Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Wonderful Day

Wow! It has been far too long since my last post! I am feeling very energized right now as I have just finished a fabulous day with some wonderful educators. Today I ran "The Blossoming Learner: Integrating the Arts into the Learning Process" workshop for a small... scratch that... intimate group of educators from Weymouth! It was fantastic. I was very impressed with the risks that they were willing to take without the benefit of the large group "safety net." Though it might seem more difficult to perform in front of a large audience it can be the exact opposite. Just a few sets of eyes can be unnerving (Especially when you don't have the benefit of watching others go through the same tasks as you!). I wanted to compliment them and welcome them to the blog! Let the integrating begin!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More on Critical Pedagogy

In his book, Critical Pedagogy (2008, second edition), Joe L. Kincheloe helps us understand the central dynamics of critical pedagogy:

"Advocates of critical pedagogy are aware that every minute of every hour that teachers teach, they are faced with complex decisions concerning justice, democracy, and competing ethical claims. While they have to make individual determinations of what to do in these particular circumstances, they must concurrently deal with what John Goodlad (1994) calls the surrounding institutional morality. A central tenet of critical pedagogy maintains that the classroom, curricular, school structures teachers enter are not neutral sites waiting to be shaped by educational professionals. While such professionals do possess agency, this prerogative is not completely free and independent of decisions made previously by people operating with different values and shaped by the ideologies and cultural assumptions of their historical contexts. These contexts are shaped in the same ways language and knowledge are constructed, as historical power makes particular practices seem natural—as if they could have been constructed in no other way." (Chapter 1).

Later in this same work Kincheloe lists the basic concerns of critical pedagogy:

-all education is inherently political and all pedagogy must be aware of this condition
-a social and educational vision of justice and equality should ground all education
-issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and physical ability are all important domains of oppression and critical anti-hegemonic action.
-the alleviation of oppression and human suffering is a key dimension of educational purpose
-schools must not hurt students--good schools don't blame students for their failures or strip students of the knowledges they bring to the classroom
-all positions including critical pedagogy itself must be problematized and questioned
-the professionalism of teachers must be respected and part of the role of any educator involves becoming a scholar and a researcher
-education must both promote emancipatory change and the cultivation of the intellect--these goals should never be in conflict, they should be synergistic
-the politics of knowledge and issues of epistemology are central to understanding the way power operates in educational institutions to perpetuate privilege and to subjugate the marginalized--"validated" scientific knowledge can often be used as a basis of oppression as it is produced without an appreciation of how dominant power and culture shape it.
-education often reflects the interests and needs of new modes of colonialism and empire. Such dynamics must be exposed, understood, and acted upon as part of critical transformative praxis.

Excerpted from karr.net

I highly recommend Kincheloe's book written with Karel Rose:

Karel Rose and Joe Kincheloe, Art, Culture and Education: Artful Teaching in a Fractured Landscape, Peter Lang, New York, 2003

Note: I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Joe Kincheloe. You can find out more about his incredible life and work at The Freire Project website.

Defining Critical Pedagogy

I came across this definition of critical pedagogy at karr.net.

Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach that attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. Critical pedagogue Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as

"Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clich├ęs, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse." (Empowering Education, 129)

Critical Pedagogy includes relationships between teaching and learning. It is a continuous process of unlearning, learning and relearning, reflection, evaluation and the impact that these actions have on the students, in particular students who have been historically and continue to be disenfranchised by traditional schooling.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Michelle Obama Speaks to the Value of Arts Education


Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release May 18, 2009


Metropolitan Opera House
New York, New York

7:00 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Well, thank you, Caroline. I am thrilled to be here in support of American Ballet Theatre and to join you in celebrating the opening night of ABT's spring season.

Through its leadership role as America's National Ballet Company, ABT's education programs reach over 25,000 students in some of the most underserved communities and schools across the nation.

In many cases, a child's first inspiration through the arts can be a life-changing experience. One creative dance class can open a world of expression and communication. Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills in reading, language arts and math, and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems.

My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation's leaders for tomorrow. (Applause.) And it is our hope that we can all work together to expose, enrich and empower Americans of all ages through the arts.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce the students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School for their first appearance on this stage of the Met. This dance academy is a wonderful legacy for a woman who dedicated so much of her life to making arts and culture accessible for all.

Thank you, and enjoy. (Applause.)

Advocating for Arts Integration in Schools

In this interview in the Wittenberg Journal of Education, Dr. Lora Lawson who teaches Integrating Literature, Art, Drama, Dance, and Music Throughout the Curriculum at Wittenberg discusses advocating for arts integration among other things. Here's an excerpt:

WJE: How would you recommend teachers and others supporting the arts advocate for arts integration in school?

Lawson: It depends on what will convince the audience. But first, provide data. Spread the word about research supporting arts integration. For example, arts-based programs around the country are demonstrating they can engage disadvantaged youth in schools, as evidence by increased attendance and graduation rates, and the closing of achievement gaps. Talk about research that concludes school reform through the arts can result in better student motivation, increased problem solving and higher-order thinking skills, better multicultural understanding, and more.

Next, tell the story: share examples of effective arts integration programs. Ask people to remember the arts in their schooling and childhood. Have the current students tell their stories.

Test scores Rising up to Two Times Faster in Chicago Arts-Integrated Schools - Washington Post

The knee-jerk reaction to the attempt to raise student test scores is to go back to the old ways...drill, drill, drill. Yet more research is coming out to suggest that may not be the best way to get the scores up. This Washington Post article titled "The Art of Education Success" discusses the benefits of integrating the arts into the curriculum. Here's some excerpts:

The new economy may require higher-order skills such as creativity, adaptability and teamwork, but most schools in low-income areas focus narrowly on "basic" academic skills, testing and discipline. The student boredom and academic failure that follow prompt calls for yet more testing and discipline.

The first school and others like it are proving that integrating the arts into the core of the academic program is a far more productive strategy. Recently the principal of Edgebrook, Chicago's highest-scoring non-selective elementary school, attributed her school's success to its embrace of the arts. "We were concerned we might see a negative impact on test scores," Diane Maciejewski said. "But actually, just the opposite happened."

A growing body of research is yielding data that support her claim. A study of 23 arts-integrated schools in Chicago showed test scores rising up to two times faster there than in demographically comparable schools. A study of a Minneapolis program showed that arts integration has substantial effects for all students, but appears to have its greatest impact on disadvantaged learners. Gains go well beyond the basics and test scores. Students become better thinkers, develop higher-order skills, and deepen their inclination to learn.

