Showing posts with tag arts Show all posts >
Many people disregard the importance of the arts in education. Sure, the arts are good for blowing off steam and encouraging creativity, but are they useful in the real world? If a student doesn’t have the capabilities of being the next Beethoven or da Vinci, what is the point of wasting resources on their continued arts education?
The Current State of Arts Education in Public Schools
The prevalence of art education in public schools has been on the decline since the early 1980s and in recent years, budget cuts have made it almost obsolete. Nowhere are these cuts more severe than in urban areas where minority children are the most unlikely population to receive arts education.
Why Parents and Teachers Should Be Worried about the Future of Arts Education
Several new research findings are proving what art education teachers have been saying for years: art is valuable. A well-rounded educational experience that includes the arts is closely linked to academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.
A recent study of high schoolers revealed a correlation between arts education and math and writing test scores. These high school students were tracked for three years and were required to take a minimum one credit of art education. Students who took more than the minimum requirement were 1.5 times more likely to meet or exceed the ACT Plan national average composite score! These students excelled in statewide tests, earning proficient levels in math, reading and writing.
How the Arts Enhance a Student’s Education and Overall Development
Plenty of research has supported the role of arts education in providing a comprehensive education. Let’s take a closer look at how exactly the arts affect a student’s ability to learn and develop:
Arts education has always been important to those who value creativity. Now, as new evidence continues to emerge, more and more people are realizing its importance – especially when it plays such a crucial role in a well-rounded educational experience. What if the next Picasso is sitting in your classroom right now?
Jessica Velasco is a freelance writer. She has 15 years experience working as a teacher and child development specialist.
Schwartz, J. (2012). Kids Like Blues: Using Music and Video to Rock Your Classroom. Retrieved from Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/kids-like-blues-music-video-jon-schwartz
Kloberdanz, K. (2012). Want Your Kids to Excel in Math and Reading? Teach Them to Paint. Retrieved from Take Part website: http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/23/want-kids-excel-math-reading-teach-them-paint
Good Reasons Why Your Child Should Study Music. Retrieved from Schoolatoz website: http://www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au/homework-and-study/other-subjects-and-projects/the-arts/why-your-child-should-study-music
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Ever since the letter K was a baby, she loved to make her signature sound: ka, ka, ka. K knew that the only other letters in the alphabet that could make her “ka” sound were the letter C (when he didn’t sound like an S) and the letter Q. K enjoyed making her “ka” sound as often as possible in as many words as she could. Soon, however, K also learned that whenever she stood in front of the letter N at the beginning of a word, it was impossible to make her signature sound. At first, K was very sad about this, but after working with N and other letters to make fun words like knot, knob, kneel, and know—words that the other letters could only make with her help—K learned that staying silent sometimes was an important job for a letter, and that many of her alphabet friends also had to be silent from time to time. After a while, K was just as comfortable being silent as she was making her signature “ka” sound.
Scientists have long known that human beings are storytelling creatures. For centuries, we have told stories to transmit information, share histories, and teach important lessons. While stories often have a profound effect on us due to emotional content, recent research also shows that our brains are actually hard-wired to seek out a coherent narrative structure in the stories we hear and tell. This structure helps us absorb the information in a story, and connect it with our own experiences in the world.
Educators can create memorable learning experiences for their students by harnessing the power of storytelling in the classroom. A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed an intimate connection between the brain activity of speakers and listeners in conversation, demonstrating how the brain of an engaged listener “syncs up” with a speaker. By engaging students with compelling stories that impart important material, teachers reach students both emotionally and biochemically, increasing the potential for rich learning experiences.
Creating a compelling story with a coherent narrative structure requires attention to detail, descriptive language, and a beginning, middle, and end of some sort. Different kinds of stories produce different kinds of reactions: personal stories from the teacher’s own experience can help create and solidify strong bonds between educator and student, while stories of pure fiction may stimulate imagination.
Spending a little extra time on storytelling during lesson planning and actual classroom time keeps the learning experience highly engaging, creative, and truly, dynamically human. A story-filled classroom also encourages students to relate their own stories (whether factual or fictional), which helps grow their critical thinking, memory, and vocabulary skills.
