by Shawna Puustinen
Primary multiage, Riverbend School
Artful Teaching has giving me so much to think about. I have spent the last decade integrating art into my language arts, science and social studies units. An art project here, a drawing there, a model of a neighborhood made out of milk cartons. That’s art, right? I guess it never occurred to me that I could use art to teach social studies, math, science and language arts. I would love to say that this realization resulted in a complete overhaul of my teaching, in which every lesson was embedded with artful learning. Of course, I can’t say that. I can say that I have embedded artful learning routines into my day (well, not everyday). I am slowly but surely building my understanding and gaining the skills needed to be an artful teacher.
Our school has adopted the One School, One Book initiative. For the past two years our amazing PTO has picked one book and purchased a copy for every student, staff and employee in our building. The idea being that we will all read the book and be able to talk about it. Teachers read the book in their classrooms, students take their copies home and the school hosts some school community events and activities. This year, Arctic Aesop’s Fables by Susi Fowler was the book chosen. Each classroom picked one of the fables from the book to design a bulletin board. What started out as a small cooperative art project ballooned into a full-fledged unit of study.
We looked at characters, settings, problems, solutions, and the moral of each story. We then compared the two stories, looking for similarities and differences. We had lots of great discussion about friendship and good sportsmanship. On what I thought was going to be the last day before I was to leave on vacation, the students worked together in small groups to create tableaus for their favorite parts from one of the two stories.
On Monday I boarded a plane for a wonderful week in the Florida sun, completely forgetting that months before I had promised the kids that we would do a puppet show. Guess who didn’t forget. My daughter, who just happens to be one of my second graders this year. Ugh! Aren’t there rules about having your own kids in your class? Just kidding. It has been a blast having my daughter in my class. So, that’s how it happened. I got back from vacation and my daughter reminded me and the rest of our class that I had promised a puppet show.
Clay, sticks and imagination…
I am going to start this section by confessing that I hate puppetry. Nothing makes me feel sillier than interacting with a puppet. I have tried...really. I have spent countless uncomfortable minutes having conversations with Impulsive Puppy and Slow Down Snail. It always leaves me feeling...weird. So, I knew that trying to teach a puppetry unit was going to stretch me in many ways. I started the unit with dot sticker popsicle stick puppets. The kids each got to draw eyes and mouth on their dot sticker and put it on a tongue depressor. Most of the kids were pretty excited, but a few were less than excited to be holding a tongue depressor puppet (oh, how I could relate to them). With great enthusiasm, I demonstrated arm positioning, puppet posture, large puppet movements (walking, running, going up and down stairs, lying down, getting up, etc), wrist movements (yes/no, looking up/down/around, reading, etc.), puppet emotions, and voice projection. The same few less-than-excited puppeteers actively tried to sabotage our puppetry lessons. Their poor tongue dispenser puppets experienced great head trauma while being repeatedly banged against tables and the floor. They refused to participate in voicing activities and their “I am too cool for this” attitudes were starting to spread. I was ready to call it.
As soon as the popsicle sticks were attached the kids were becoming their puppets. A few kids, were working together creating quick puppet skits. I still had one very reluctant artist. He was about as excited about creating his puppet as he had been about using a puppet. The kids got to pick one puppet to leave at school for the puppet show, and then take the other puppet home. One girl came back the next week with more than 10 little clay creatures she had made at home. It was neat to see how her creatures evolved from simple to very detailed and sophisticated.
During a morning meeting time, we watched two videos of people putting on shadow puppet plays. After watching the videos, I used the “See, Think, Wonder” thinking routine to help my kids process what they had seen. I was very impressed with what they observed. Many picked up on the techniques the actors were using to make their characters come to life. They noticed things like how voices changed from one character to the next. How the puppeteers used multiple sticks to move different parts of the puppets. They noticed the props changed from one scene to the next. They wondered about what would happen next in the stories and how the puppeteers made their puppets. As I watched and listened to them share with each other, I saw engagement, inclusion, success. The playing field was level. Each one of them, regardless to their background, learning needs, age, grade, etc., was able to share something that they saw or thought or wondered.
