Monday, December 22, 2008
At these point I always emerge as the eternal pessimist. The choice of secretary of education and the focus of this administration may signal that the time is not right.
Politics aside the economic situation may very well signal that we need a new creative generation, that the whole child initiative (ASCD) and specifically arts education can provide answers not found anywhere else.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
As the economic situation turns sour across the nation and the world funders and the public at- large seem to shy away from the arts. "This is not the time to support the arts..." they seem to say, people are hungry. I understand the need to support the hungry and homeless now, but at the same time we cannot let the arts and arts education clear the stage until things get better. If the arts are basic then they apply in good times and bad.
It is the shadow of "high" expensive art that is a luxury most enjoyed by the rich that is cast over the whole field. If arts education helps all students be better citizens, more aware of the world, more creative, and higher achievers across the board- then we must especially in times of difficulty make room for arts education.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So, what did I learn? First I re-learned that we must stay close to our classrooms. We must understand the complexities and pressures that our teachers face and celebrate the ways they find to be professional in uneasy times.
The picture on the left is from one of our classrooms. Students drew a tree in four seasons and wrote an artist statement discussing the choices they made as artists.
The work was great- diversified and creative. It illuminates a topic we've been thinking about in assessment of creativity at the classroom level. The more products look identical the less likely it is that students were actually creative. This classroom showed that you can have a teacher who is not an artist be able to guide a very specific art activity and still leave a lot of room for creativity.
In music integration we observed kindergartners playing ORFF instruments to Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals. The children really started taking to it after a while. It did make me acutely aware of how important classroom organization is with music, and the importance of creating a routine that our students can get used to in transition to music.
More thoughts about music integration next time.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I am sitting in Washington DC surrounded by leaders of arts education projects nation-wide. Seven years ago we all fitted around one long table in Charleston SC. It was a lot more intimate and in some ways more helpful. The question in my mind is whether it represents a true change in the direction for educational reform. ASCD started the Whole Child initiative and Hal talked about a shift in public opinion as part of his Imagine Nation report. Is this shift real? Or does it stay in this room? The realities that we see in schools are still far from this vision. They may be around the corner, and we who are very close to the wall with our eye on the classroom cannot see it coming. It could also be that we are simply “going to church” and dreaming of a better world, willing to suspend our belief until we go back to the challenging environments of schools and high stakes.
The only way to go and change is low stakes assessment of students and teachers- regardless of how much money or directives we can write. If we are to move in the direction of an Imagine Nation we need teachers ready to do that. Art education is rarely taught in teacher preparation program by full time faculty. Very few research universities have faculty researching Arts Education. So a shift to an Imagine Nation needs a shift in our teacher preparation programs- are we even close? I am eternally skeptical and would love to again be proven wrong.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
For me this was in some waysan unintended consequence. While it makes sense it took me a while to connect this aspect of my research with my teaching. Now, I am consiously looking for ways to help future teachers see the connections. It is about turning the tide from a fragmented elementary curriculum to a more cohesive integrated approach.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I wonder how funding for Arts education will change or even if it will.
Regardless I feel that those of us who are integrating the arts need to start looking for funds beyond the ones earmarked for the Arts. If we can support our claim of benefits going both ways we should be able to convince grant panels in literacy math and professional development. I am not we will be successful immediately but a change in administration may be just the right moment to try.
A short post of some fairly random thoughts this time.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Our project is challenged by working in two very different contexts. In California we work mainly with generalists (classroom teachers) while in Nebraska the work centers on the collaboration between specialists and generalist. Further complicating this issue is the geographical distance of 1500 miles. The Department of Education have asked us to present about ways we resolve the conceptual and geographical distance effectively.
This is where technology is enormously helpful, and I am always technology happy. Experience have taught me though that technology can have only a supporting role in a project like ours. I believe very strongly that professional development can be most successful when we understand each others context and practices. Further, there is no way to understand context and practice without sharing the same contextual space, seeing students, classrooms, and interactions.
As a former soldier it is a "Boots on the Ground" approach. Beyond understanding the context I believe that deep professional development the kind we know makes a difference is about relationships of trust shared experiences and even friendship. Such relationships can only happen in face to face meetings.
We travel from site to site for more than just a 4 hour PD we visit classrooms, and when budgets allow we take teachers with us so they can learn from the different contexts and practices.
