Monday, December 24, 2007

Examining Our Own Teaching Practices: How much classroom time is being taken up by "Teacher Talk?"

Have you ever sat through a course or in-service training where the instructor or facilitator talked at you for the majority of the time? How long did it take for you to zone out? How much of the information do you think you retained? That answer will vary depending on where you are stronger in the Multiple Intelligences. If you are stronger in linguistic intelligence, then you may have gotten something out of it, but if you are stronger in spatial or bodily-kinesthetic, then you may have gotten little or nothing from it.

Now think of this in terms of your own classroom. Are you teaching to the different intelligences of the students who are sitting in your room or are you primarily teaching to the linguistic?
Thomas Armstrong in his book Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom cites John Goodlad's "A Study in Schooling" project which puts "teacher talk" at taking up "nearly 70 percent of classroom time." Something to ponder as we move forward.

One of the things we would like to explore in this blog is practical strategies for teaching to the multiple intelligences through integrating the arts. They can be simple things like taking a vocabulary lesson and substituting movements that show what the word means rather than simply going over definitions out loud. You'll be amazed at how this energizes the classroom and how well it works. I've seen students quietly doing the movements at their desks during a quiz, and I've seen scores go up using this method.

Keith, Donnie, and I will be posting some strategies that have worked for us, but we also want to learn from you. We need you to post what has worked for you or just some new ideas you want to bounce off the other people reading this blog. So we encourage you to comment often; the more people we can get ideas from, the richer the experience will be for all of us.

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

References for Rationale

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Diaz, D., & McKenna, M. B. (Eds.). (2004). Teaching for the aesthetic experience: The art of learning. New York, N.Y.: Peter Lang.

Edwards, L., & Nabors, M. (1993, March). The creative arts process: What it is and what it is not. Young Children, 77-81.

Frostig, K. (2006). The permeable classroom or the tilted arc revisited. Journal of Social Theory in Art Education. 26 (1), 174-196.

Goldberg, M. (1997). Art as knowing: A methodology for learning. Boston: Pearson Education.

Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Verlee-Williams, L. (1983). Teaching for the two sided mind. Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster.

Rationale: Part Three: Why We Should Teach the Arts

Why teach the arts in our schools? Why is it essential that school systems as well as individual classroom teachers make the arts an integral part of the curriculum for students at all grade levels? In short, an important outcome of education is for students to be aware of, to be enriched by, and to appreciate the shared human experience within the diversity of a multi-cultural world. That is, the desired outcomes of education must go beyond simple recall and identification. Rather, students must be trained to be independent, critical thinkers and problem solvers who can tap their creative and imaginative potential. Such outcomes cannot be realized if the arts modalities are not used in teaching. After all, the visual and performing arts, music, and literature teach us most profoundly about the human condition. Using the arts to teach children of all ages makes sense because the arts appeal to the multiple intelligences, the arts are a universal tool for communicating, the arts encourage students to participate actively in their learning environment, and it is through art that children can appreciate best their cultural heritage.

Howard Gardner's theory of the multiple intelligences explains why it is that our classrooms are so diverse in terms of the way children learn and respond to instruction. "It is of the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences. We are all so different largely because we all have different combinations of intelligences" (Gardner as cited in Armstrong, 2000, p. 1). Gardner suggests that educators cannot effectively teach and successfully reach all of the students in their classrooms if they refuse to pay attention to the multiple intelligences. The intelligences interact in complex ways, yet all students have the capacity to develop all eight intelligences-linguistic, spatial, logical, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic-to a competent level of performance if given "appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction" (Armstrong, 2000, p. 9). The arts offer the best way to appeal to all of the human intelligences.

Integrating arts modalities into the academic curriculum is as important a priority as any issue facing American education. For both the student and the teacher, the arts offer the opportunity to reflect on both content and process, and play an integral role in joining fact and meaning in a person's education.

Rationale Part Two: Awakening Imaginations and Energizing our Classrooms

Another reason for integrating the arts is that they appeal to all of the multiple intelligences. They are a method of getting away from the one size fits all teaching mentality of simply focusing on the linguistic intelligence and branching out to reach all students. Teachers must reach “beyond the text and the blackboard to awaken student’s minds” (Armstrong, 2000, p. 39). This idea connects to the earlier argument regarding teaching to the whole child. It is not difficult to find out which intelligences are stronger in each child in a classroom. This can be done through simple questioning, or trying varied activities. It can also be discovered through watching how students “misbehave in class. The strongly linguistic student will be talking out of turn, the highly spatial student will be doodling and daydreaming, the interpersonally inclined student will be socializing, the bodily-kinesthetic student will be fidgeting…” (Armstrong, 2000, p. 21) and the list goes on. The point is that the better we know our students and the best ways they learn, the better we will be able to do the things in class to make them successful. The more intelligences we can teach to in our students, the more they will own what they learn and learn it effectively. Integrating the arts reaches all of the intelligences through varying approaches to student learning.

We need to encourage our students to be imaginative and be awake to the world around them. What better way than through the arts. Drama, music, storytelling, visual arts, and movement help to awaken the imagination and bring vitality and energy into a classroom. Maxine Greene says “No encounters can release imagination in the way engagement with works of art or aesthetic enactments can release it” (Diaz & McKenna, 2004, p. 18). It becomes eminently clear that we need to reach for strategies that will awaken the imaginative energies in all of our students and engage them in the process of learning.

Rationale Part One: The arts let you "see inside of somebody."

It is clear that our schools need to do a better job of educating the whole child. In that vein, there is real need to move away from a content-based approach and focus on a student-based approach. We, as teachers, need to get to know our students from all sides so that we can tailor our teaching directly to them. As a young student named Noel says in Cohen and Gainer’s 1987 book Art: Another Language for Learning “Art lets you see inside of somebody” (as cited in Edwards & Nabors, 1993, p. 80). This is a statement that really lingers for me and colors my teaching methods. Through integrating the arts, we get the chance to really see our students, and they get the chance to really see themselves and others in the class as well as us.

We need to get away from overloading our students with content; the day has long passed when one person could know everything there was to know in the world. As Eric Jensen says in his book Arts With the Brain in Mind, “Filling the brain with knowledge is history” (2001, p.8). We need to move away from the tendency to confront students with “a great mass of information” (Verlee-Williams, 1983, p.59). Instead we need to teach our students to know how to access information and what to do with it after they’ve obtained it. We need to teach them to make connections with prior knowledge and relate it to their own lives. We need to throw our classroom doors and windows open and make them “permeable” to the outside world (Frostig, 2006, p.3). Students need as Duckworth says (as cited in Goldberg, 1997, p. 31) the opportunity to utilize their “repertoire of thoughts, actions, connections, predictions, and feelings.” They need to “understand how to solve problems, what makes arguments plausible, how to build teams, and how to incorporate the concept of fairness into daily life” (Jensen, 2001, p. 9). Integrating the arts can help to accomplish all of these things, because they give the students the opportunity to process and own what they have learned.