Tagged “Arts”

Dru Tomlin

Growing Our Middle Grades Educational “Gardens”

After a long winter season with continual blankets of snow and ice sleeping on the ground, the warmth of spring is finally waking up the soil. Seas of grass are rising in front yards and eager blooms are curling upward toward the sun.

Like careful, measured areas of hope, fresh garden plots are starting to appear in back yards. These gardens—and the work that goes along with them—mirror what should be happening in our middle schools. Critical and basic actions are needed to make gardens flourish, and if we want to see the same kind of sustainable growth for every student in our classrooms, we also need to plan, till, sew, and constantly nurture our educational gardens.

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Profiles in Education: Ryan Twentey

Ryan Twentey of Parkville High School in Maryland is known as a dedicated teacher who fosters his students' artistic interests to develop the skills they need to be successful in school, in the community, and in preparation for college. His photography and multimedia students have earned a 100 percent pass rate on the AP exam.

Twentey also teaches interactive media production. He produces tutorials to help each student work at his own pace to reach understanding. He encourages his students to persevere, collaborate, and offer respectful critiques to help one another improve.

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Melissa Mellor

Kids Need More Than Reading and Math, Argues ASCD Executive Director in CNN Commentary

"We can't narrow the focus of our schools into just math and reading and still expect to graduate students who are ready for college, a career and citizenship," writes ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter in his special commentary for CNN's Schools of Thought blog. "A comprehensive education provides students the opportunity to discover what they excel at and inspires a boost in overall student performance and confidence across all subjects."

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Comprehensive Education > Reading, Math, and Science

ASCD and more than 25 other major education organizations (including several whole child partners), representing a wide array of subject areas, are promoting consensus recommendations for how federal education policy can better support subject disciplines beyond reading, math, and science. The recommendations are a response to proposals that could threaten schools' and districts' ability to provide students with a comprehensive education that prepares them to graduate from high school ready for success in college, careers, and citizenship, and that narrows the definition of such readiness to only the Common Core State Standards.

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Melissa Mellor

Arts Instruction Remains Prevalent—For Some

A new nationwide survey on the state of arts education in U.S. public schools finds that arts offerings haven't declined as much as expected, but that students in high-poverty schools, particularly at the secondary level, do not receive the same rich exposure to arts opportunities as their wealthier peers.

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Klea Scharberg

Developmentally Appropriate Educational Practices for the Middle Grades

Young adolescents have specific developmental needs as they negotiate puberty and its effect on their intellectual, social, and emotional lives. Appropriate environments, strategies, and programs provide structure for academic success.

In his book, The Best Schools: How Human Development Research Should Inform Educational Practice, learning and human development expert Thomas Armstrong identifies 12 educational practices that support the social, emotional, and metacognitive growth of middle-grades students and provides school examples from each. These practices are

The Best Schools

  • Safe school climate
  • Small learning communities
  • Personal adult relationships
  • Engaged learning
  • Positive role models
  • Metacognitive strategies
  • Expressive arts strategies
  • Health and wellness focus
  • Emotionally meaningful curriculum
  • Student roles in decision making
  • Honoring and respecting student voices
  • Facilitating social and emotional growth

Armstrong writes:

Too many educators believe that early adolescence is either a time for whipping kids into shape for the academic rigors of high school or a time for patient (if painful) endurance while they go about their tortuous process of growing up. It is neither. There is a great middle area between these two extremes that must be the focus of those who wish to deal with the reality of young teens. Young adolescents live rich and intense lives. To demand that they leave these lives outside of the school boundaries is to commit a serious injustice to them, and it also threatens to deprive society of the gifts these kids have to give. By embracing the passion of early adolescence and using that energy to revitalize the classroom, educators will ensure that these vibrant young voices will sing out their hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows in a way that can benefit not only themselves but the rest of society as well.

Which of the developmentally appropriate practices for young adolescents described in this chapter are most important in your opinion? What other practices would you add to this list?

Laura Varlas

The King of Ish-ful Thinking

Peter Reynolds - 2011 ASCD Annual Conference

When Peter Reynolds' teachers dared him to teach others, through art and storytelling, they uncorked the genie of Ish-ful thinking.

