My Mind is Blown!

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.


Laughlin said...

This sounds AWESOME! I have just ordered the book and am very excited to see how it can connect to my Choice Based TAB classroom.

Ms Novak said...

Hi Laughlin -- I hope you enjoy the book. I just added a disclaimer to my post about the book, The Artistic Edge. It was an interesting read, but if you are looking for a book that will give you more concrete reasons for art based education - this is not the book. While it has a great message - I didn't feel she backed up a lot of what she was saying with evidence/stories/examples.

Mrs. C said...

Thanks for the great post! I am also so sick of having assessment shoved in my face! Show this,show that...Can we create please?I keep trying to come up with creative ways to show concrete assessment and growth in my students without boring them to tears!!! (and myself!) :)

Chesterbrook Academy Elementary said...

Interesting post.
Thanks for sharing.

Corry Gazepis said...

I am also really excited about the power this holds for learning, regardless of the discipline! I love your blog. Very inspiring!