Technology used on top of that can help maintain the relationships created during face to face meetings but not replace them.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Arts LINC, etc. came up in the conversation (imagine that!) and the teacher from afar was excited to tell me that each week they give their seven and eight-year-olds a prompt and related instruction with the end 'assignment' to write a five paragraph essay. They are given time each day and have until Friday to finish it. However, if they are finished early, say Wednesday or so, they can do art that is related. The kids that take all week to write don't have time to do art (my comment: don't get to).
The arts program there includes a focus on an artist and composer of the month, a two-year cycle (so the kid will get same artists/composers in K, 2, 4) and the time designated for that is Friday afternoon. They also have a “club time” one afternoon a week with things like guitar club. I’m guessing that this is a program example that plays out in some other schools across the country.
It is becoming clearer each day that I am involved in Arts LINC that we ARE about INTEGRATION and not about ENHANCEMENT. I started to explain the difference to her, but then decided to save that for another situation. At least her students were getting something from a teacher that was enthusiastic and committed to including the arts.
I have always so off-handedly given an example from my own childhood as a differences to the philosophy, strategy and research of Arts LINC. (The example I use: "You may write about your summer vacation and if you have time, you can illustrate it.") I know now that an example like that is still real. So....the next article we write should be titled, "Not Just Friday Afternoon".
Sunday, September 14, 2008
There is a growing pattern in the professional development of teachers to move away from an emphasis on pedagogical skills to thinking like domain experts. In many ways the idea is not new, yet the application is intriguing. Science teachers spend the summer being scientists working in university lab- thus learning the fabric of science. Math teachers spend their time learning and working math. Perhaps the most established of such ideas is the Writing Project. In the Writing Project each participant is encouraged to write and see herself as a writer, as a result, the logic dictates, she is more likely to teach writing, understand her students process, and finally help them identify themselves as writers.
The question that started emerging in our work is whether that is also true for teachers who are charged with teaching the arts in their classroom? We envision trying to foster Studio Habits of Mind with teachers as a way of transforming their practice. I think this may be a transformational piece for classroom teachers who are not formally trained as art specialist. For them (and me in all honesty) the last time they were engaged with any sustained effort of art making was in school (K12).
There might be a catch that must be considered: can elementary teachers who are asked to teach all, or almost all, subjects be domain experts in all these areas? Can we really expect depth of understanding and real experiences in Math, Art, Science, Writing, History etc.? I am excited about this idea but as I look at the larger context and being able to scale such practices up- I am sure we can scale our pedagogical ideas up (VIEW) but as for teachers thinking like artists, I am not so sure anymore.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
That is, does arts integration help students in lower achieving schools? In a way it's an empirical question we'll be able to answer this year.
On the other hand the arts are very different from technology. Class and professional status influence exposure to technology much more than exposure to the arts, especially creating art. My sense is that middle class/professional parents are much more likely to expose their children to technology than arts (sadly). So, the question is still open waiting for some data to shed light...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
At the same time I was looking around the room and observed how essential the conversations between content teachers and art teachers were. What we tend to forget is that we speak very different languages and have a very different view of the classroom. In many ways we do not see the same kids as some of our students act very differently in the art room and the classroom. For us to be able to make integration work in our schools we must make these partnerships more permanent. The effort of understanding each others language and emotion will pay off only if we continue interacting.
If you have any ideas about sustaining collaboration I'd love to her about it.
The blog will be back the last week of August- ready to start another year of arts integration.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I was invited to participate in the process of developing ideas for the Sheldon statewide art education program.
The language arts focus will be on poetry but that's not what I wanted to write about this time. In the discussions the idea of using word wall to focus students' work in the language arts. It struck me that we can in units use a parallel arts wall. So what can be part of the arts wall? Well it really depends on objectives and accumulated ideas.
The arts wall can have basic shapes lines or textures, color wheel, a list of techniques (for example tissue, taping, and salt in a unit using water color as medium). The idea is to represent things on a an arts wall using both words and artifacts- so it does not just become a word wall of arts words but actually something different.
Another part of the art wall can be reproduction of art that fits with the subject matter, for example scenery when discussing foreground, middle ground, and background. If for example students are exploring a museum (in person or online) they can bring examples to the classroom arts wall and explain to their classmates why they think it belongs (oral rehearsal). I like even better reproducing parts of art in a way that allows a focus on technique o detail.