Melanie C. Green. Storytelling in teaching. Association for Psychological Science. April 2004.
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Poetry is a powerful vehicle to teach children to learn and love language, reading, and writing. In some ways, using poetry to teach reading is analogous to sneaking highly nutritious (and occasionally child-repellent) vegetables into otherwise kid-friendly dishes. By making use of creative devices like rhythm, rhyme and choral reading, educators can help students learn about phonemes, morphemes, grammar, and other language-based skills, all while having a great time with poetry.
Many poems written for children have some sort of meter, or basic rhythmic structure, that is catchy and relatively easy for kids to copy orally. This provides a great opportunity for classroom teachers (particularly at the primary-grade level) to go line by line through a poem and focus on the number of syllables (or "beats") in a given word, and demonstrate how each sound and word plays a part in maintaining the meter of the poem. Asking students to swap out one of the words in a highly rhythmic poem for an appropriate new word (which has the same number of beats and a similar sound as the original) is a fun activity that exercises phoneme awareness, vocabulary, and creative writing skills. Haiku and its established structural confines, which require detailed syllable counting on the part of students, is a favorite for students of all ages to read and write.
Rhyming poems are ripe with abundant classroom activities. Students can examine the sounds in each rhyming line, identifying the rhyming sounds and coming up with alternate rhyming words that could work in the poem. As an oral activity, creating "silly" substitute rhymes that have the correct matching sound but make absolutely no sense within the poem can also be a lot of fun for students of all ages, while flexing their phoneme awareness and vocabulary skills.
Choral reading of a poem (reading aloud in unison with a group of students or whole class) gets students to use their voices, collaborate with their classmates, gain an understanding of the potential dramatic power of the written word, and strengthen their understanding of punctuation. Leading students through a choral reading session can include a significant emphasis on punctuation and how it affects oral reading (pausing when there's a period, inflecting upwards in pitch when there's a question mark, etc.) and affords opportunity to work on enunciation skills as well. Breaking up a choral reading poem so all students have a chance to read a line or phrase on their own can also get the whole class to participate and feel positive about their relationship to the written word.
Using poetry to teach reading is a fun way to inspire students of all skill levels to engage with the subtle beauty and nuances of a language, encourage expression and creativity, and become excited about words, reading, and writing. The possibilities for using poetry in the classroom to teach valuable concepts and skills are almost as boundless as the potential combinations of words in a poem.
*I am the author of the haiku in this post. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my second grade teachers, Tina McCarter and Sharon Kamimoto, helped kick-start a lifelong love of words...for which I am grateful.
About the author: PC Muñoz is a San Francisco-based writer, recording artist, and educator. Information on his past and future projects can be found at http://www.pcmunoz.com
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Categories: Reading & Learning
Are your students writing as much as they should be? Classroom writing, done with willful focus and daily diligence, remains an essential part of educating students of all ages, including adults. Here are five reasons why classroom writing is still a must:
1. Writing improves communication skills.
First and foremost, writing provides a vehicle for expression and communication. No matter the age or grade level of your students, diligent writing practice will boost both their skill and comfort level with revealing and relating their own thoughts and feelings.
2. Writing helps students review and remember recently learned material.
Isn't it always easier to remember a household task or a website to visit later if we write it down somewhere? A brief writing assignment at the end of class, focusing on the day's lesson and discussions, is a great way to reinforce the material, support long-term recall of the key lesson points and help build writing skills all at the same time.
3. Writing helps educators assess student learning.
Probably the most common use of writing in the contemporary classroom is for a given student to demonstrate that he or she knows and understands x or y concept. Whether the assignment is, for example, an intensive compare-and-contrast essay at the secondary level or writing and illustrating a haiku in the primary grades, writing assignments help teachers see what material students have mastered and where there may be gaps.
4. Writing encourages creativity and exploration.
Daily writing encourages a creative flow that can help students use their imaginations, explore possibilities, delve into problem solving, and engage in storytelling. In addition to "serious" writing assignments which are reviewed and graded, it is important to assign "free" or "creative" writing time, so that students can explore vocabulary, concepts, and writing styles that they wouldn't risk in a formal essay or heavily graded assignment.