These successes make clear that the arts are not just affective and expressive. They are also deeply cognitive. They develop the tools of thinking itself: careful observation of the world, mental representation of what is observed or imagined, abstraction from complexity, pattern recognition and development, symbolic and metaphoric representation, and qualitative judgment. We use these same thinking tools in science, philosophy, math and history. The advantage of the arts is that they link cognitive growth to social and emotional development. Students care more deeply about what they study, they see the links between subjects and their lives, their thinking capacities grow, they work more diligently, and they learn from each other.

Brain research confirms the benefits of Integrating the Arts

This is from the Maryland Fine Arts Education Tool Kit.

Common to all subject areas across the curriculum are various “overarching” skills and processes, such as synthesis, analysis, reasoning, and communication. Integrating the fine arts with other disciplines (core content areas) through instruction and assessment supports the development of these skills and processes.

Real-life tasks require constant and complex integration of learning that crosses content area and disciplinary boundaries. Educators can enhance student learning by creating opportunities for students to make connections between arts content areas and other disciplines across the curriculum. Recent studies conducted in the area of brain research and the development of higher order thinking skills have also confirmed the benefits of integrating fine arts education across the curriculum.

Integration of learning outcomes across disciplines may take a number of different forms, including:

  • Incorporation of a content standard (i.e., learning outcome) from one content area to enhance that in another;
  • Identification of universal themes and commonalities between and among content areas to enhance knowledge and skills in each;
  • Application of skills, materials, and processes from one content area to create a product that will have meaningful application in another; and
  • Use of knowledge about something in one content area (declarative knowledge) to shape a creative product or process in another.

Instructional practices in visual arts education support and are enhanced by learning not only in other arts disciplines, but in core content areas such as mathematics, science, social studies, and English language arts.

Visual arts education may provide an interdisciplinary context for exploring key ideas that include:

  • Understanding of physical and chemical properties of substances (science);
  • Interpretations of literary texts (language arts);
  • Application of mathematical concepts such as line, shape, and space (mathematics); and
  • Understanding of ways in which social and cultural values are defined and expressed throughout history (social studies).

Integrating the Arts with Academic Subject Boosts Student Scores

This article from America.gov discusses the Kennedy Center's Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) program. Here are some excerpts:

"A controlled comparison has shown that CETA students showed significant improvement in non-art academic achievement — including test scores in English and history — and effort grades, according to the school district’s Web site."

(Note from Jeff) This is something that we arts-based educators have know for a long time, but it's great to see it substantiated and a great counterpoint to those who want to increase the drill, drill, drill methodology to get students ready for standardized tests.

"Student engagement and motivation to learn has risen. There has been a positive impact on test scores overall, but much of the impact of deeper learning is not measured by standardized tests. We are especially noticing that English language learners and special education students benefit even more from arts integration.”

“It’s all about helping students learn. The byproducts are that teachers get re-energized about teaching and schools become collaborative learning places,” he said. “CETA is helping develop 21st-century schools.”

This quote is from the CETA website; it's worth a long look.

Our whole school is integrating the arts, thanks to the CETA program. The culture of our school is completely different because the arts are a regular part of instruction in classrooms on a continual basis. It has changed the way we define our school.—CETA Teacher

Now that's a testament to integrating the arts if I've ever heard one!

Excellent Activities for Integrating the Arts

This comes from a series of activities from a workshop by Dr. Sue Snyder for Oak Grove Upper Elementary School in Mississippi. They can be adapted for any level. Visual Art, Creative Movement, Music and more are clearly described. It's worth a look!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interchange: Engaging Students Through the Arts in St. Louis

Here is another link I found on the HotChalk blog. It's called Interchange, and it's an integrated arts program in St. Louis. Here is an excerpt from their site:

What is Arts Integration?
Not all children learn in the same way. The arts can bring the curriculum to life, engage students and encourage learning. Through Interchange, community partners are helping classroom teachers in the St. Louis Public Schools do what they do best by providing additional support through arts-infused learning.

Arts integration incorporates the arts throughout the learning process by infusing some form of art, such as theater, music, dance, drawing, poetry, or other expression of creativity, into the core curriculum. It is experiential in nature and encourages learning by "doing." Using arts and cultural resources to expand the ways teachers teach and students learn has been proved to achieve measurable results. Arts integration also helps develop the whole child, ensuring a well-rounded education.

Integrating arts and cultural programs throughout the learning process is an addition to — not a substitution for — fine arts classes. Interchange strongly supports classes devoted exclusively to instruction in art and music, in addition to having a full range of the arts as part of the learning experience in all subject areas.

Click here to read about some examples of arts integration at work in the St. Louis Public Schools in the 2007-2008 school year.

How does arts integration work?
The arts engage students in learning and ensure that all students grasp key concepts by reaching beyond textbooks and lectures.

What can we expect from Interchange's partnership with the St. Louis Public Schools?
Arts integration is a model that is working to improve student outcomes in urban public schools across the country.

In St. Louis, we can expect:

Improved student performance. read more

Improved critical thinking skills. read more

Expanded teaching skills that engage the whole child. read more

Improved outcomes related to overall school culture and attendance. read more


Want to learn more about arts integration? Click here for some recommended sites to visit.


Click here to see some examples of Arts Integration.

Arts Every Day: Why Arts Integration

This is another great link I found on the HotChalk blog. It's from Arts Every Day, an organization that works on integrating the arts in Baltimore.

"When well planned and implemented, arts integration is one of the most effective ways for a wide range of students with a wide range of interests, aptitudes, styles, and experiences to form a community of active learners taking responsibility for and ownership of their own learning."

Renaissance in the Classroom, pg. xxvi

What is arts integration?

Arts integration is instruction that integrates content and skills from the arts—dance, music, theater, and the visual arts—with other core subjects. Arts integration occurs when there is a seamless blending of the content and skills of an art form with those of a co-curricular subject.

Why do it?

  • Arts integration is highly effective in engaging and motivating students. It supports the academic achievement and improved social behavior of students while enhancing school climate and parental involvement.
  • A rich array of arts skills and intellectual processes provide multiple entry points for students to approach content in other subject areas, while the arts instruction is likewise deepened through integration of content from the other subject areas. The arts provide students multiple modes for demonstrating learning and competency.
  • It enlivens the teaching and learning experience for entire school communities. At its best, arts integration is transformative for students, teachers, and communities. The imaginations and creative capacities of teachers and students are nurtured and their aspirations afforded many avenues for realization and recognition.

