I have to be honest - I feel like my head might explode, in a good way.
So yesterday I read the book "The Artistic Edge" which is aimed at talking about 7 skills kids can learn through the arts to be successful in life. While this book isn't exactly what I thought it was going to be - it brought me to "Artful Thinking" which then took me to "Visual Thinking" - something my Principal has introduced to my Elementary School of the Arts.
I feel like singing "it's a small world after all". I have decided that no only have I not given enough effort into understanding 'Visual Thinking' - but that I may have found something that will truly impact my teaching and hopefully my students.
I am personally sick of having the word 'assessment' shoved in my face. I agree that we need to always assess things: How is this lesson going? Are the kids understanding? Are they making connections? Did I give them too much information/not enough? Did a create a lesson that has higher level thinking? Who is confused? Who has it? -- These are all assessments that happen while I am teaching a lesson and conferencing with kids as I walk around. I really despise having to write stuff like this down or create less open assignments so that they can fit into an 'assessment' to show growth. Kids don't 'show' growth in a concrete way in art -- which is EXACTLY what Visual Thinking, Artful Thinking, and The Artistic Edge talk about in kind of a round about fashion.
These programs/studies/books all STRESS that kids learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think when they are involved in the Arts. I have been saying for years on this site and to anyone that will listen that my job is not just finger painting and paper gluing -- kids actually learn VALUABLE skills when they come to my room. They learn how to problem solve, critically think, reflect, ask for help, preserver - and so much more.
I am super excited about these programs/books, because I had no idea they were even out there. Where have these been all my years of teaching? I wrote a post a few months back how I felt stuck in my own learning - that any type of conference was too expensive and out of my budget -- but this, this I can do. My building is learning it on a smaller scale and I am so excited to learn more about it that I can barely decide where to start! I am overwhelmed with the information and studies and such that are out there! WHO KNEW?!
It is also nice to see actual studies, papers, programs that are aimed at what I have always believed to be true - that yes, academics (math, reading, writing) are super important but it is also valuable to know HOW to think - just not WHAT to think. Most kids in math learn what to think in math (a few who really get it and love it ask "how") - they learn the equations and plug in numbers. In good art programs kids are given parameters and told to create something original.
In The Artistic Edge - there is a section devoted to kids that have low self-esteem when it comes to academics. It is easier to refuse to do math, than to try and ALWAYS be wrong - because there is a right and wrong answer. I tried to be that kid, my mom and tutor wouldn't let me off the hook -- bless them. In art the only 'right' and 'wrong' are if you followed the parameters -- otherwise every answer is correct. It is easier and 'safer' for kids with low academic-esteem to try in art classes because there is a HUGE grey area where they can succeed and grow with their confidence.
AH! I have so many more things running through my brain - like how arts help kids communicate (talked about in The Artistic Edge) how the arts can save kids (a stories in The Element, The Artistic Edge - and seen in a few of my own students) how the arts can teach life lessons - like asking for help.
So much information! So much to learn! My brain is going to get stretched here soon and it may not always feel great, but soon enough I will have some new ways to help my students grow as THINKERS!
Check out this List of Project Zero's Research Projects.
Making Thinking Visual - The Book
** I should state that it is the COMBINATION of these things that make me super excited. The book "The Artistic Edge" is interesting, but I found nothing ground breaking it in. I had hoped for more examples of how the arts help students learn the skills she talks about, but instead there is a lot of talk and then just - kids learn this in the arts, with little examples and of the examples given are mostly Theatre based. I agree with her points and her message, but I was hoping for more of a book I could hand skeptics and say, "read this" - but it doesn't have that kind of 'aha' factor -- at least it didn't for me.