Friday, May 23, 2008

A Day with CA Teachers

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

Assessment of Student Art

I sat all Friday morning with Mindy Amy and Kristen with the explicit goal of looking at kindergarten student Art and trying to come up with a scoring scheme.
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

Sunday Morning Tea- Looking for Clarity

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

Oral rehearsal

Yesterday I gave every student had a different piece of metamorphosis art created by Maria Merian. I had them observe their own silently for a few minutes.

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!"

Arts and literacy connections

In the quote from the Writing Committee NCTE 2004 they wrote: Writers often talk in order to rehearse the language and content that will go into what they write.
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...