5. Writing is essential for self-understanding.
Even a cursory search online will reveal a plethora of diary-like blogs, filled with entry after entry of highly personal content. In the same way that these blogs serve their authors, classroom writing can help students understand and make sense of their own experiences, locate contexts, and make (sometimes surprising) discoveries about their own thoughts and feelings.
Classroom teachers will find that reading through their students' writing assignments can give them great insight into each student's personality, style, and comprehension level of the material being presented. When a high value is placed on consistent writing in the classroom, it's a win-win all around.
So, write on!
Categories: Reading & Learning
We are always on the lookout for more effective ways of teaching creativity in the classroom. With much attention on the decreasing status of the United States in the world economy, the need for a stronger creative class, and the realization that the next generation of professionals and leaders will have to be more innovative than ever to solve the world’s problems, educators need more ways to teach children the ability to engage in creative thinking.
In the classroom, so much of what we do focuses on teaching our students to recognize and repeat patterns. Mathematical functions follow patterns. Letters and languages represent graphical and sound patterns that have meaning because of their repetition.
Creativity, on the other hand, is the breaking of patterns. In the creative act, the mind proceeds to a place where there is no existing path to follow, building something new where there was nothing before.
So therein lies our problem: if teaching strengthens the mind’s ability to recognize patterns of meaning, how do we teach creativity – an act that by its very nature breaks with patterns?
The neuroscience research behind brain plasticity has shown us how the brain responds to stimuli by forming neural pathways, and that the brain constantly changes, much like a landscape changes under the influence of the forces of water and wind. The brain adapts in order to more efficiently recognize and make use of the information and patterns that make up the world in which we live.
The answer: we need to teach the patterns that support creative thinking. Writing fiction and storytelling offer immense power and potential for us to help our students learn to break their patterns of thinking and develop these creative habits of mind.
Creative idea generation is not easy; in fact, it can be quite intimidating for a great many youngsters, not to mention adults. Our goal should be to help our students let go of their inhibitions and become comfortable with – or even better, excited about – undertaking creative challenges.
From a practical standpoint, we have access to endless activities to spur our students on to cultivate their creativity through writing fiction. These are just three of them:
While it offers a higher level of challenge, I’d like to offer one final exercise to consider adapting for your students: the six word short story. Perhaps the most famous example is Ernest Hemingway’s story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” This kind of poetic and conceptual challenge forces students to combine creative thinking with a laser-focus on word choice.
For younger students, this can be adapted by asking students to write their own six-word versions of well-known stories and fables. More advanced students can be given the freedom to come up with their own stories.
While these fiction writing activities are primarily for elementary school students, they can all be adapted for adolescents and, especially in the case of the six-word exercise, adult learners.
But notice that each of these examples puts some limits around the creative process. This is the key to fostering creative thinking: through focusing each student’s effort into a tightly formulated creative problem, they are then freed to develop and follow their ideas to conclusion.
In such fictional writing, students learn that they have the power to break patterns of thinking and develop their own creative ways to think through problems, skills that will serve them well as they grow and mature into tomorrow’s creative thinkers and leaders.
In my own six words? Your instruction focused, their creativity unleashed.
For resources on teaching fiction writing, visit the National Writing Project and their resources for teaching fiction writing and Creative Writing: Teaching Theory and Practice.
Last month Terri Zezula doled out tips for math skills practice over the summer. But what about keeping up in reading and “staying in shape” for learning?
Here are 5 more ways you can help your child stay sharp over the summer:
If your child is working on basic reading skills such as phonics and decoding, provide plenty of opportunities to read silently and aloud. Generate excitement about reading by helping your child create a reading list at the beginning of the summer. Ask for recommendations from your child’s teacher and friends and from the children’s librarian at your local library. If reading is a struggle for your child, take turns reading a story to each other. Talk about the story. Ask your child questions—what might happen next, and why? What does your child think about what has happened so far?