Since the tableau process is very familiar to my students, I used the same process to get them started with planning their puppet skits. The groups did their thinking and sharing just like in tableau. When they were ready to plan, I had them go to tables to brainstorm what they would need to make their scenes works:
Tomorrow is our big production. The kids haven’t even finished the scripts, but I think it will be okay. I told them that I would video each of their skits and then we could all watch them together on the big screen in the room. All but one seemed really excited about this. As I am sitting here writing this, I can’t help but smile. These kids have done some amazing work in the past few weeks. It goes way beyond close reads, reading comprehension and craft projects. They connected to a story, stripped it to its bare bones, extracted the underlying message and then rewrote it in their own words. They worked cooperatively in groups. They explored new and old art forms. They created. They problem solved. They observed. They asked questions and found answers. They supported one another. They tried new things. They took risks. They stepped outside of their comfort zones. They failed. They persevered. It would be hard not to be proud of the work they have done. So tomorrow, no matter what happens, I will stand and applaud each of them with genuine admiration.
And it all started with one fable, from one book.
by Katy Goodell
1st Grade, Riverbend Elementary
,Artful Teaching has become part of every day in the classroom. Whether it’s the vocabulary I’m using, a thinking routine, the actors toolbox, or tableaus, some part of each of our day involves techniques and skills I have acquired this year through this amazing opportunity. I have decided to share some pictures of some things I have done in my classroom using tableaus. I personally believe that handing students a paper and pencil doesn’t actually show all that they can do, especially when it comes to assessments. So, this year I chose to use tableaus as formal and informal assessment tools.
In these first three photos you see students laying on the floor in different shapes. We went through the actors toolbox then dove into some tableau work with plane shapes. During this time, students were learning all about different kinds of shapes in math. I used this time to include some tableau work to assess how the students were understanding sides, vertices, and angles.
You will notice that all three tableaus are on the ground. One of the characteristics of a tableau is that there are levels. Students seemed to really struggle through figuring out how a plane shape could have different leveles. They were so stuck on the fact that it’s two dimensional and the fact that they see these shapes as something flat. Next year, when I go through these lessons again, I really want to discuss in depth that just because a plane shape is flat doesn’t mean it has to be flat on top of a surface. It was really interesting to see the students struggle through this.
When we debriefed after our tableau work, students were surprised and seemingly caught off guard when I brought this to their attention. This made me reflect a bit on my teaching during these lessons. It showed me that I didn’t explain that just because it’s a plane shape, it doesn’t mean that it has to be “flat on the ground.”
With all of that being said, the kids were still successful during this process and they weren’t using a pencil and a piece of paper. They were reflecting on the different attributes of plane shapes and discussing how they could create those shapes as a team. Each team was able to create a plane shape without support from anyone other than their own team.
It was fun to watch them go through Think, Share, Plan, and Create. They could make it through Think and Share, but once we got that far, they were so excited to plan and then create that most of them would just start it. I had a hard time with that at first. I couldn’t decide if it really was appropriate to stop them when they were so excited to learn and create together. But I quickly got over that because it caused more issues than success. Throughout the year I have gotten more and more comfortable with the tableau process, which has me extremely excited for D.C. and next years implementation!
In the next set of photos, you see students at different levels. You also see students being assessed once again. It was so great to have a tool to use this year aside from a paper and pencil. This second set of photos was taken during my formal observation earlier this year when my principal came in to observe. I had been talking about Artful Teaching and how much I had been enjoying spending some of my time outside of school at these amazing workshops when my principal said, why don’t you show me what you have been doing…
There are so many times where I feel that we as teachers feel like we have to show what we are doing with the curriculum and our implementation of it, that we forget there is an art form to teaching. Artful Teaching has helped me express my teaching art form in ways that I don’t think I would have come up with on my own.
During this lesson, my students were being assessed on what they had learned through the week about solid shapes. They had to consider the faces, verticse, sides, and angles. This was a very challenging lesson and assessment tool. We had done quite a bit of work with our foam solid shapes, and I knew my students had learned and understood quite a bit about the attributes about solid shapes, but they honestly blew me away during this assessment.
Each group went through Think, Share, Plan, and Create. Through out this process, I was walking around listening to the different thoughts and plans they had. Their consideration for all of the attributes of these shapes were amazing. This really gave then the opportunity to think about the shapes that each solid shape have within them.
As I walked around the room I heard groups discussing how the cube has square sides and how a pyramid has a square base. These are things that we had discussed but when they actually had to apply those attributes to a real life creation of these shapes, they had to think more deeply about what each shape really looks like.
