Archives for the month of: March, 2012

If you are a teacher who works with young students in particular, here’s an idea for you to try.

The next time you plan to ask your students to write something… a response to literature… a journal entry… a science observation… anything, have them draw out their ideas first. Much like a more experienced writer might use notes or an outline to capture the ideas they want to include in their writing, fledgling writers can do the same thing by drawing.

I used this technique many times while teaching first graders, and saw firsthand what a powerful tool it was. Frequently, my young students had wonderful ideas and insights that they wanted to express, but with questions like, “Which way does that letter face again?” and “How is that word spelled?”, their ideas would be all but forgotten as they struggled to remember the mechanics of writing. For those students, writing was primarily a frustrating experience. Their unique little thoughts were being lost before they had a chance to get them down on paper. When I asked my students to draw about what they wanted to write first, they could capture their ideas in their drawings, and then refer back to those drawings as they wrote. Almost immediately, the writing my students produced became more complete, detailed, and vivid. Structurally their writing improved as well, because being able to refer back to their “outline” for substance, gave them the freedom to get the mechanics right too.

Of course, a powerful side benefit of this practice is that children love to draw. By connecting the exciting, familiar activity of drawing with the new and potentially intimidating act of writing, the entire experience becomes less scary, and the students feel more confident about their developing skills as writers and communicators.

Want more ideas for including art in your classroom? Click on “courses for credit” or “Fresno Pacific University” at the top of this page to learn more. Thanks for stopping by!

A recent article in the February 2012 edition of Educational Leadership magazine — published by ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) — had me cheering and wanting to share! This article, entitled All Students Are Artists, by Linda Nathan, makes a wonderful case for the importance of including the arts in education — something I have known and felt for years — and she presents the facts to support her case.

One point that really grabbed my attention, was her discussion about how much of today’s educational system is focused on “doing well on the test”. Nathan says, “What if arts education, with its emphasis on process, could help us think about not being finished, instead of failing?” What a concept! Since art expressions come from within, there are rarely “right” answers, but rather “explorations” that cause students to think, question, and puzzle things out for themselves. (As opposed to math for example, where 2+2 always =4.)

As our world continues to grow, expand, and change in ways inconceivable only a few years ago, perhaps our expectations need to change as well. Can we embrace the fact that learning — in any subject area — is a process, and that what’s important is the desire to learn, accepting that all students will not “arrive” at the same time? In fact, what if there wasn’t a “learning destination” at all, but rather a continuum of curiosity and a thirst for learning that lasted our entire lives? This doesn’t mean that there are no educational standards. On the contrary, as an art teacher, I continually push my students to higher levels of learning, making sure that everyone understands my expectations of hard work, patience, and practice. I fully expect that everyone will work to the best of their own abilities — pushing themselves to meet the objectives set before them. What I don’t expect is that everyone will be able to meet those objectives at the very same time. Making measurable progress toward the objectives? Certainly. Meeting them all on the same day at the same time — as with standardized testing? Not necessarily.

As Nathan puts it, “Students crave opportunities to figure things out — things that matter.” Including meaningful art experiences in the classroom curriculum can inspire this type of meaningful engagement with school and with learning, which in turn will have far-reaching effects on the students and their lives beyond their involvement in the arts.

To learn more about this article and Educational Leadership, go to ascd.org

To learn more about my Professional Development art courses, click on Courses for Credit, or Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page.