Moe about the statewide will probably emerge after the workshop on July 28th and 29th.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Monique left last weekend. We've worked very hard and achieved a lot during the past few weeks. I really appreciated her thoughts every time we met, which was quite often even if not as often as I wanted to. Our conversations about music was a strand we followed all five weeks since it is a part of our grant, it is starting in earnest next year, and of course because Monique was participating in a music ed course.
I don't think we still know everything we want to do next year, but here is an idea we started developing. One thing you have to know Monique and I are very concrete albeit in different ways. That is why our conversations moved from big theoretical approaches to the nuts and blots of a unit.
In this case its a life cycle unit focused on the butterfly. The idea is for the students to integrate music in a meaningful way that supports learning about the butterfly, life cycle AND music. For example students can be set up in pairs, with a music instrument (ORF based but also keyboards etc would work). Each pair would be responsible for creating music to fit the stage in the life cycle of the butterfly. Each pair would record the music (on paper and/or tape) and play it to the group explaining why they chose this representation (Oral Rehearsal) . It could also be used for a game where the rest of the class tries to guess what stage it is and present a reason why they think there is a fit.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Interesting that Guy would say this today-- “exposure to rich experiences in different domains in our home and community is what makes us diverse and different contributing to the rich tapestry of society”
Today I got re-acquainted with one of those community members that contributes to the rich tapestry…
In 2005 I met Tom Palmerton, at the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center in Nebraska City. He is the sculptor of “Pointing the Way” a Lewis, Clark & Seaman bronze. It was a casual meeting as neither of us was interested in getting in the middle of the crowd at the Opening Program and were standing around outside the building with a few others. Once I realized who he was and what he had created, I began asking questions. He graciously explained his process to me and I knew that some day I would like to visit his studio in Brownville. Today was the day.
He is a 77-year-old artist (father and grandfather) that received his formal training from the Kansas City Art Institute using the GI bill. Originally from Council Bluffs, IA, he returned to that area and spent some time in Omaha. In the early 1970s he came to Brownville. His studio and gallery are in one of the historic Brownville buildings. He spends his days there creating and is usually closed on Sunday. But we called ahead, and he was happy to come and open it up for us (I was with my parents). He’s made many historical figures and many animals and birds. He also is quite a painter and has many framed paintings on the walls. He showed us both working areas—the room for the bronzes and the loft for the painting. He once again, graciously explained the entire process to me. (I think I have to try it to really understand it!)
Today he was working on the wings of a butterfly that will be part of a large bronze butterfly sculpture. The completed sculpture will be part of the Butterfly & Insect Pavilion at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Of course, I took an immediate interest in the subject matter because of our Arts LINC & Science Unit, “Living Things Grow and Change”. Sometime when I’m in Omaha, I’ll go the zoo. He already has several sculptures there. I’ll have to see art at the zoo!
A connection between art and science. A connection with a living and working artist. I feel like I’ve met a rock star.
My Mom is visiting from Israel this week. I our conversations we turned to the importance of home environment to the development of visual art. The discussion started from my comment that Itai my youngest (2) seems to enjoys visual art activities (sometime on inappropriate surfaces such as counters, tables and the inside of my car). Art was never emphasizd in our house (though my sister became a musician) we visited museums but were not really encouraged to be actively engaged in any art form. In her comment I am not sure if my Mom meant that Itai will not really ever be an artist because we at home are not ourselves very artistic... This got me thinking about breaking the cycle of non-engagement. Since the home is so important in determining the disposition and capabilities of students, can school change any of that? This is true with language, literacy, and of course art.
As parents I can encourage Itai (and the rest) to be engaged with art, to feel safe trying new forms of expression and seeking out art. As educators our role is to provide the same experiences, environment, attitudes, and expectations that will support a relationship with art and literacy regardless of the home environment. We do need to understand though that our actions cannot erase all differences between home environments... there is too much to overcome.
And in reality exposure to rich experiences in different domains in our home and community is what makes us diverse and different contributing to the rich tapestry of society.
Monday, June 30, 2008
I am continuing in an Eisnerian angle. Monique and I have been talking about the idea of using the language of the artistic process in Arts LINC. Right now we aren't emphasizing this element. Should we? Te students we're working with may be too young to understand how artistic language can be used beyond the art lesson. I think we are afraid of mechanical application without a depth of understanding.