How do you do it?

  • Arts integration is a fundamental culture shift. It takes time to build awareness, understanding, and commitment among members of the school community.
  • Ongoing professional development is essential to give classroom teachers facility in arts disciplines, enable them to analyze curricula to find the natural connections between arts curricula and the curricula of other subject areas, and create lessons and units of instruction.
  • Collaboration is essential between and among classroom teachers and arts specialists. Common planning time is critical.
  • Arts specialists are key resources, collaborators, and leaders in developing arts integration programs. They are extremely valuable in guiding the planning of professional development and supporting collaboration among teachers and with partners such as cultural institutions and teaching artists.

What are budget and structural priorities for becoming an arts integration schools?

  • Staffing that includes as many arts disciplines as possible and an arts integration specialist or lead teacher is a priority. Some schools use part-time or shared positions to extend their reach.
  • Professional development—schools that are highly successful in arts integration provide ongoing training experiences for their teachers, whose capacity in arts integration will deepen over time.
  • Schedules that include common planning time allowing classroom teachers to collaborate with arts specialists and others are vital. Collaboration with arts organizations and teaching artists will provide rich arts integration experiences for students and professional development for teachers.

What is a realistic timeline?

It may take three years to fully realize potential as an arts integration school. Planning to achieve this goal is essential. While schools tailor their own pathways to successful arts integration programs, there are some useful steps many follow. What follows is not intended to be prescriptive but rather suggestive of a successful process.

Phase 1:

  • Build awareness and commitment within the school community, including among parents.
  • Look at arts integration models in schools in Baltimore and across Maryland.
  • Begin to build staff in the arts.
  • Engage the school community in planning.
  • Begin to identify and engage partners from the cultural community.
  • Form a team to participate in arts integration professional development and share their experiences with colleagues.
  • Make budgetary decisions that reflect a commitment to arts integration.

Phase 2:

  • Continue to build staff in the arts.
  • Provide professional development for more teachers in arts integration. Those who received introductory training progress to more advanced work.
  • Address leadership for arts integration through arts staff, trained classroom teachers, and an arts integration specialist.
  • Identify arts integration mentor teachers on staff who could assist in the training of new personnel.
  • Network with other arts integration schools in the city and state.
  • Share successful arts integration units with the school community.
  • Display curriculum maps. Curriculum mapping is the process of delineating natural connections among curricula for various subject areas, identifying the outcomes being met through an arts integrated lesson or unit.
  • Seek cultural experiences for students that are linked to arts integration through collaboration with arts organizations and teaching artists.

Phase 3:

Continue with the above steps and attain specific goals such as:

  • Provide staffing in all four arts disciplines even if utilizing part-time staffing.
  • Ensure that all teachers have received professional development in arts integration, with some having extensive training.
  • Share your work with your community and celebrate the imagination of your students and teachers!

Arts Every Day is an organization dedicated to working in partnership with Baltimore City schools to inspire students and enhance learning by facilitating excellence in arts education and arts integration.

Related Links

Washington D.C. recently adopts comprehensive art education learning standards for its students

While reading about integrating the arts at the hotchalk blog, I came across some links that are good news for arts-based educators across the country. Washington D.C. has adopted comprehensive art education learning standards for its students. Here is the introduction:

In its recent report, “Tough Choices, Tough Times,” the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote compellingly about future skills that will be needed by America’s workforce, and the transformation that is going to have to occur in our nation’s schools in order to compete in the global economy.1 Reports continue to document that “United States leadership depends on creativity and innovation and not technology alone in order to compete in the global marketplace. Strong skills in the arts are essential qualities needed for success in the workplace: “creative and innovative, self-disciplined and well organized team players who are flexible and adaptable to change and facility with the use of ideas and abstractions."2 The arts enable students to develop the capacities to create, perform, use critical judgment, problem solve and appreciate many forms of art.

One goal of arts education in Washington, DC (District) is to prepare our students to be vibrant participants in a creative economy and positive contributors in our democratic society. Americans for the Arts, a leading nonprofit organization promoting the arts in America, estimates that the economic impact of the arts in the greater Washington metropolitan area is $2.1 billion, and that they contribute $144 million to the region’s tax base. The industry supports almost 12,000 jobs in the District of Columbia alone, 45,000 in the greater metro area.

High quality, sequential education in the arts, along with interaction with cultural organizations and artists, contributes in multiple ways to the development of workforce skills and the capacity to learn. Time dedicated to the study of the arts does not work to the detriment of other academic subjects. The arts reinforce learning, motivate and engage students, reduce dropout rates, defuse school violence and help retain teachers. The arts provide meaning to academics and to life.

Those in the arts community often talk about the “intrinsic” and “instrumental” value of the arts. Whether being awed by a dance performance, moved by music, captivated by the theater, or enthralled by appointing, art for art’s sake, has a powerful inherent value. For the District’s school children to compete in today’s world, the arts must play an instrumental role in the overall curriculum. We cannot ignore the growing body of literature that relates art education to the learning of other subjects like social studies, mathematics and reading. In March 2008, the results of a major, scientific three-year study, The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, stated that training in the arts has positive benefits for ”more cognitive mechanisms.”3 For example, the study found correlations existing between music training and both reading acquisition and sequence learning. Training in acting
appeared to lead to memory improvement. Eliot W. Eisner, Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading education thinkers, believes that among many positive outcomes, the arts teach students to make valuable judgments about qualitative relationships, recognize that problems in life can have more than one solution, celebrate multiple perspectives, understand and recognize that small differences can have large effects and say what cannot be written or spoken.4

1 “Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report on the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce” (National Center on Education and the
Economy, 2006).
2 “The Imagine Nation: Moving America’s Children Beyond Average imagination and the 21st Century Education (Poll conducted by Lake
Research Partners and released by AEP The ImagineNation, January, 2008

3 “Learning, Arts, and the Brain.” Report released by the Dana Foundation on March 4, 2008. The Report was based on a three-year scientific
study conducted by seven major universities across the United States.
4 Elliot W. Eisner, PhD., Stanford University, works in Arts Education, Curriculum Studies, and Qualitative Research Methodology. See “The Arts and the
Creation of the Mind,” Chapter 4 (Yale University Press, 2002).

It's great to see this taking place on a large scale. Let's hope it continues to take hold and gain traction throughout the country. It's also nice to see that many of the points made in this introduction are similar to those made on this blog.

