay it out as a journey for the rest of the class to experience and decide how they want to present it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Integrating Drama into the Classroom

The group on the inside is using Image Theatre to depict an important moment in a story. The group on the outside is doing a gallery walk, where they get to witness the frozen tableau from all sides.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Enroll in Northeastern University's Integrated Teaching Through the Arts course on Cape Cod this July

Keith and Jeff will be offering their Integrated Teaching Through the Arts course through Northeastern University right here on Cape Cod July 14-18. You can take it for 3 graduate credits or 68 PDPs. You can get more information and register for the course right here or by clicking on the title of this post. The course is filling up quickly, so check it out. We hope you can join us.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Songs for Social Studies

Hello everyone! Thank you for your emails and support! You have been wonderful!
I wanted to let you know about an educator friend of mine. His name is Steve MacDonald and he is a music educator who has worked at all levels of the public schools. From kindergartners through seniors in high school, the comments are always the same! We love Mr. MacDonald!
He has created a great teaching program called "Songs for Social Studies". I have created a link in the side bar for your use, or simply click on the title of this post!
Keep on Keepin' on!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Provincetown Elementary African Presentation

Click on the title of this post to view Cape Cod Times photographer Steve Heaslip's photo gallery of Provincetown's elementary school using the arts to learn the global education curriculum.
Photo credit: Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

Provincetown uses the arts to teach global education curriculum

A recent article in the Cape Cod Times reports on how the Veteran's Memorial Elementary School in Provincetown, Massachusetts uses the arts in a day-long celebration aimed at teaching African culture. Click on the title of this post to read the article.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Someone is Always Listening

What is poem?

Don’t give me some long, convoluted definition. Just answer the question. Could you? Don’t worry, I can’t either. I can’t say definitively what poetry is and I can’t say with certainty what poetry isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you and I don’t understand the general concept of poetry. I know we do. All I am saying is that neither you nor I, not even the Poet Laureate, has the ability to say that something is or isn’t a poem unless we have written it ourselves. (If you happen to meet him, please don’t tell him I said he couldn’t!)

One of the first things that I try to drive home with my students is that if they say that something they have written is a poem, then it’s a poem, and no one has the right to tell them otherwise! Around Christmas time, I was invited by the parent council to perform a poetry/storytelling evening at my school. About 200 students and parents (Grades 5-8) came back to school on a Thursday night to take in the show, have some hot cocoa, and hopefully learn something. Over the course of an hour I discussed many of my thoughts on poetry and the arts that I will be discussing in these articles, had student volunteers participate with me on stage in a number of activities including the creation and presentation of poems, and storytold. One of these musings about poetry was the statement that only the poet can decide if something is a poem or not, and not to let anyone convince them that something they have written is not a poem if they believe it is.

Jump to the next morning when I placed a before-school work assignment on the board. “Write a poem about winter in your Writing Journal.” Thirty seconds later, one of the students, who tends to have some difficulty focusing, approached me, holding his Writing Journal. I assumed that he had a question. When he reached me he said surprisingly, “I’m finished!” Then he asked, “Would you like to hear my poem?”

“Of course!” I responded.

He cleared his throat and with a put-on passion said, “SNOW!”

Looking me dead in the eye, he smiled a rye smile and said, “I was really listening last night and I say it’s a poem!”


Saturday, January 12, 2008

That Dirty Little Four-Letter Word

You know what I’m talking about! Everything is perfectly normal in your classroom (well… I mean as normal as it can be). Suddenly the atmosphere is sucked out of your room leaving a soundless, scentless (OK, maybe not scentless if your kids had gym that day) vacuum. The cause? It wasn’t a star burning out and leaving a dense black hole in its wake. It wasn’t the hole in our ozone layer expanding to the point where all oxygen, nitrogen, CO2, and whatever else you science teachers know is up there, is violently ripped from our world’s grasp. (If that’s even possible, I don’t know. I don’t teach science.) This catastrophic shift has not been caused by anything even remotely close to that magnitude. No. It has been caused by the utterance of one seemingly harmless, yet somehow daunting, four-letter word. You know the one.

P-O-E-M! AAAAaaaahhhhh! (Insert the “Kill” theme music from PSYCHO here.)

You know you just found yourself going, “Ree Ree Ree Ree...” all alone in front of your computer? Hopefully nobody saw you!
This poetry problem is wide spread. It spans not only schools and towns, but generations of learners and generations of teachers. The reason why? I assert that it is due to too many people teaching and viewing poetry as an elite science that only a few can access, rather than the welcoming and accepting art form that it should truly be for our children and ourselves. Far too many of us have shared the following terrible experiences while we interpreted or wrote poetry in a class:

YOU: Well, I believe that the poet is trying to say (blah, blah, blah).

TEACHER: No. That is incorrect. The poet is actually saying (something that comes out like… Na Na nana NA… I’m smarter than You-ou!).

YOU: I've completed my poem, would you like to read it?
TEACHER: Well... this isn't actually a poem. You see, you need to (pointless advice, that student doesn't hear because they stopped listening and started worrying as soon as the teacher said, "this isn't actually a poem.").

Because of this, a huge section of students have been made to feel that they just don’t get it and definitely can't write it. This is the sentiment that we, as educators, must battle against.

Over my next few posts, my goal is to provide you with thoughts, strategies, and ideas that will hopefully help you to fully integrate poetry into your curriculum. It doesn’t matter whether you teach, English, history, math, science, etc., poetry and the creation of it will reap positive benefits for both you and your students. You will be amazed at what your students can create if they just… well, I won’t spoil it now. Stay tuned!