At the second general session of ASCD's 2011 Annual Conference in San Francisco, the award-winning children's book author, illustrator, and software designer (FableVision), shared some of the backstory to Dot and Ish, and how educators can incorporate the maxims from these books into their classroom culture and practices.

Dot encourages readers to "make their mark and see where it takes you." Ish builds on this theme, advocating that there are no prescribed "right" ways of imagining and creating.

How well do all schools reflect these values of creating something meaningful to yourself and the world and breaking free of conformity and standardized thinking?

Reynolds suggested six essentials for classrooms that support creative ideals:

  • Environmental Cues: How does the physical space of our schools encourage creativity?
  • Open-Ended Invitations: A blank page, or a blank screen, invites creative thinkers. Let the good stuff come from you and your students, not scripted curriculum, said Reynolds. "Bottled-up creativity leads us to consume, not create. We need to make more."
  • Expressive Tools in the Hands of Students: Reynolds demonstrated a digital drawing tablet that turns a computer mouse into a pen. "Technology lets us explore and share ideas, and see what else is possible."
  • Time and Freedom: Reynolds said teachers need more time and freedom to dive more deeply into learning. "We're much more creative than standardized testing. Standardized testing is like dial-up in a broadband world."
  • Visionary, Enlightened, and Engaged Leaders: Reynolds aimed this appeal not just at school leaders, but political leaders who need to "get it" that creativity is not just a once-a-week art class. It's every day, across curriculum. Art can connect the dots between the subjects and fun.
  • Love: Let every child know they exist and they matter. Ask students, who are you? Where have you been, where are you going, and how will you get there? Reynolds' middle school math teacher noticed him and connected the dots between doodling in class to using art to teach lessons through stories. Know that you change the lives of your students for the better, and let that prompt you to do it even more.

ASCD's Annual Conference is an "opportunity to stop and imagine what next year could be like," noted Reynolds. He called on educators to express themselves bravely; to be kind, creative, and generous and to "let no one squish your ish or the ishes of the ish-ful thinkers around you."


Laura Varlas

Can Big Schools Support the Whole Child?

With class sizes rising significantly for the first time in decades, now is a good time to continue to lobby for better funding and supports in education and to also look at how some big schools manage to tend to individual student needs despite high enrollment.

Big schools can present big opportunities for bringing the whole child tenets to scale, but they must draw on their larger community as a resource—strengthening parent and community partnerships, activating student voice and interest, and empowering teacher leaders.

In the March issue of Education Update newsletter ("Big Schools Present Big Opportunities for Whole Child Education"), I discuss some of the strategies applied at the district level, or in high-enrollment schools, to support whole child education. For example,

  • Iroquois Ridge High in Oakville, Ont., has one common lunch hour for all students, uses extensive peer mentoring, and puts the best teachers in 9th grade.
  • Brockton High in Brockton, Mass., where teacher leadership spearheaded a turnaround effort that's taken the school's student achievement from one of the state's worst to one of the best.
  • Wando High in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., where students choose from over 250 course options and multiple clubs and activities, and learn in smaller, career-based academies within the school.
  • Norfolk Public Schools, in Virginia, where community engagement is included as a performance indicator in the district's accountability system.
  • Aldine Independent School District, in Texas, where data is used to identify students' strengths and weaknesses and match them with teachers particularly effective their areas of weakness.
  • South Kitsap School District, in Washington, where despite devastating budget cuts, the school has expanded arts, extracurricular, and advanced learning opportunities.

While smaller teaching and learning environments are ideal, these schools show that teacher leadership, student empowerment, and community engagement can drive whole child education on a large scale.

If your school community is growing, how is your school adapting?

Klea Scharberg

Underserved Students Realize Dreams of College

Bronx Preparatory Charter School in New York prepares underserved middle and high school students for higher education, civic involvement, and lifelong success by holding high expectations and providing a caring, structured environment. The school's 700 students in grades 5–12 spend 50 percent more time in school than their peers in traditional public schools. Heavy emphasis is placed on math and literacy. Middle school students attend up to two hours each in math and English daily and are introduced to high school-level content in 8th grade. During the 11th and 12th grades, students can take college-level courses.