What is Authentic Assessment?

This is an excerpt on defining authentic assessment from eduplace.com:

Authentic assessment refers to assessment tasks that resemble reading and writing in the real world and in school (Hiebert, Valencia & Afflerbach, 1994; Wiggins, 1993). Its aim is to assess many different kinds of literacy abilities in contexts that closely resemble actual situations in which those abilities are used. For example, authentic assessments ask students to read real texts, to write for authentic purposes about meaningful topics, and to participate in authentic literacy tasks such as discussing books, keeping journals, writing letters, and revising a piece of writing until it works for the reader. Both the material and the assessment tasks look as natural as possible. Furthermore, authentic assessment values the thinking behind work, the process, as much as the finished product (Pearson & Valencia, 1987; Wiggins, 1989; Wolf, 1989).

(A comment from Jeff: this last sentence really resonates with me, as I have always believed that the journey is just as important as the destination when it comes to learning. We need to strike a balance between the two, if we are going to authentically assess our students.)

Working on authentic tasks is a useful, engaging activity in itself; it becomes an "episode of learning" for the student (Wolf, 1989). From the teacher's perspective, teaching to such tasks guarantees that we are concentrating on worthwhile skills and strategies (Wiggins, 1989). Students are learning and practicing how to apply important knowledge and skills for authentic purposes. They should not simply recall information or circle isolated vowel sounds in words; they should apply what they know to new tasks. For example, consider the difference between asking students to identify all the metaphors in a story and asking them to discuss why the author used particular metaphors and what effect they had on the story. In the latter case, students must put their knowledge and skills to work just as they might do naturally in or out of school.

Goals of Authentic Assessment are discussed in the article Incorporating Authentic Assessment from Park University. Here is an excerpt:

Goals of Authentic Assessment:
  • Enhance the development of real-world skills
  • Encourage higher order cognitive skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)
  • Promote active construction of creative, novel ideas and responses
  • Encourage emphasis on both the process and product of learning
  • Promote the integration of a variety of related skills into a holistic project
  • Enhance students' ability to self-assess their own work and performance
There is a great deal more in this article including a chart that compares traditional assessment with authentic assessment, advantages and disadvantages of both, guidelines for creating authentic assessment and much more. Check it out; it's worth a close reading.

Although it doesn't specifically mention integrating the arts, it doesn't take too much effort to see how one could use those ideas with authentic assessment.

Formative and Summative Assessments

It may be important to define some terms as we continue to discuss assessments. The following definitions are from the article Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom by Catherine Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus.

Summative Assessments are given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what students know and do not know. Many associate summative assessments only with standardized tests such as state assessments, but they are also used at and are an important part of district and classroom programs. Summative assessment at the district/classroom level is an accountability measure that is generally used as part of the grading process.

Formative Assessment is part of the instructional process. When incorporated into classroom practice, it provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made. These adjustments help to ensure students achieve, targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame.

For further study, you can read "The Concept of Formative Assessment" by Carol Boston at the Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation online journal.

"Versatile teachers encourage many forms of expression"

The line "Versatile teachers encourage many forms of expression" taken directly from the Massachusetts Learning Standards should lead many of us to examine our teaching practices. Are we, in fact, allowing our students to express themselves in many different ways? By extension, are we using various forms of assessment that tie into the multiple intelligences? Or is it always the same? Quiz. Test. Quiz. Test with an occasional paper thrown in? Are we gearing our assessments just to those students who do well linguistically and mathematical/spatially? What about those students whose intelligences are stronger in other areas? Does it mean they haven't mastered the concepts if they do poorly on a test? Can't they show their mastery in other ways? The answer is yes, and it is our responsibility as educators to use multiple forms of assessment, so we can authentically assess our student's progress.

Integrating Mathematics with Dance? Come on, is that in the Massachusetts Frameworks?

You bet it is!

Don't believe me? Check it out.

PreK-12 Standard 10: Interdisciplinary Connections

Students will use knowledge of the arts and cultural resources in the study of the arts, English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social sciences, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering.

Learning Standards

Students will

10.1 Integrate knowledge of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts and apply the arts to learning other disciplines

Examples of this include:

• using visual arts skills to illustrate understanding of a story read in English language arts or foreign languages;

• memorizing and singing American folk songs to enhance understanding of history and geography;

• using short dance sequences to clarify concepts in mathematics.

So there it is once again. Integrating the arts across the curriculum being supported by the Massachusetts State Learning Standards/Frameworks. Still don't believe me? Then click on the link and see for yourself. Better yet, click on it even if you do believe me and check out all of the frameworks-you might be surprised what's there.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Making Connections Across the Curriculum

Back to the Massachusetts Educational Curriculum Frameworks which advocate for making connections across the curriculum. Here's what it says:

Making Connections across the Curriculum

Teaching an interdisciplinary curriculum involves collaboration among faculty and the community. Teachers and students might explore topics such as:

• visual, oral, aural, and kinetic elements of the four arts disciplines;
• characteristics common to the process of creating art works in each discipline;
• interpretations of a theme or concept, such as harmony or compassion, through each of the four arts disciplines;
the ways in which the content of other disciplines is interrelated with the arts; including languages and literacy, scientific principles, mathematical reasoning, and geographical, cultural, and historical knowledge; and
the ways in which concepts from other core disciplines may be expressed through the arts.

While all of these points are important, I want to focus on the point of the last two since they deal with integrating the arts. They make a direct correlation between the arts and science, math, language and history and how concepts from these core disciplines, even though I'm not a fan of that term, can be "expressed through the arts."

I know I keep harping on this point, but the practice of integrating the arts is backed up by the highest educational power in the state. We need to become fluent in these frameworks, as we move forward in implementing them. We need to put language to what it is that we do in our classrooms so that others can understand and get behind it.

Learning by Doing

Okay, by now you're used to hearing this kind of thing coming from me, but this is from the Massachusetts Frameworks for education. I have highlighted the areas in color.

Learning By Doing

Students learn about the arts from the artist’s perspective by active participation — they learn by doing. They come to understand the specific ways in which dancers, composers, musicians, visual artists, or actors think, solve problems, and make aesthetic choices. Massachusetts schools should educate students to think like artists, just as they teach students to think like writers, historians, scientists, or mathematicians.