At the same time I have gone back to something we did in the past, have students discuss colors with precision. In Project RAISE we had such emphasis that led to writing about color for example "the tortilla brown smoke". Most color metaphors used by students, however, were not based on actual observation and were used indiscriminately. I think though that this can be a great opportunity to discuss metaphoric language with a concrete referent.
The progression starts with reading and speaking about colors, the art work focusing on observing the color of the object you are painting. In oral rehearsal students describe the work in terms of colors (not exclusively). The teacher models and help students come up with color metaphors that are highly descriptive of the art. In following sessions the focus shifts from description of the art to using the metaphor to create an emotion and disposition in the written pieces. Finally the discussion can turn into observing the use of color in the work of artists and the use of figurative language in text and how both are very intentionally and consistently used to create a cohesive piece.
We must be ready, though, to adjust this process to developmental level. We also must be OK with students applying these concepts at varying degrees of accuracy and proficiency- students must be allowed to be playful here before they become proficient.
Joy in language and art y'all.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Nancy & I were asked to participate in the Arts Integration Forum at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. So… in early May we presented our model of arts integration for professional development. In preparing, we refined and solidified our views and practice of delivering professional development in arts integration. These have developed over the years using our experiences with previous grants and currently with Arts LINC. In Chattanooga, we were surrounded by many experts in the field of arts integration in all arts disciplines. We were honored to be part of the conversation and collaboration in this work as well as inspired to keep on track with the research… and the writing!
Walking is always a part of travel that I do, it at least gives me an “overview” of the area. I took the photo on one of my morning walks before we gathered each day. The Tennessee River is in the foreground, downtown Chattanooga in the middle and Lookout Mountain in the distance.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I know this is a little heavy for a blog but these are the ideas we're exploring now.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Nancy is staying in California finishing her dissertation that I hope she will share with us through this blog.
I've said it before but it is worth repeating- I see my role as moving the field from lore to evidence. I believe that we know and we've seen the impact of the arts in the curriculum but we must also provide evidence. The kind of evidence that decision makers would like to look at. In my case it is quantitative- the challenge is continuously look for valid measures that do not reduce a complex story to a single measure.
Jean and I have also promised to work with the Sheldon Museum of Art on their Statewide program, nothing is set yet but I hope we'll be able to contribute something to this great program serving communities across Nebraska.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
There is great pressure right now for educational research to focus on evidence based practice. At the same time there is pressure on students to teach using the same kind of evidence. I have no problem with the approach- but I would like to see space and time for activities that may not have immediate visible impact on students. For example, I am pretty sure that taking students to the Opera, museum, and theater will not produce much of a result on their achievement tests that year. The experience is just not enough. The cumulative effect of these experiences over time should make a great difference but I suspect we are not patient enough to wait.
The same seems to hold for vocabulary development. Not every word that students read or hear will become part of their working vocabulary immediately. A year or so ago I was talking to one of our kindergarten teachers about vocabulary growth in her students. We were both somewhat frustrated by what seemed to be the lack of use of target vocabulary by the students. The conversation really started me thinking about the patience. We want results now but need to recognize that in some areas we need patience and the understanding that the impacts are beyond one or even three years in school.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I love coming to work with Arts LINC teachers in California. There is a charge in the air- they are here to work- as professionals. I shared our latest findings. Students starting the writing process with visual arts gain more in vocabulary and their writing is much improved in both quantity and quality. Furthermore, English language learners benefit greatly from the visual arts strategy.
We also found that creating the art was a lot more powerful than just observing it. The teachers reported that they can do without the arts but they find that they have to work much harder to motivate and scaffold their students. The art is a powerful scaffold and the personal investment with it as a motivator, memory bank, and resource should not be underestimated.
The teachers are a powerful group to interact with and I am energized to go back and start looking in more details at our data. It is going to be a great summer to look at the data and ponder how we can make this even better. All areas visual arts, writing and vocabulary seem to benefit. The works the teachers brought with them from spring units were fantastic sa sample of kindergarten art is at the top. Oops boarding the plane back to NE. Great Memorial Day weekend to all.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Some people refer to such attempts as "subjective" others resist any attempt to assess student art. My experience shows that these assessments are not more subjective than others we use- as long as we clearly define expectations. If the person making the judgment is well trained and the definitions are clear there is no problem. The only risk is in starting to make assumptions about student intent, that's where our work gets tricky. I have a really hard time attributing intent in art making to young students. We, therefore, tried to limit such attributions and make judgments only based on what is actually present in the artwork. In the future I'd like to accompany some of the work with some audio and a few aesthetic question son we can better understand intent- then again there is always more data to collect.