If your child is good at decoding, broadening her exposure to life may be the key to improving reading comprehension[i]. Find creative ways to associate new experiences with reading—such as pairing a field trip with a book. After a trip to an art museum during which your teenager is taken by Matisse, visit the library for a book about Paris in the 20’s. Or visit an observatory and follow up by reading about the constellations; then, take your child out into the dark night and see if you can identify the constellations yourselves.
Decades ago, families gathered in the evening to play music together. Revive the tradition! However poorly you might play, you’ll have fun together and stimulate your child’s brain to develop in beneficial ways.
Research has shown that actively playing a musical instrument has positive effects on the brain. In one study, six months of formal musical training resulted in positive changes for participants, such as improved perception of pitch in spoken language and improved processing of speech. The study authors concluded that a relatively short period of brain training—just 6 months—can have a significant, positive impact on the organization of children’s brains.
Regardless of your child’s ability, the right attitude is essential in fostering risk-taking behavior and perseverance in learning. Research has shown that learners with a “growth mindset” who believe that their ability is fluid and that life is filled with opportunity thrive on new and challenging experiences, while those who believe their ability is fixed and unchanging are more likely to balk at challenges.
To help your child develop a growth mindset:
All learning takes place on a foundation of critical cognitive skills, including memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. A child must be able to hold information in working memory in order to complete all the steps in a multi-step task, and to stay focused on the task long enough to complete it. A child’s brain must be able to process information rapidly enough to keep up with new incoming information, and to put all the elements in the right order to comprehend and use that information.
Fun, web-enabled learning programs like BrainPro® software with consulting (for learners who are below grade level and need some extra help) can help strengthen your child’s cognitive skills to accelerate learning. Learners using these programs typically improve up to 2 years in reading level in just 12 weeks and often see improvements in other subjects that rely on reading as well, such as math and social studies.
While it’s easy to write off summer vacation as downtime from learning, it’s important to remember the importance of unstructured play in a child’s development. Summertime can provide your child the freedom and opportunity to grow and explore in ways not possible during the busy, and often over-scheduled, academic year.
Your child uses play to develop a host of important characteristics such as self-confidence and creativity, as well as social skills like negotiation and working in groups. Opportunities for active, physical play set the groundwork for lifelong healthy habits and promote physical well-being. Physical activity is an effective way for the body to rid itself of the stress hormones[ii] that build up during the challenges of daily life. Make time for play.
[i] Strauss, Valerie. Active Summer, Active Minds: Educators Seek Ways to Prevent Learning Losses During Vacation. Monday, June 15, 2009.
[ii] Cotman CW, Berchtold NC. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends in Neurosciences. 2002; 25(6):295-301. doi:10.1016/S0166-2236(02)02143-4
Think about the workplace of tomorrow. What skills need to be developed in today’s students so that we can ensure their maximum success? While we might not know what their jobs will look like, we do know that tomorrow’s professionals will need to be adaptable, effective learners, and able to think critically and creatively.
To focus on one of these skills, how can we effectively teach creativity in the classroom? More often than not, we teach students patterned thinking. We rarely focus on teaching them to break out from patterns. But we must.
Edward de Bono, author of sixty-two books, has spent his career pursuing this very subject. His books, Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (1973), Six Thinking Hats (1999) and Six Frames for Thinking About Information (2008) amongst others, have become well-known tools for teaching people how to liberate their creative brains. For us as teachers, Lateral Thinking offers wonderful, concrete methods and tools we can use in the classroom.
Many of De Bono’s exercises do what I think of as “de-emphasizing the context” to teach students to think freely outside the box. They present students with situations free of context and ask them to work with raw information to create the context from nothingness.
In one example, he describes how a teacher shows his students a photo of people dressed in street clothes wading through water at a beach (p. 81). The teacher then asks the students to come up with interpretations as to what is going on in the picture. The teacher has de-emphasized the context; the crux of the activity is to develop the context using their imaginations.
In this situation, de Bono says that students might respond by saying that the picture shows a group of people caught by the tide, or a group crossing a flooded river, or people wading out to a ferry boat which cannot come to shore, or people coming ashore from a wrecked boat.
