By Maura Selenak
Kindergarten Teacher, Harborview School
It’s January and I’m sitting at the carpet with a group of kindergartners. “Why do you think the character in the story said that? What was she thinking?” Hands shoot into the air- “I’ve built a snowman before!” “My mom read this book to me before.” “Can I go to the bathroom?” They are eager to share their experiences and what they know to be true. However, urging a group of five and six year olds to perspective take-- whether we’re reading a book, or I’m asking a child to think about his friend’s point of view when they’re having a disagreement-- can be hard. Perspective taking is the ability to take the perspectives of others and apply it to your interactions with them. It is something that we work on over the course of the entire year in kindergarten.
When my Art Lab group chose to experiment with the Step Inside Artful Thinking Routine, I was intimidated. Choose a person, object or element in a piece of artwork, and step inside that point of view. Consider: what can the person/object perceive or feel? What might the person/thing know about or believe? What might the person/thing care about?
I worried that this thinking routine would be too abstract for my kindergartners, or that they wouldn’t be interested. Boy was I wrong. This routine was so successful on the first try that I came back to it again and again for the remainder of the year. Each time I was blown away by the students’ insights, responses, and eagerness to share.
What did this thinking routine look like in the classroom?
Snapshot 1: Our Day-Old Chick
For this thinking routine, we used an image of a chick that had just hatched in our classroom. Some of the students’ thinking was recorded on a poster during the thinking routine:
Snapshot 2: Friendship
This thinking routine happened toward the end of a read aloud of Timothy Goes to School by Rosemary Wells. In the story, Timothy is excited to go to school but when he gets there, Claude tells him he is wearing the wrong thing day after day. We paused at an image of Timothy and I asked students to “Step Inside” and pretend that they were Timothy. Some of the students’ thinking was recorded on a poster during the thinking routine.
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 Tracy Goldsmith
Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School
My 8th grade Language Arts class students studied the Holocaust. They were assigned different Holocaust novels to read and they participated in literature circles using those novels. We started the unit by using the Step Inside Artful Thinking Routine with this image;
This is an image of Otto Frank, on the opening day of the Anne Frank House as a museum in Amsterdam. I asked students to stand up and quietly place themselves into the same position as the person in this portrait. While they quietly, stood in position looking at the image, I asked them to image what this person might be thinking or feeling. I wanted them to come up with a story about this picture and this man. They stood silently for one minute and then they had to write a journal entry answering the same questions. Some student responses are below:
The unit involved many different activities related to the Holocaust. One resource we used extensively was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website (www.ushmm.org). To extend the Artful Thinking routine of “Step Inside,” the students were assigned a portrait and first person narrative project. They started by finding one victim or survivor whose story they wanted to explore more on the USHMM website. There is a link on the website that shows ID cards with pictures and information about victims and survivors. After finding a person that they wanted to study more, students had to read the information about them and then turn that into a first person narrative. This first person narrative would be read out loud to the class later in the unit. The activity of writing in first person really stretched their understanding of what an individual was experiencing during the Holocaust. Being able to read it out loud to an audience, made that story come alive. Many students were emotionally touched by the narrative readings.
A collection of JSD teachers' arts integration classroom experiences