A few months back we brought an graduate student with Art experience to work with us on assessment. She pointed out that we cannot understand the assessment without knowing the teacher's goals within a lesson. The media and directions controlled the outcomes to the point that interpretation losses validity. While I do not completely agree [in early childhood we observe often like that] tapping into teacher goals has been very illuminating. For example in the attached student art the intent was to focus on secondary colors as students drew apples with watercolors. Despite the explicit goal focusing on colors the art allowed to observe two more features. Many students tried to give their apples a three dimensional feel by using color gradations and lines. The second was that in trying to describe their apples they almost never described the colors in any way...
Looking at the Art provides a window to what students can do. It also provides a window to what teachers are emphasizing in their instruction and what they deem less important. The vocabulary [not presented here] by the way was great.
Our assessment of student art includes now the developmental rubric (originally by Nancy A.) though we are adding to it a parallel space rubric that will apply to still life portraits etc. Then we assess whether state standards are achieved and teacher explicit goals are met. Finally we assess the number of links between the art and language activity. In the case of Apple art the language generated was a list of three descriptors for the apples. Even for a first time I must say that we were incredibly consistent with very few disagreements. We will continue working on this for most of the summer so stay tuned.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
As I sip my tea, black with honey, I am looking for clarity. In her Swanson award acceptance speech Margaret Macintyre-Latta used the fog of her childhood's Canada as a metaphor for her educational worldview. The talk made me think of my own childhood and the bright unrelenting light of Israeli summers as well as the clear crisp days where you can see for ever. In my own work I look for clarity, the kind that I can hold firmly in my hand. This approach is limited as somethings are elusive and defy clarity. The context is a chapter I am writing about Evaluation of Arts Education programs, I am trying to clarify to myself what I mean by Professional Development as Curriculum. Curriculum doubtlessly matters, but in recent years we seemed to start focusing on curriculum as the only thing that matters, maybe even more it is curriculum as driven by assessment but I digress. [the tea cup is empty and my throat feels much better] The failure of this approach may be the seen in the demise of Reading First [disclosure I am the Reading First evaluator for Nebraska].
In Arts LINC we are using a different approach that looks at teacher professional development as the key to changing the way classrooms work and student achieve. This is by no way original, but we are explicitly trying to change the way we all talk about change in school. It does take guts to say what we offer is not the only thing that can work just a version of it. But what does it mean to turn the Professional Development in the curriculum? We have some teachers that have internalized the ideas of arts integration into their practice so well that in their day to day practice it is inseparable. Others do the units we ask them to with varying degrees of fidelity but it is clear that they have not internalized it as part of everyday practice. Maybe clarity is by looking at examples. The tea is done children waking up more later...
Friday, May 9, 2008
I then used a QUEST book to provide questions and had them each share their responses with a partner. At one point I gave them one minute to talk before they had to switch turns.
They had to use as many of our target vocabulary words as they could that "worked" with the painting.
When the timer went off, they said, "That went too fast!"
It would seem to me that the arts provide another vehicle to rehearse the ideas and content in a more holistic manner. They go on to discuss how important writing is for thinking--thus I would propose that the arts also provide children with opportunities for thought that then can be translated into text. NancyA
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Arts LINC was born out of the work on visual art and writing, a part of Project RAISE (Reading and arts integrated for Student Excellence). The project uncovered a consistent theme of vocabulary development with students who were involved in active VIEW (Visual Integration to Enhance Writing) classrooms. As the project evolved we observed the change in oral language for all students. At the same time research literature about vocabulary development has reached a point of maturity. Research has pointed to increasing vocabulary as a key to narrowing the achievement gap. Arts LINC seeks to build on the work of VIEW that helped children communicate through art and writing and add the dimension of focused vocabulary development. It is the conviction of this project that the arts add for the student the dimension of meaning and emotion to literacy acquisition.
We spent the day with our teacher-researchers in York. The energy in the room was great. The question is how can we maintain this energy and get better at what we do...