The fact that the photo is actually of a group of people protesting at a beach is completely irrelevant. The author stresses that the right answer is not important; generating as many interpretations as possible is. The teacher has created a safe, controlled environment and activity where students are encouraged to think outside the box and exercise creative habits of mind, free from qualitative judgment. He even goes on to suggest that if a student comes up with a particularly unfeasible interpretation, the teacher should not judge, but continue to question the student until the context for the interpretation becomes clear, encouraging cultivation of the student's creative skill.
Now, imagine how developing this kind of skill might help a student succeed in other areas. What if they were in a physics class and asked to design a car that ran on the power of a rubber band? What if they were asked to write a poem in an English class? In establishing the “habit” of thinking creatively, we have a great opportunity to affect any number of areas in our students’ lives.
At Scientific Learning, we talk a lot about improving skills through brain fitness exercises that help develop pathways and establish patterns in the brain to help transform students into more effective readers and learners. In this same vein, we as educators can help our students develop patterns and strategies for thinking creatively, a skill that will surely serve them well as they move forward into their unwritten futures.
To learn more about Edward de Bono and his work visit http://www.edwarddebono.com.
Boy did we have fun judging the Back-to-School Create a Character contest! Who knew there was such fantastic creativity and imagination out there just waiting to be unleashed?
I am pleased to present the winning entries:
1st Place: “Danny Dinosaur” (Written description only)
“Danny Dinosaur is a dinosaur, a T-rex to be exact. He’s a T-rex who loves food and destruction. He’s blue and green and loves potatoes. That’s why he lives in Boise, Idaho, “Home of the Potato.” But that’s not all Danny Dinosaur eats. He also eats any thing that’s alive.
There’s a bird named Short Stalk who follows Danny Dinosaur every where he goes. Short stalk is a small, yellow, and pink beaked fella but Danny Dinosaur is a large Dinosaur with an evil smile and sharp teeth sticking out. Although they have several differences, they are still best friends. That proves what a unique but odd dinosaur Danny dinosaur is.
The game Danny Dinosaur will be in is called the Flying Dino. There will be a sentence above the dinosaur, which he will read. The sentence will have one word missing and the player needs to fill in that blank with the correct word. If it is right the bird will pick up the word with its beak, fly towards the sentence and fill in the blank. That would be 3 points. If it is wrong the bird will correct you and you will get 0 points.”
Danny Dinosaur’s creator, an 8th grade student in MA, wins a Flip Video camera!
2nd Place: “Silly Snake”
“Name of character – Silly Snake
He is green with blue eyes and a red tongue.
Silly Snake lives in a cave.
He eats various animals with words on them.
If it is a word he did not say, he spits it out.
When he eats a correct word, he gets closer to his cave.
When he eats incorrect words, he moves away from his cave.”
Silly Snake’s creator, a 4th grade student in RI, wins a $25 gift card from amazon.com!
3rd Place: “Randy de la Cruz” (lives in Miami FL)
“My character’s name is Randy de la Cruz. He lives in Miami, Florida. He has a girlfriend named Maria and he loves his family. My character has 4 arms. It has a blue shirt, orange pants, long boots that are blue, a hat that is black, yellow, and red. He wears a white belt, glasses, and a necklace. The two top arms are bigger then the lower arms. His two feet are like human feet. He has a head like an alien. On his hat he has a G for Great Man. This character has pointy hair. He is 20 years old. Randy likes eating meat and rice but, his favorite foods are fish and chicken. He works at Universal Studios in Florida as an actor. When he was 17 to 19 he used to work as a carpenter with his step father. Randy likes drawing and at night he likes to look at the stars.
Randy also likes to help the kids learn new words and he reads stories to kids on the computer. After he reads a story, Randy asks question to see if they were listening. The other thing he does to help the kids is to break hard words from the story in parts. Then the kids have to read and say it completely. For example, he reads the word “generous” and he breaks it in parts like ge ne rous and the kid hears it on a headphone. Then the kid says the word completely in a microphone. Randy is a nice man and likes helping people and making friends. He will like to be your friend too.”
