by Thomas Mc Kenna
Harborview Elementary School, Principal
From the outset of the year with the Artful Teaching project, I’ve been challenged as a school leader to think about how I could help to catalyze and support arts integration in a way that aligned with other district initiatives. From the first time Nancy Lehnhart and Mandy Mallott presented to our Admin Council, I began thinking about how I could orchestrate professional learning about arts integration when teachers were showing signs of “initiative overload” very early in the school year.
Fortunately for me, Harborview teachers are fairly well inclined to embrace the arts, but with so much else coming our way (Marzano, SLOs, and Reading Wonders, in particular), I was quite nervous about teachers not having intellectual space (or time) to open up to new learning.
When Jessica Ross from Project Zero visited, I gained quite a bit of insight into the fit with the work we had committed to, in heart and mind, at Harborview. Ms. Ross’ introduction of “Thinking Routines” meshed nicely with the “close reading” protocols our teachers had been collaboratively developing to work with Reading Wonders materials. As I perused the exhibitions of student work that were part of Ms. Ross’s presentation, I was delighted to experience the connection with our site based work just that morning, reading Ron Berger’s thinking about the value of curating and studying exemplary student work. That confluence of themes will continue to help us find a way forward in sharing knowledge about practices like close reading, inductive thinking and evidence-based reasoning while using District-purchased curricular materials.
Deb Brzoska's presentation at Dzantik'i Heeni was well attended by our staff. In her session, “Integrating Art with Reading Wonders,” Ms. Brzoska presented a set of “best practices” which called for adoption of constructivist techniques of giving students experiences with content, allowing them to engage through a variety of modalities as a mode of teaching that is more effective than teachers’ “delivery” of information. This spurred important dialogue among primary teachers about the potential opportunity cost in teaching straight from the directions in Reading Wonders. We integrated tableaus with choral and close reading while Ms. Brzoska reminded us that students should engage a complex text at least three times.
I emerged from Richard Jenkins’ workshops at The Canvas and at Dzantik'i Heeni grateful for the experience of art providing multiple entry points into writing. Mr. Jenkins’ advocacy for special needs students was especially powerful due to his own soft-spoken intellectual nimbleness. We learned a step-by-step technique for turning geometric shapes into superhero drawings. I loved his technique of demonstrating a single step, giving a very precise instruction, and saying “Go.”
Melanie Rick’s talk about art integration, and then her teaching demonstrations about portraits helped bring the year’s p.d. full circle to me. She provided a definition and a rationale for arts integration, and then she modeled some exceptionally good class management and thinking routines with students observing and describing portraits. Students arrived ,through close observation, at a working definition of portraits, and they realized that portraits were everywhere.
Finally, at our school table during the Arts Team Day, we re-visited the theme of alignment. Ted Wilson grounded thinking routines in several elements of Domain 1 of the Marzano teacher evaluation framework. Our team will continue to discuss how to align next year’s work with this year’s cornerstones of close reading and curation of student work.
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences