Showing posts from 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!

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 shap…

Defining Critical Pedagogy

I came across this definition of critical pedagogy at

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 impa…

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 York7:00 P.M. EDTMRS. 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 wi…

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 integr…

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…

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 …

Integrating the Arts with Academic Subject Boosts Student Scores

This article from 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 helpi…

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!

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 …

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 parent…

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…

What is Authentic Assessment?

This is an excerpt on defining authentic assessment from

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, …

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 …

"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, c…

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…

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 emphasizesimaginative and reflective thought, and pro…

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.

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…

"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 ThingsThey 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 textb…

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 educa…

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 econ…

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: Knowledge is socially constructed. I…

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 not…

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 ba…

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.

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 Univers…

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…

"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.


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 …