Randy de la Cruz’s creator, an 8th grade student in MA, wins a $25 gift card from amazon.com!
The contest judges here at Scientific Learning would like to extend a big “thank you” to all of our contest entrants for entertaining us with your inspired drawings, stories, and game ideas.
And might I just say, nice showing New England!
Categories: Fast ForWord
Educators, researchers and education policy-makers have long discussed the benefits of structured music education. In today's environment of shrinking district resources, the arts are often early arrivals to the budgetary chopping block. Certainly, math, science, language arts and social studies are essential subjects, but we must also understand exactly what is lost when we cut arts programs. When we let go music education, we let rest layers upon layers of essential learning.
While all of these losses are arguably of equal importance, I wish to focus on the last. In their August 2010 article Music Training for the Development of Auditory Skills, Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran present the neuroscience research demonstrating that music training, in the same way that physical exercise impacts body fitness, "tones the brain for auditory fitness." Specifically, Kraus and Chandrasekaran examine three specific areas of brain function where music training positively affects function:
Based on this information, Kraus and Chandresekaran argue "that active engagement with music promotes an adaptive auditory system that is crucial for the development of listening skills. An adaptive auditory system that continuously regulates its activity based on contextual demands is crucial for processing information during everyday listening tasks."
Kraus and Chandresekaran end their article with a discussion of the implications for education. All of the skills and abilities discussed above clearly have the potential to impact student success and achievement "by improving learning skills and listening ability, especially in challenging listening environments." Whether considered as content, as skills or as brain processing exercise, the benefits of music should be carefully weighed as we evaluate its place in the school day.
For additional reading on the positive effects of music education, check out:
Why are we so fascinated by people like Akrit Jaswal, IQ 146, who performed his first surgery at seven years old; or Kim Ung-Yong, IQ 210, who attended university at age four and received his doctorate in physics at age fifteen; or the precocious Adora Svitak, who has become an accomplished writer, poet, teacher and humanitarian by age twelve?
We have interests and passions just like they do. Still, their abilities allow them to pursue their passions and achieve fantastic success at speeds most of us reach only in our dreams. While their talents and unique minds set them apart from the general public, they represent the best of us, with incredible abilities to learn, process and utilize information and skills. When we look at these individuals, we see life trajectories jumping effortlessly from success to success ad infinitum.
One branch of research into prodigies asks the question: What gives them these abilities? While the scientific basis is still not entirely understood, the Society for Neuroscience, in its briefing, Glia: The Other Brain Cells (September 2010), suggests that part of this capability might lie in a very high density of glia cells which support synaptic function and, ultimately brain plasticity. Studies of Albert Einstein's brain in the 1980s revealed a high density of glia cells "especially in the association cortex, an area of the brain involved with imagination and complex thinking."
Another branch of research asks another question altogether: Why is it that child prodigies often do not necessarily grow up into the out-of-this-world adult successes that we imagine they would? According to Ellen Winner, Boston College professor of psychology and author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, child prodigies rarely grow up to become adult geniuses. Interestingly, their young minds seem to be able to master knowledge that has already been discovered, but that does not always come with the ability to create, which "requires innovation, rebelliousness, dissatisfaction with the status quo (What Are Child Geniuses Like As Adults? (ABC News, 2005)."
Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of Blink, Outliers and The Tipping Point, summed it up when he said, "What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement." (See APS Observer, August 2006) In Outliers, Gladwell argues that most so called geniuses (but not these types of prodigies) became experts in their fields by early and intense exposure and practice in areas that they would later excel in; his guesstimate is that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert. Somehow, with their mental abilities, these prodigies do what they do without Gladwell's time investment.
Research aside, they represent amazing talents, and we are right to find inspiration in them. Adora Svitak does possess that restlessness and dissatisfaction; these are the minds that I find most interesting. Through watching someone like Miss Svitak learn and succeed as she matures, I am constantly inspired to take my own learning and my own successes, and see how I can use them to make the world a better place.
Learn more about child prodigies in these articles:
Finally, do take eight minutes and thirteen seconds and watch Adora Svitak's February 2010 TED talk. You will be inspired.
Categories: Reading & Learning