Working collaboratively across the curriculum….

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I recently had a language arts/global studies teacher ask me if I would be interested in working together to make a book on the Rainforest.  After three brainstorming sessions we came up with the idea of making an Alphabet Book.

 Students randomly chose a letter of the alphabet. Lists of animals were compiled by both of us to given to the students to choose an appropriate animal. In Language Arts and Global Studies classes students used the computer lab as well as the library to research and print photos of their animals.  They composed one page descriptions of their animal, giving details about their physique and where they lived within the rainforest.

Since we were in the process of studying the work of Eric Carle in Art, this lesson fit perfectly into our class.  The students had just completed a lesson on color and were well versed in how primary colors are mixed to create secondary and intermediate colors.  Contour Line drawings were done in their sketchbooks along with notes on the colors and details of the animals. Students had previously viewed the Eric Carle video, Eric Carle, Picture Writer, showing the artist in his studio creating his free style of painted papers.  One art class was spent making these “pretty papers” with various brushes, sponges, and tools incorporating many of Eric Carle’s techniques.

When the students returned to art class the next day and the pretty papers were strewn across the floor.  All of the students could see the various colors and textures and chose the ones that they wanted to use.  Various papers were pieced together into a collage type rendering of their particular animal.  The students worked hard to make the animal as realistic as possible and the results were indeed successful.

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The art of cartography….

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The Art of Cartography…..

Essential Questions:  How is cartography considered art?

Sixth grade students spend the first few weeks of school learning about maps in Global Studies classes, transition words in Language Arts, and contour line in Visual Arts.  Creating a lesson that uses all of these skills is called interdisciplinary learning.

In Art class students begin by utilizing contour line to draw several different inanimate objects; i.e., vase, jar, bottle, scissors, cup, etc.   This is presented merely as a practice exercise and emphasis is put on the actual drawing process, concentrating on the outside edges of the objects.  These simple drawings later become the land masses on their map.

Utilizing the skills of Global Studies and mapmaking, students incorporate a key, compass rose, and latitude/ longitude lines onto their maps. Symbols are used representing topography as well as the route to the buried treasure.

Once maps are colored with oil pastels and aged with brown tempera, the students write a description of where to find the Pirate chest. Their story must include the use of transitions words learned in Language Arts.   QR codes are attached to the finished works before they are displayed.  Other students in the building can then use their hand-held-devices to listen to the  stories.

By letting students use their imagination and creativity you increase retention and make learning fun.  This is one of their favorite lessons.

5 ideas to improve teaching as well as learning…..

I have been contemplating on how to improve my teaching as well as the learning that takes place in my classroom.  I feel that I have become somewhat stagnant in my processes over the past 20 years even though I try to change the projects developed and keep my teaching style current with trends.

My school consists of 800+ students in the 5th and 6th grades in which I split evenly with a team teacher.  At the end of last year we took a look at what we are teaching and decided to omit, re-fresh, and add new lesson plans to our repertoire.

  1. Implement more TAB lessons. (Teaching for Artist Behavior)

2. Create a service project; i.e. student-led teaching of art to a local nursing home community and/or pre-school. 

3. Develop digital portfolios for student assessment. 

4. Create interdisciplinary lesson plans. 

5. Utilize technology in an interactive format; i.e. blogging, interactive white board, virtual learning through YouTeacher or Skype.  

These are 5 ideas I have to improve teaching as well as learning in my classroom.

Can you share some of yours?