Learning in, about, and through the arts can lead to a profound sense of understanding, joy, and accomplishment. It is important that students learn to express and understand ideas that are communicated in sounds, images, and movements, as well as in written or spoken words. Sequential education in any of the arts disciplines emphasizes imaginative and reflective thought, and provides an introduction to the ways that human beings express insights in cultures throughout the world.

This is significant for those of us who are arts-based educators and need the language to communicate what we are doing in our classrooms to administrators, colleagues, parents, and others. It is important to become familiar with these frameworks, so that we can substantiate our practices when called upon to do so.

Here's some more from Pre-K to Grade four where the goal is to develop and sustain the natural curiosity, expressiveness, and creativity that very young children often display. Arts education begins with a foundation that emphasizes exploration, experimentation, engagement of the senses, and discussion as paths to understanding.

Young children use the arts to explore sensation and recreate their memory of real and imagined events. They are trying to find out all they can about the expressive qualities inherent in different forms of communication. Through what they choose to dramatize, sing, or paint, children let others know what is important, trivial, appealing, or frightening in their lives. Because arts experiences allow children to play with ideas and concepts, students often express freely in their artwork ideas and understandings that do not emerge in other classroom work. Versatile teachers encourage many forms of expression and learn how to appreciate the messages children transmit through their artworks.

Here are more ideas that back up integrating the arts across the curriculum and advocate for multiple forms of assessment and varied teaching strategies. Here the state, the same folks who standardize test our kids to the point of absurdity, is advocating for the arts and by extension, integrating the arts into the classroom. We all need to make sure we know this and can put language to it as we move forward.

Writing a short story in English class-is it fluff? You might be surprised who says no.

The State of Massachusetts!

The English Language Proficiency and Outcomes Benchmarks in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks state:

[The student] Writes a story or script with theme and details. (W.2.17a)

The main point here is not about creative writing, it's about becoming familiar with the learning standards in your state. This way you can put language to your teaching methods and defend them, if need be, to administrators who don't get what it is you are trying to do. Too often the arts are looked on as fluff, whether they are taught as an art class or as an integrated learning experience. So, we not only have to keep adding to our creativity as educators and learners, but we need to be able to express how what we are doing as arts-based educators is backed up by our state standards. Massachusetts has standards that relate to dance, visual arts, theater, poetry and more. Check them out and put language to what you are doing in class.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Science and Dance together, What?

I constantly have math and science teachers tell me "this is a math (or science) class, I can't integrate the arts like they do in English and History." To that I heartily disagree. Don't believe me? Then check out this lesson on the ArtsEdge site that pairs Atomic and Molecular Structure with Dance. And oh ya, you're worried about standards right? Don't be, it covers National Standards in Dance, Physical Education, and of course Science. Here's the lesson overview:

In this lesson, students will utilize their knowledge of basic physical science concepts to create movement patterns that simulate the movement of atoms and molecules. They will formulate and answer questions about how movement choices communicate abstract ideas in dance and demonstrate an understanding of how personal experience influences the interpretation of a dance.

Need an example of pairing Math with Dance? Try this one for grades 1 & 2 called Shaping Patterns and Dancing Shapes. Here's the lesson overview"

Students verbally explain and then create with a stretch rope several geometric shapes (triangle, rectangle, square, and circle). Students also identify and create the missing shape in a set of patterns. After exploring ways to arrange the four geometric shapes, students work in small groups to create a dance including all four shapes and transitional movements.

The point is this: Math and Science lessons readily lend themselves to integrating the arts. One of the main blocks that I find with teachers is the trepidation of breaking out of the way that it's all been done for a hundred years, when that is exactly what our kids need. Why not take a chance and give it a shot.

"Textbooks dare not speak of"

I've written a number of posts about designing curriculum and instruction that allows students to construct their own meaning and make real connections to what is being taught. One student of mine wrote this in a reflective piece after concluding a unit based on the book The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Students wrote poems and letters from one character to another. They also had a choice between visual art pieces, musical pieces and any type of project that utilized one or more art modalities. They were also required to write short reflective responses to different lessons that got beyond the head and into the heart and gut. At the end of the unit, they were asked to write a reflective essay on the entire experience. Here is the excerpt:

"The unit on Vietnam that has been covered in class is unlike anything that I have ever done in English class, and perhaps school in general. We, as a class, were able to feel some of the more emotional aspects of war that our textbooks dare not speak of."

This student was able to connect with the material on a level that was very personal and powerful and transcend the normal experience with textbooks. He states that he was able to "feel" what was being learned, which by his own admission is an experience he had not had previously in school. We should try to get all of our students to connect in such a way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Creating New Knowledge or Perpetuating Established Knowledge?

Continuing on this thread of pedagogical posts, I came across an interesting student paper by kcofrinhsa titled "Evolving Views on Education and the Nature of Knowledge." on the Serendip blog from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. It's an interesting piece that deserves a close reading. Here are some points that resonate for me.

1. The concept of our brains being "creators of new knowledge" or "mechanisms meant to perpetuate already established knowledge." When we think of our own pedagogical concepts as educators, which is more important for students? Clearly there is knowledge that needs to be passed on, but it's what students make out of that knowledge that constitutes true learning. We, as educators, need to be acutely aware that allowing students to construct their own meaning is key, especially as we continue our journeys through the conceptual age.

2. Allowing students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum is a key component in education. Are the basic tenets of our curriculum geared toward the dominant group? Are other groups institutionally marginalized? An interesting metaphor is cited from Emily Style's article "Curriculum as Window & Mirror:"

"If the student is understood as occupying a dwelling of self, education needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected (21).

The paper goes on to say that many schools are attempting this by adding such authors as Toni Morrison to their literature classes. However, the author makes a great point when he/she states that these "new types of literature have been added to the curriculum without changing traditional methods of literary study" (Vinz). The author goes on to cite a case where a "class discussion reveals a forced discussion where the teacher inadvertently dismisses student's ideas about the novel." We need to move past the idea that the teacher is the font of knowledge who regulates the interpretations in the classrooms and knows just what the author is intending in a work. I've always wondered how teachers know the meanings that Henry David Thoreau is putting forth in Walden or exactly what Walt Whitman means in "Song of Myself?" Isn't it more fitting to allow students to construct their own meanings and allow them to back up their ideas with evidence and analysis rather than state they are wrong right off the bat? This would suggest that while adding these new titles which reflect other groups in society is a good thing, we also need to change our teaching strategies around them.

