Sunday, January 21, 2018

Extracurricular or supplemental? That is the question

Once upon a time, I had a nephew. (I know, this is a bit of a strange start.)

I was in my 20s and my nephew was in elementary school. The school offered music to students. My nephew was struggling in math. The solution that the teacher and the school came up with was to take music away from him.

That has stayed with me for years. That nephew is now the same age I was at the time I watched this unfold and struggled with the idea. How would taking away music help?

Here are three things I have witnessed throughout my years as an educator:

*A student struggling in math has music taken away (as punishment, consequence, incentive, something)
*A class struggles to sit still for lessons and thus experiences a lack of Physical Education (PE) time (as a punishment, consequence, something)
*A teacher sticks so firmly on language arts instruction that there is no time for art (a consequence, of sorts)

Here's the interesting thing: all of these things fit so nicely together. Music can re-enforce math instruction and teach fractions among other things. Physical Education can help students get their wiggles out. Art can easily become incorporated into language arts. Here's a piece of art, write about what you think is happening here.

I can take it one step further. A painting portrays a group of people waiting to vote in an election and appears in a history book. Students can write a description of what they see happening in it. Or, they can choose a sub-group and write a "script" for what that small group is saying in that very moment. Boom. History, language arts, and art all rolled into one.

We are in an era where we can easily teach across the curriculum. Why aren't we doing it more?

A science lesson can tie into mathematics, language arts, history, and art. Build a bridge. You first design it. Then you write about the materials you use and why. You describe how it works. You find bridges similar to it in other points of history (example: bridges over the River Seine). Want to throw in one more area? Find paintings or photographs that incorporate similar bridges. Math is automatically built in as students measure and build the bridge.

What is a half-note? a quarter note? Oh! MATH! In music, no less.

I learned so much art, history, and literary awesomeness during my time at the arts high school between the years 1992 and 1994 that you may well be stunned. We had our academic classes in the morning then our art specific classes in the afternoon. A great deal of learning came from my experiences over the course of those two academic years. However, a great deal of learning can also come from integrating all of these things.

We need to look beyond the pacing guides. We need to look at our individual students and meet them where they are while taking them where we know can go. We can bridge students from where they are to where we want to take them. We can use various tools to get them there. If we believe in them and guide them, they can accomplish great things. This is something both we and they can never forget.

Perhaps it is time to stop thinking as some of these things as EXTRAcurricular activities and to start thinking of them as supplemental activities and bridges to eduawesomeness. They've got this because we've got them.

No comments:

Post a Comment