College is integrated into every aspect at Bronx Prep, with rooms named after colleges and universities and teachers constantly referring to students' future higher education. Consistent science, social studies, physical education, and artistic block scheduling provide a well-rounded education. Middle and high school students spend one hour a day, four days a week participating in classes such as piano, violin, dance, and drama. One hundred percent of the school's first three high school graduating classes were admitted to four-year colleges.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Creating Experiences Through the Arts

Post submitted by Elizabeth M. Peterson, a fourth grade teacher, host of The Inspired Classroom, and author of Inspired by Listening: Actively Listening to Music While Teaching Your Curriculum. Connect with Peterson on Twitter @eliza_peterson and @inspired_clsrm.

Educators need to do more than teach; they need to create experiences for their students. Experiences are what make learning come alive. Let's face it, experiences are what life is made of and what we need to emphasize in our classrooms if we are to teach the whole child. The arts provide a wonderful way to bring experiences into your teaching.

Creating, acting, playing, listening, performing, molding, dancing: these are all ways to bring the arts into your teaching and when you take the time to stop and really focus on these, you are allowing your students to share in an experience and amazing things can happen in your classroom.

There are two main ways to allow for experiences in your teaching: teacher-led and student-led. Both are effective, both are important, and both need to live in harmony with one another to truly have a well rounded curriculum.

Teacher-Led Experiences

It's important for teachers to lead students through the creative process through art making. This is one way students learn: FROM us. We may assign a project, teach a process or skill, or create a time for students to share in collaborative creation.

When I was a novice teacher, experimenting with art integration, I focused on what I loved—music. I allowed time during our day to listen to music together. This method of music integration through listening experiences is something I still do with my students every day. It's an enjoyable time for us to share ideas about the music and discuss our interpretations of it. I ask my students guiding questions that will help them to listen more carefully and enjoy the experience more with each listening. From time to time, these shared experiences are used to enrich other parts of our curriculum. For example, if we are about to write some poetry or a narrative, we could use the music we are listening to as inspiration.

Another example of a teacher-led experience would be to accompany a book review with a piece of artwork. This artwork should not just be a simple picture that is tagged on at the end of the paper, but a well thought-out illustration. A clear purpose would be given to the assignment, for example, "The main character in the story has conflicting feelings. You are going to draw an illustration of how the character feels at some point in the story. You may use any medium you desire as long as your illustration is flat and fits on this size paper." Then ample time needs to be given so that students can really work on and edit their work. There is also the opportunity to draw attention to students' use of color, design, and setting and to emphasize the importance of details in their work.

With teacher-led experiences, you are exposing students to new things and rounding them out as individuals. My students become well-versed in Beethoven and Glenn Miller, they also become comfortable splattering a little paint. This may mean that some of them are working out of their comfort zone. That's OK! Allowing for this time and giving students these experiences is what students will remember and take with them for years to come.

Student-Led Experiences

Think of the times when students are asked to express their learning through a medium they choose. Maybe they want to create a paper-mache relief map for geography, perform a skit to retell a story, or write a song about erosion. These types of experiences are student-led, giving students a chance to explore something they choose.

I have had students come up to me and express an interest in putting on a play about Martin Luther King Jr. The topic and the art form were interests for this group of girls. My job wasn’t to provide them with a script and a plan, instead it was to give them the space, time, and encouragement they needed.

Sometimes it can be hard to allow students to take the reigns or to give that extra attention or time to stop and listen to their ideas, but we have to do it. Our job is to foster their curiosity and creativity and allowing them to take the lead on their learning every so often is a must!

Student-led experiences allow the students to explore what they know, learn what they are comfortable with, and give them a chance to challenge themselves as creative beings. We can't possibly be experts on all our students. We need to empower them with the trust that they will do what is right for them from time to time.

It's with a balance of teacher- and student-led experiences that a students' whole self is nourished. In what ways do you create these experiences for your students?

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