This paper is worth a read and some heavy consideration. It also stands as a prime example that our students can construct their own meanings and make excellent points just as kcofrinsha has done here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Moving into the "Conceptual Age" where "data will be less important than creativity"

I've voiced my concern on many occasions regarding my fear that our schools are training a generation of students who are adept at taking standardized tests and following the status quo instead of thinking creatively and critically.

One question I continue to ask educators is why are we still using a system of educating our children that was developed to train industrial workers in the early 1900s? Especially since most of our industry has moved on.

Author and speaker Daniel Pink says that we've moved through the information age and are now in what he calls the "conceptual age." In this age it's creativity and the "ability to move smoothly between boundaries" that will pay off for our students.

I came across this Boston Globe article by Penelope Trunk and have excerpted a part of it below:

"We are entering a new age in economic history, and it will elevate those who are nimble and creative. When we moved from industrial economy to the information economy, jobs became more interesting; coal miners were unemployed, tech support centers hired like mad, and secretaries became small-time database operators. Now we're in the early stages of the "conceptual age" in which data will be less important than creativity, and jobs will be more fulfilling.

Daniel Pink presents this one-minute economic history in his book, "A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age." He says, "Key abilities will not be high tech but high touch," and we will value the ability to make meaning and connections in a world where information is a commodity.

According to Pink, the people who will do best in this economy are those who don't just take and give orders but also move smoothly between boundaries, like the technical guru who understands marketing or the accountant who speaks four languages. "But," Pink warns, "you cannot get a move-smoothly-between-boundaries aptitude test, so a lot of this is about self-discovery."

Here are some traits you need to develop to do well in the conceptual age:

  1. Empathy. Think emotional intelligence on steroids. The most empathetic people have the ability to see an issue from many different perspectives. And work that can be done without infused empathy begs to be outsourced.
  2. Aesthetic eye. Pink says, "Design sense has become a form of business literacy like learning to use Microsoft Excel. Smart business people should start reading design magazines."
  3. Ability to negotiate and navigate. The conceptual age will be filled with possibilities that point to no single truth. Pink says, "People must learn to do something that is not routine, that doesn't have a right answer."

Bottom line: You'll have to be creative to stay employed. But really, who doesn't want to be creative? It's inherently more rewarding to be creative than to be an information drone.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and author of "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention," says that, "Being creative is a way in which life becomes richer."

"But if you want to be creative you must learn to do something well. You need to learn a set of skills, and then, once you feel comfortable you can ask yourself how you can make it better."

Those with no patience for climbing traditional corporate ladders, pay heed: Innovation without a basic knowledge in that area is not creativity but dilettantism. Not that dabbling in topics you know nothing about isn't fun, but that lifestyle will not create the kind of value that keeps your job this side of the ocean. To find what you love to do, Csikszentmihalyi recommends exploration.

"A richer life is one in which you have access to different aspects of the world." Sure, you need to find your talents to figure out where you will put your creative energy."

One of the statements that really resonates with me is valuing the ability to "make meaning and connections in a world where information is a commodity." If this is the case, and I believe it is, then why aren't our schools spending more time helping students make meaning and connections in the learning process. Why are so many of our classes filled with long lectures, recall activities, and worksheets copied from mass produced workbooks that basically amount to busy work?

The answer is clear. We must change our teaching methods to include higher order thinking skills and tailor our lessons to the individual's learning styles while touching on all of the multiple intelligences. Integrating the arts is one way to achieve this goal, to energize our classrooms, and to engage our students. The time is now...it's actually past now.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Constructivism and Critical Pedagogy

While perusing the Critical Pedagogy on the web site, I came across this discussion of Constructivism and its ties with critical pedagogy. It's worth taking a few moments to read. The red highlighting is done by me.


"A philosophy that views learning as an active process in which learners construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through action and reflection. Constructivists argue that individuals generate rules and mental models as the result of their experiences with both other human subjects and their environments and in turn use these rules and models to make sense of new experiences.

Three important concepts emerge from this definition:

  1. Knowledge is socially constructed. It is not something that exists outside of language and the social subjects who use it. Learning--obtaining knowledge and making meaning--is thus a social process rather than the work of the isolated individual mind; it cannot be divorced from learners' social context.
  2. Learning is an active process. Students learn by doing rather than by passively absorbing information.
  3. Knowledge is constructed from experience. Students bring prior knowledge into a learning situation, which in turn forms the basis for their construction of new knowledge. Upon encountering something new, learners must first reconcile it in some way with their previous ideas and experiences. This may mean changing what they believe, expanding their understanding, or disregarding the new information as irrelevant.

In this framework then, learning is not a process of transmission of information from teacher to student, a model which positions the student as a passive receptacle, but an active process of construction on the part of the learner that involves making meaning out of a multiplicity stimuli.

In practice, educators use active techniques (experiments, real-world examples, problem solving activities, dialogues) to introduce students to information and issues and then encourage students to reflect on and talk about what they did and how their understanding is changing. The teacher makes sure she understands the students' preexisting conceptions and guides activities to address and build on them. Constructivism also often utilizes collaboration and peer criticism as a way of facilitating students' abilities to reach a new level of understanding.

Relationship to Critical Pedagogy
Many of the characteristic tenets of critical pedagogy are consistent with a constructivist approach to education. Long before Paulo Freire (1921-1997) wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), which contains his famous critique of the "banking concept of education" (education that revolves around the actions of teachers who "deposit" knowledge into their passive students), John Dewey (1859-1952), generally considered the founder of "progressive" education and constructivist educational theory in the United States, rejected teaching practices that positioned students as passive receptacles, such as the rote learning of isolated facts, advocating instead for a pedagogical approach that involved students' active engagement with each other and with the world. Like Freire, who embraced both "problem posing" and dialogic educational practices, Dewey emphasized the importance of active social learning environments, rather than one-sided lectures, and argued that learning involves the active construction of knowledge through engagement with ideas in meaningful contexts, rather than the passive absorption of isolated bits of information. And just as Freire maintained that education must engage with the language and experiences of learners, drawing upon their thematic universes, Dewey had also argued that learning takes place within meaningful contexts that allow students to build upon the knowledge they already have. Both argue that educators need to understand the experiences and world views of their students in order to successfully further the learning process. Moreover, both associate learning with critical reflection, with actively seeking after truth and applying it to future problems. They also draw a connection between critical reflection and politics, with Freire linking critical reflection with the fight against oppressive social conditions and Dewey linking it to responsible and ethical democratic citizenship."

