Monday, December 5, 2011

Jargon and Societal Standards

After a perusal of the Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools and the English-Language Development Standards for California Public Schools documents and given that the articles were 172 pages and 91 respectively, one can see why so many educators in the field may not grasp the idea that implementing the standards into each classroom environment is easier than they might expect. Their goals, the purpose of integrating the arts (I will refer to as the VPA document) and English-language development (I will refer to as the ELD document) for students of all demographics and the benefits is clear, but the legal-ease jargon and graphs (benchmarks) can be a bit daunting.
If we were to break down the two for better understanding, both are set up in level-learning tiers, where when one skill is mastered, then others follow suit building upon each other. It makes sense. Each document states their mission of the inclusion of students equally, the benefits of that inclusion based upon their cognition, and that there are different levels of proficiency, and “that not all learners will acquire skills and knowledge at the same rate,” (ELD, 16) however it does not address their cognitive learning level, merely their grade/age level proficiency.

The VPA document shows educators the benefits of the arts in that they “are a dynamic presence in our daily lives, enabling us to express our creativity while challenging our intellect…the arts cultivates essential skills, such as problem solving, creative thinking, effective planning, time management, teamwork, effective communication, and an understanding of technology…reflect our belief that all children should have access to challenging curriculum content, exhibit a high level of performance proficiency, and be prepared for the world of tomorrow.” (6), and breaks down the how and why into five concepts that the students should be able to communicate effectively: 1.Artistic Expression, 2.Creative Expression, 3.Historical and Cultural Context, 4.Aesthetic Valuing, and 5.Connections/ Relationships/ Applications.

The ELD document also show educators that there are levels of proficiency in language development, especially with second-language learners, as being a beginning, an intermediate and an advanced level of learning when acquiring a proper knowledge base from which to learn and master the Language Arts Developmental Standards of 1.Listening, 2.Speaking, 3.Reading, and 4.Writing. The framework is developed along the idea that it will “create a distinct pathway to reading in English rather than delaying the introduction of English reading” (17) and help the student succeed.

No matter how each of these documents is broken down, because each teacher is a different type of learner, the criteria are listed in black and white: if the student can do this, then they are considered this. All the educator has to realize when dealing with these documents is the importance of an equal opportunity education for all of their students to succeed is based on a mastery of the knowledge and skill set in which they are trying to educate and the students are trying to learn. All subjects have a basic language to be mastered (science, math, language, social studies, geography, art) and levels at which they need to master them. The key, I think, is being able to decipher which level each student is at and to modify content language acquisition of the subject to suit the different types of learners in the environment of the classroom. To conclude, the VPA document states this idea of universal language learning very eloquently: “Dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts have endured in all cultures throughout the ages as a universal basic language. The arts convey knowledge and meaning not learned through the study of other subjects. Study in and through the arts employs a form of thinking and a way of knowing based on human judgment, invention, and imagination. Arts education offers students the opportunity to envision, set goals, determine a method to reach a goal and try it out, identify alternatives, evaluate, revise, solve problems, imagine, work collaboratively, and apply self-discipline. As they study and create in the arts, students use the potential of the human mind to its full and unique capacity.” (9)

An example lesson could look like this:

Art Lesson – Butterflies – 2nd grade – “How to Hide a Butterfly” by Ruth Heller

After a review of the general classroom information based on insects, the class will orally discuss what characteristics a butterfly possesses with the teacher. Then, by breaking the class into groups, students will discuss (think-pair-share) what the title of the book implies about butterflies. The teacher will read the book to the students, pausing to ask questions about other insects that may hide, before finishing the book, and discussing further upon the finish of the book. The teacher will show students how to camouflage an insect or butterfly drawing, using crayons and watercolors.
The students will engage in listening, speaking, reading and writing activities and will have been able to share artistic perception, exhibit creative expression and aesthetic valuing, share any historical or cultural prior knowledge they may have and make connections and apply information that they learned in the general class to this lesson.

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