Some groups were more successful than others. I found that students had a hard time deciding if the attributes that one friend had shared were actually true in regards to the solid shape they had chosen to create. It was also hard for students to decide what each person was going to do. They were all so excited about what they had learned that they wanted to play every part.
We did these tableaus a few different times so each group had an opportunity to create different shapes. As we continued the work, the tableaus got more and more detailed.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing experience. I have grown so much as an educator and I can’t wait to continue this experience next year with my peers and my students.
By Allison Smith
1st Grade, Auke Bay School
Artful Teaching has transformed the way I teach. One example is when we studied weather this year. In the past, when we studied about wind, students made wind flags measure the wind on a scale of 0-2. The flags are made from fabric and cardboard cut for them ahead of time. The emphasis in this lesson had been on the measurement of wind, not so much on the creation of the wind flag.
This year I decided to use Artful Teaching to introduce the concept of wind and measuring wind by showing my first grade students different paintings showing wind and wind gauges. That got me thinking...if students are looking at pictures of different wind gauges, why not have them design and create their own wind gauges and test them? What started with me looking for images to introduce a lesson turned into a great STEM project for my students.
First I asked students to See, Think, and Wonder looking at 4 paintings showing wind at the same time. Then I asked them to think about what was the same about all of the paintings. “It’s windy!” Was the common answer. Students then talked in small groups about how they knew it was windy.
“The curtains are blowing.”
"The horses’ manes and tails are blowing.”
“The person is flying a kite.”
Are a few of the things they shared.
Our next step was to work in small groups to look at pictures of different tools designed to measure the wind. I explained to students that we would be looking at these wind gauges and asked them to discuss how they thought they worked. The conversation was lively with lots of pointing at parts of the pictures to explain how they worked.
After students had a chance to look at and discuss how the wind gauges worked, I gave them the challenge of creating their own wind gauge by making a plan, building their wind gauge, testing their wind gauge using a fan, and revamping their wind gauge as necessary. It was an amazing process to watch and be a part of. Students were engaged in all parts of the project, taking time to create their designs as well as testing, revamping, and testing their gauges again.
After our wind gauges had been tested and redesigned, students took them outside to measure the wind speed on a scale of 0-2. The student created wind gauges worked just as well as the flags we used to make! At the end of the project, I asked students to share what they learned. Here’s what stuck with me:
“If your wind gauge doesn’t work at first, change it and try again.”
In the end, this lesson was just as much about the design and creation process as it was weather. Thank you Artful Teaching for expanding my horizons!
by Joanna Hinderberger
Gastineau School, 1st Grade
Before going into one of my Artful Teaching lessons, I want to take a moment to admit how impressed I am with this new way of teaching. As I started integrating Artful Teaching into my practice, I realized how important, yet basic and easy it is to do. Honestly, I must admit that I am a little shocked that I have not always taught this way. I had completely overlooked the importance of explicitly teaching kids how to think. I expected this to be a skill that kids would just know what to do when I said, “think about it.” Now, I have learned that by giving my students the tools they need to “think,” they have become much more critical thinkers and incredibly curious about their world. My classroom culture is now built around student thinking. Students have learned to critically think about new topics when I introduce them by using the skills of:
Okay, enough chit chat, let’s get into one of the lessons. Sea Week was one specific area that I wanted to focus on, and I especially wanted to integrate art, science, and writing. I have found that for first grade students, it can be challenging to take another’s perspective. This is something that we work on for developing social skills. I first chose to conduct an informal assessment to gain some information on what the students already know about low tide beaches and creatures in Southeast. I also wanted to figure out what it was that they were interested in learning about.
In order to do this, I gathered students on the carpet and explained that we would be starting a new science unit on sea creatures. I used the Artful Thinking Routine Step Inside as a way for the children to demonstrate what they already know about the beach. I had them close their eyes and imagine walking off the bus, arriving at the beach, and exploring the low tide. I had them imagine what the beach would sound like, look like, feel like, and smell like. After allowing students to use their imaginations, I had them go to their seats and draw and write about each of the senses that they think they would experience at the beach. I prepared student books using two pieces of paper that have lines on the bottom and blank space on the top for drawing. The papers were folded in half so that there were four spaces for four senses. I labeled each page for each sense (look, smell, feel, and sound) with an icon to help the students stay focused on the task. I have found that scaffolding thinking into a focused area can often encourage more writing than given a broad topic. I asked the students to write their thinking, meaning any thing that they think is true, as well as any questions or wonderings they might have. Students were given time to write and draw to express what they already think they know to be true and then ask questions that I could use as a way to plan.