So, if in fact learning is not about the "transmission of information" from teacher to student, and in no way do I believe it is, then why are so many of our classrooms and beliefs about education in this country working under that model? Why are we stuck in a system that was set up to train workers during the Industrial Revolution? We all need to work to bring our pedagogy into the 21st century and engage our students with relevant ideas that matter to them. We need to actively involve them and get them excited about what is going on in the classroom, not keep them in hard, straightback chairs when what they want to do is move. We need to practice "critical reflection," so we are helping them to think for themselves and not training them to be good standardized test takers.
We need to integrate the arts across the curriculum and grade levels to engage our students and energize our classrooms.

Critical Pedagogy: Paulo Freire and the Banking Theory of Education

Paulo Freire's Banking Theory of Education positions students as empty vessels to be filled by the teacher. According to Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, education is traditionally framed as "an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor" (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 58). In this framework, the teacher lectures, and the students "receive, memorize, and repeat" (58). Freire explains that banking education is generally characterized by the following oppressive attitudes and practices:

  • the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
  • the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
  • the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
  • the teacher talks and the students listen-meekly;
  • the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
  • the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
  • the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
  • the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who are not consulted) adapt to it;
  • the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his own professional authority, which he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
  • the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects (59).
If any of this speaks to you, I would highly recommend reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Keith and I use it in our courses, and it is always one of those books that students find extremely powerful and transformative. If you're not familiar with Freire or Critical Pedagogy, then click here Critical Pedagogy on the Web, and it will take you to the site where the above information comes from.

Making Learning Relevant to Student's Lives and Interests

In a recent post titled "Seven Thoughts on Implementing Positive Change in the Way We Teach our Students," (click on the title of this post to read it in its entirety) I discussed making learning relevant to students' lives and interests. This is a way to engage students and get them excited about learning. When that happens, the sky is the limit. But how to do it?

Here's a couple of ideas tied to the teaching of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare that could be adapted for use with other works as well. I'm sure these ideas are not completely original with me, and that there are many of you out there who do these or something like them, if so I'd love for you to share your versions here on the blog. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

1. Texting
We should all pretty much be able to agree that cell phones and texting are common to most high school students. They text each other all the time. So why not bring it into the classroom? After reading the balcony scene, which many students are asked to memorize, why not have students re-imagine it as a texting conversation? Rather than memorization, this is something that students will get excited about and really get engaged in. They have to really read the material closely and understand it before they can "translate" it into texting language. To make it even more powerful, two students could take the parts and actually text each other the assignment. This would also lend it more authenticity. Sharing this in class would be a lot of fun, and fun in the classroom should not be discounted.

2. Romeo's Song
There are not too many high school students who are not into music in a very big way. So isn't it natural to bring THEIR music into the classroom? Won't they be excited to share what they listen to? Here's one way to do it: after reading about Romeo's unrequited love for Rosaline in the first scene, ask students to go home and choose a song that would fit how Romeo is feeling at that moment. Then they can write a paragraph on why this song is appropriate and include some evidence and analysis. They can bring the song into class the next day on an ipod, a CD, or just bring in the lyrics. Then you can turn the class over to them and let them present their song, usually the first verse and the chorus will do, and say why this song fits. I know of one student who chose "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick. How perfect is that! Letting them group around the sound system will enable them to be able to move while the song is playing and really enjoy the experience while learning. Great concept.

My high school experience with Shakespeare, and poetry as well, was mostly painful, as teachers did an excellent job of sucking all the fun and joy out of both. It wasn't until I got to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where professor Normand Berlin breathed life and joy back into Shakespeare, that I really fell in love with it. Thanks Dr. Berlin.

But that's part of the power we have as educators- to bring enthusiasm, joy, empathy, and creativity into our classrooms- no matter what the subject. If we have passion for what we are doing in the classroom, it will have far-reaching positive effects, not only on the students but on us as well.

Making what we do in the classroom relevant to students' lives is an important step.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Join Our Cause on Facebook

We just started a Cause on Facebook called Integrating the Arts into Education. If you're a member of Facebook, then please click on the title of this post, and it will take you right there. If you're not a member of Facebook, then you might want to consider it. It's a great way to stay connected and do social networking.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Northeastern University Courses this Summer taught by Jeff and Keith

We’re happy to announce that we will be teaching three Northeastern University courses this summer- two in Barnstable and one on campus in Boston. We will be offering Integrated Teaching Through the Arts and a new course Integrating Drama and Poetry Across the Curriculum.

Both of these courses are designed to give teachers an opportunity to learn how to energize their classrooms and engage their students through integrating the arts modalities: creative movement, music, visual art, poetry and drama into their everyday teaching practices. Our hope is that they’ll leave the course with strategies that can be put to use right away in their classrooms.

Both of these courses are being offered in Barnstable, so they’ll be convenient to those of us who live on the Cape or Southeastern Massachusetts. Here is some more information and some helpful links. We will also be teaching one course on the Northeastern main campus in Boston.

Integrated Teaching Through the Arts
July 6-10
Northeastern University, Main Campus, Boston

July 13-17
Horace Mann Charter School, Marstons Mills
The purpose of this course is to introduce teachers to the value of integrating the arts modalities into the everyday curriculum by providing teachers with strategies that can be used immediately in their classes. Activities that appeal to the multiple intelligences will be explored through participation, readings, discussions, and presentations.

For more information and a copy of the syllabus go to http://cps.neu.edu/pdp/programs/interdisciplinary_programs

To register for the course go to

Integrating Drama and Poetry Across the Curriculum
July 20-24
Horace Mann Charter School, Marstons Mills
This course will demonstrate the power of drama and poetry when integrated across the curriculum. The participants will be given the opportunity to experience the kind of learning that they should come to expect of their students when using drama and poetry in their own teaching practice. They will discover how to engage students, deepen learning, foster innovation, and make interdisciplinary connections to the curriculum and goals of state standards. This course is designed for teachers of all grades and disciplines.

For more information and a copy of the syllabus go to http://cps.neu.edu/pdp/programs/interdisciplinary_programs

To register for the course go to
Here’s what some of your colleagues said about the class:

This course was extremely successful in addressing my interests and needs. I couldn't wait to get to class every day to learn new and exciting methods of teaching. I wouldn't change a thing-you guys are amazing!

I look forward to using movement, art, music and poetry when working on reading comprehension skills. Right now my mind is so full; it's just swimming with many ideas!

Very successful! Giving me tools and methods to engage and motivate my students, as well as time to tie in with my own subjects was extremely valuable.

If you would like to read more of what people who have taken the course have said or would like to learn more about teaching through the arts then please go to our blog at http://teachingthroughthearts.blogspot.com/

Please contact us if you have any questions at
we’d love to hear from you.

If you’ve taken one of our courses and are comfortable with recommending one, then please feel free to forward this information on to a friend. The more the better!

We hope you can join us this summer,
Jeff & Keith

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Let President Obama know the importance of the arts in education

My good friend, Lesley University professor and movement educator Doug Victor sent me this letter after we had traded numerous emails regarding integrating the arts in education. In it he asks everyone who is so moved to contact President Obama and remind him of the importance of the arts in education. So, I'm posting it here in hopes that some of you who read it will feel compelled to contact the President.

Hi, Everyone,

Hope this finds you all well and inspired in your lives and your teaching. I am writing to ask you to consider giving our newly inaugurated President some feedback about his plan for Educational Reform.

I know how committed you all are to teaching creatively through the arts so I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to have your voice be heard in concert with other past Creative Arts and Learning Lesley students from around the country with whom I have had the joy to get to know.

First make sure you watch the 2 following powerful and thought-provoking videos, if you have not already:

1) Sir Ken Robinson talks inspiringly about creativity being as important to teach as literacy...

An article to go along with this video: http://www.edutopia.org/node/2829

I also recommend his website at http://www.sirkenrobinson.com/; and

2) A moving song by Tom Chapin It's Not on the Test re: No Child Left Behind.... http://www.notonthetest.com/

The credits and text for the song are in attachment.

You may wish to to include the links to these videos for President Obama to view along with your personalized message.

Of course send a message if you are inspired to do so and not if you are not but as you can see below the new President is asking for your feedback.

President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in the history of the United States.

In the President's own words, "We face many challenges. But we face them as one nation.
And we have seen, time and time again, that there are no limits to what we can accomplish when we stand together. Our journey is just beginning. Thank you for all you do."

President Barack Obama

These are the Obama administration's goals:

Reform No Child Left Behind: Obama and Biden will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. They will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

I did not see any mention of the Arts in the President's plans. For me, this is a missing piece. You might consider mentioning the importance of the Arts in your comments and give some of your own terrific direct experience testimony.

You can find this and other information about Educational reform and the government in general on the following link: http://www.pic2009.org/whitehouse

Other White House Contact Information FYI:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

Website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

With terrific memories of our time together and now tasking for a better world.

My moving best to you all as ever.

Doug Victor

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Not on the Test" by Tom Chapin. You have to watch this!

Click on the title of this post and listen to the song and watch the video by songwriter Tom Chapin called "Not on the Test" It really gets to the heart of the matter regarding the growing trend of "teaching to the test" and the return to rote education. It also serves to underscore the importance of integrating the arts into the curriculum. This is something that should be shared with policy makers, administrators, teachers, parents, and students alike.

Here are the lyrics:

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2008 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you'll do just fine.
It's reading and math, forget all the rest.
You don't need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers, their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don't get all stressed.
They'd never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ‘cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
'Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking's important. It's good to know how.
And someday you'll learn to but someday's not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don't think about thinking. It's not on the test.

Not On The Test
Sung by Tom Chapin
Written by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2008 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)
Not on the Test video: Directed by Yuichi Hibi
Edited by Timothy Gregoire
Art Direction: Marie Christine Katz
Production Coordinator: Mary Croke

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Participant Reflections on Integrated Teaching Through the Arts k-12 Workshop January 2009

Everyone had a great day at our Integrated Teaching Through the Arts workshop at Barnstable High School on January 16th. Focusing on Creative Movement, Poetry, Music and Drama, the day was full of energy and engagement. Here are some reflections from the participants.

Great workshop, now we are all ready to move in our classrooms. It has
brought the fun back into teaching!

This workshop was incredible and rejuvinating!! I've already started
making a list of activities that I can do with my first graders to go
along with what we are learning about now. I can't wait!!! A big

This workshop introduces methods that can be adapted to fit any level or subject area by providing simple yet far-reaching practices that enhance students' thinking and creativity.

This workshop was very successful in addressing my interests and needs. This was one of the best workshops I've ever had.

I liked how the workshop flowed from one activity to another. Sometimes we sat and then we'd get up. Every time I take [other] summer courses, I have to sit all day. This reminds me to get my own students up and moving. Now I feel I have some new ideas to use such as building community spirit during those movement times.

This workshop was a nice boost-with all that 's going on in the district, it's nice to have a focus on how to make learning engaging.

It reinforces the feeling I've had that creativity is being pushed aside. I find myself guilty of "teaching to the test." This course will re-energize how I approach my topics.

I truly feel like I can walk into my classroom with a new approach.

I'm going to try and build in more movement to energize the kids. I also want to try and build community in class, so that all kids can feel comfortable taking risks.

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

It was organized and structured perfectly. It was so much fun to be out of our seats and moving and working with others.

The workshop exceeded my expectations. The presenters made clear connections with the curriculum and emphasized the benefits of integrating the arts.

This workshop opened my eyes to the p0ssiblities of presenting learning standards in more powerful ways that involve the different arts modalities and talents of students.

The leaders were honest in their responses offering varied ideas and opening it up for input from the participants.

The pacing was perfect. There was an effective mix between discussion, presentation, and hands-on activities. Well organized and powerful!

These strategies will help me plan and organize lessons that will engage students on a different level and promote deeper understanding of the curriculum.

This helped me to see education/teaching/counseling with new eyes in a creative, fun, supportive environment. Creativity needs to be stressed instead of testing, testing, testing. Research shows that creativity works in the classroom.

Gave us fresh ideas with movement and poetry. How to make learning fun, creative and relevant.

Loved it! It's a great way to teach curriculum. I learned a lot and am taking away a lot.

The instructors were great-completely knowledgable; they believe in what they do--Passion!

This was the best in-service workshop I've taken in years! As a teacher of young children, the ideas I learned in creative movement and music today can be easily incorporated into my teaching day.

The instructors gave us just enough information to get us started on the activities. This made us use our creativity to come up with unique ideas. They were right there to give us direction and answered all questions.

The instructors were knowledgable, well-prepared, and had excellent presentation skills. They kept us involved and motivated in all the activities.

I was surprised to see how well this could fit into a science curriculum. I expected a visual arts focus, but was very happy to see so much movement and drama was incorporated into the activities.

This is the way we should teach.