By Kris Dorsey
Gastineau Community School, 1st Grade
Science – absolutely, Writing – of course, Reading – yep...I’ve challenged myself to integrate many different Artful Thinking routines with the instructional content in my first grade class this year. Well, all except math… I’ve avoided it long enough, I suppose. I turned my teacher’s guide to our newest chapter. Math In Focus, Chapter 15 – Calendar and Telling Time.
How do we measure time?... Seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades...
How do we keep track of those units of measure?.. Timers, watches, phones, clocks, calendars…
What do the kids really need to know and how will they learn it best?... They need to develop a sense of time – how many seconds in a minute, minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a season, months/seasons in a year - and be able to compare those units of time. But what parts have to be experienced? The passage of time, the development of what an hour feels like compared to five hours, how it feels to wait a year for your next birthday, what mom actually means when she says there are only 10 minutes before bedtime... these are not things we can tell them; these are things they have to experience and connect with...these ideas about time must be constructed within the learner.
Sure, we need to help kids have access to the social knowledge pieces - like there are 60 seconds in a minute or that the third day of a week has a name and it's called Tuesday. These bits of information cannot be constructed within the learner alone through experiences. They have to be told from one person to another…because, in Japan, the third day of the week is called Kayobi...you wouldn't know that until somebody told you, no matter how many Tuesdays go by in Tokyo. These are the direct instruction pieces; the pieces I have to reveal to them.
But what connections can we make about telling time with an Artful Thinking routine? How can we use Artful Thinking and art experiences to assess what children already know or have learned about reading clocks? How can we make the learning engaging and meaningful?
Prior to introducing the new chapter, I told the kids we were going to do a "See, Think, Wonder" Thinking Routine for several pictures. First, I pulled out a photo of a sundial and didn't say anything while they looked carefully and thought about it.
Then, I asked them to quietly turn and share with a partner the things that they saw and thought about. I asked a few volunteers to share out their ideas and anything they wondered. Here are a few quotes after looking at the sundial:
"Maybe it's a time machine."
"I noticed some letters on the circle part."
"There's a shadow from the sun."
"I wonder why there is a shark fin on it in the middle?"
Next, I pulled out a photo of an ancient water clock (used to measure time at night) and repeated the "See, Think, Wonder" routine:
"Maybe it's an ancient bowl."
"I see Egypt writing on it – hiro, helo, hieroglyphs? I don't know what they're called, but it's Egypt picture writing."
"It looks like a bowl with water in it and it has a hole in the bottom."
"I wonder if it's for drinking water or taking a shower?"
Then, I pulled out a photo of an hourglass and repeated the routine:
"I have one of those at home"
"I think it's a timer."
"I have a small one in my game at home."
"It has sand in it and when it runs out, you turn it over to start it."
"I use one when I brush my teeth so I know how long I have to brush."
"I wonder how long it takes for the sand to run out from the top?"
The next photo to be revealed with the thinking routine was an analog clock:
"That's a clock!"
"We have those kinds in here – right over there (pointing to the classroom analog clocks)."
"I don't know how much time is on it."
"I think it shows ten-eight."
The last photo I brought out was a digital clock (akin to the Velcro shoe – most kids can figure it out without any help!)
"I have that kind. It's an alarm clock."
After they had discussed all the photos, I asked them, "Why do you think I put all these photos together?" Here are some things that they said,
"They all have to do with time?"
"Maybe it's about time machines."
"Maybe we're doing it for math?"
"We are going to learn about time."
"We know that these things are time."
"Because you want us to make connections about ways people tell time?"
"It's our math for today."
"Because we are going to be thinking about time and clocks."
I literally got goosebumps. They got it. They understood that unless we know how to "read" the markings or how the device is used to measure time, it's useless to us. The sundial, the water clock and the hourglass were all cool ideas for telling time, but we couldn't read them...we hadn't been taught how to use them to measure the passage of time. That set the stage for our purpose - learning to read an analog clock to measure time. They noticed there are three analog clocks on the walls of our classroom already, but I was the only one in the room who knew how to read them.
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences