‘Kindness in Chalk’ inspires kids

Last Monday, thousands of students chalked encouraging messages to their classmates, reports The 74.

Kindness in Chalk Day” was launched by MinneMama blogger Nicki Brunner after her son started kindergarten in 2014.

Encouraging students to encourage each other prevents bullying, she believes. Some 267 schools participated in the activity this year.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.


When Dad is a cartoonist — and makes lunch

Cartoonist Mike Jenkins makes his daughter’s lunch — and draws an original cartoon on the bag every day. He wanted to “think outside the bag,” said the Richmond dad.

Test our kids, say art, music teachers 

Worried that only what’s tested is valued, art and music teachers are trying to develop common assessments of their students’ skills, reports Hechinger’s Sarah Butrymowicz. It’s not easy.

In New Hampshire, the experimental exam asked high school students “to research an artist, create a piece of art inspired by the artist’s work and then write a reflection about the experience,” writes Butrymowicz.

Teachers met over the summer to see whether they could agree on grading and tweak the assessments.

Elementary school art teachers Sarah Boudreau and Justina Austin “laid out about two dozen self-portraits drawn by their fourth-grade students,” reportsButrymowicz. “They needed to agree on a score of 1, 2, 3 or 4 for each piece, based on predetermined grading criteria, such as drawing skills and oil pastel blending technique.”

Meanwhile, music teachers tried to assign scores to “improvised student performances on the recorder” based on “pitch, tone and rhythm.”

In its arts tests, Florida has incorporated multiple-choice and short-answer questions that are easy to score efficiently. New Hampshire and Michigan are trying something more ambitious: devising tasks that require a student to submit a finished piece of artwork or perform a piece of music. These tests are time-intensive to administer and grade, however, and the results are difficult to translate into a single numeric score.

“When the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, included an arts test in 1997, it required students to produce real works of art in addition to answering standard multiple-choice questions,” writes Butrymowicz.  NAEP ended up with “semitractor-trailers full of student-created clay bunnies.”

Arts tests in 2008 and 2016 relied on digitized photos and videos.

Even the best scoring systems won’t capture everything, said Timothy Brophy, director of institutional assessment and professor of music education at the University of Florida.“We’re all pretty glad that Monet and Da Vinci didn’t go to a school that said, ‘You need to [paint] in this way to meet a rubric,’ ” he said.

Kinders read more, play less

Kindergarteners are reading more and playing less, concludes a University of Virginia study.

In 1998, before No Child Left Behind put the focus on achievement gaps, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers expected their students to learn to read that year. By 2010, 80 percent believed kindergarteners should be learning to read.

Seventy-three percent of kindergarteners took a standardized test in 2010. That’s more than first graders took in 1998. Kindergarten teachers weren’t asked about testing. writes NPR’s Anya Kamenetz.

Fewer teachers offer music and art every day and there were “notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging,” says Daphna Bassok, the study’s lead author.

There were large, double-digit decreases in the percentages of teachers who said their classrooms had areas for dress-up, a water or sand table, an art area or a science/nature area. And teachers who offered at least an hour a day of student-driven activities dropped from 54 to 40 percent. At the same time, whole-class, teacher-led instruction rose along with the use of textbooks and worksheets.

However, children are more likely to have recess and just as likely to have a P.E. class.

With the sharp rise in preschool enrollment, teachers may expect more from students, writes Kamenetz. That leads to a sort of academic arms race: 1 in 5 kindergarteners is already six years old as more parents may wait a year to enroll a child who’s not ready for reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and testing.

All reading and math makes Jack a dull boy


The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David.

All reading and math skills — without exposure to the arts — makes Jack a dull boy — and not much of a reader, argues Jay Greene. “More research is beginning to show that a broader education, including the arts, may be essential for later success in math and reading as well as the proper development of civic values and character skills, including tolerance, empathy, and self-regulation.”

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers are spending less time teaching music, art, dance and theater, research shows.

Long-term success in math, reading and science depends on the general knowledge and fine-motor skills learned through the arts, studies show, Greene adds.

Researchers urge teaching children “a better understanding of the world”  by improving science and social studies instruction and building foundational skills through “the arts, music, dance, physical education, and free play.”

Greene’s research has found that “field trips to art museums and to see live theater” not only build general knowledge, they “change student values to promote greater tolerance and empathy.”

LA schools open secret art collection


Los Angeles Unified’s art and artifact collection includes: (clock-wise from upper left) Pastel on paper by Raymond Nott, Desert Arab Man by Gordon Harrower Coutts, Chinese Junks by Arthur Edwaine, The Lazy Day by Ahn Young-il, Red Figure Skyphos (drinking cup, on low-footed base), Mesopotamian Cuneiform Tablet, Don Quixote metal relief by Salvador Dali.

Los Angeles Unified is providing a peek into its collection of more than 50,000 art works and artifacts, reports KPCC. Fifty pieces — including a metal sculpture of Don Quixote by Salvador Dali — will be displayed online.

A new Artscape site will turn the collection into a resource for teachers and students, the district hopes. It will include a gallery of students’ art.

How did the district get all that art? Apparently, it’s all from donations. “The pieces have been stored in a few schools and administrative buildings; many were locked away in vaults,” reports KPCC.

If it’s only going to be displayed online, the district could photograph it, sell everything of value and use the money to fund art supplies and teachers.

In defense of knowledge

The Knowledge Matters campaign is lobbying for schools to teach a broad curriculum including history, science, geography, art and music — especially to “those least likely to gain such knowledge outside school.”
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You’d think there’d be no need to ask schools to teach knowledge,  but it’s being pushed aside by drill in reading skills and by the belief that kids don’t need to know anything because they can just look everything up.

“Fifty years of solid research demonstrates that broad knowledge is vital to language comprehension and deep knowledge is vital to critical analysis,” argues the Knowledge Matters campaign. “Through broad and deep knowledge, students become the informed, thoughtful citizens our nation—and world—needs.”

Escaping the ‘prison house of self’


Freddie Bartholomew as David Copperfield and W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber in the 1935 movie.

College professors are killing students’ interest in literature, writes Gary Saul Morson, a Northwestern humanities professor, in Commentary.  That’s bad for democracy.

Some professors teach a “dense thicket of theory” focused on “the text.” Students look for symbols. Others encourage students to judge the “author, character, or the society depicted according to the moral and social standards prevalent today.” A third interest-killing variation sees literature as a documentary of its times.

These approaches “fail to give a reason for reading literature,” writes Morson.

Reading a novel, you experience the perceptions, values, and quandaries of a person from another epoch, society, religion, social class, culture, gender, or personality type.

Literature provides practice in empathy, he writes. “We follow the life of Dorothea Brooke or David Copperfield moment to moment, and we live with them for hundreds of hours, always living into their experience, growing along with them, approving or disapproving their choices, and perhaps changing our minds as they change theirs.”

Here’s the money quote:

We all live in a prison house of self. We naturally see the world from our own perspective and see our own point of view as obvious and, if we are not careful, as the only possible one. . . . The more our culture presumes its own perspective, the more our academic disciplines presume their own rectitude, and the more professors restrict students to their own way of looking at things, the less students will be able to escape from habitual, self-centered, self-reinforcing judgments.

. . . Democracy depends on having a strong sense of the value of diverse opinions. If one imagines (as the Soviets did) that one already has the final truth, and that everyone who disagrees is mad, immoral, or stupid, then why allow opposing opinions to be expressed or permit another party to exist at all? The Soviets insisted they had complete freedom of speech, they just did not allow people to lie.

“Great literature allows one to think and feel from within how other cultures think and feel,” concludes Morson.

Students don’t judge contemporary art, writes Michael J. Lewis, also in Commentary. They don’t care.  “While the fine arts can survive a hostile or ignorant public, or even a fanatically prudish one, they cannot long survive an indifferent one. And that is the nature of the present Western response to art, visual and otherwise: indifference.”

High Art has removed itself from a conversation with the culture, and now lectures from barren cul-de-sacs to acolytes in sack-cloths,” responds James Lileks.

More time for ‘purposeful play’ in kindergarten


Therese Iwancio playing a game with her kindergarten class at Cecil Elementary school in Baltimore. Photo: Gabriella Demczuk, New York Times

Kindergarten teachers are asking students to learn reading, writing and math skills once taught in first or second grade, reports Motoko Rich in the New York Times. In some districts and states, teachers are being trained to use “purposeful play to “guide children to learning goals through games, art and general fun.”

A study comparing federal government surveys of kindergarten teachers in 1998 and 2010 by researchers at the University of Virginia found that the proportion of teachers who said their students had daily art and music dropped drastically. Those who reported teaching spelling, the writing of complete sentences and basic math equations every day jumped.

Schools with more low-income and minority students were more likely to cut back on art and music while increasing the use of textbooks, reports Rich.

Educators in low-income districts believe their students need explicit instruction in academics. “Middle-class parents are doing this anyway, so if we don’t do it for kids who are not getting it at home, then they are going to start at an even greater disadvantage,” said Deborah Stipek, the dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford.

I wonder how often “purposeful” play is effective at achieving its purpose. All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy.

 

Artists transform ‘prison-like school’

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wynwood miami artist
Before and after for a Miami middle school in the newly artsy Wynwood neighborhood. 

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once known for empty warehouses, drugs and gang violence, is now a mecca for artists, reports Eleanor Goldberg in the Huffington Post. Jose de Diego Middle School, where 96 percent of students live below the poverty line, no longer looks like a stark white “prison.”

This year, Principal April Thompson-Williams persuaded the district to fund an art teacher for the first time in years. And she worked with local arts groups to get the school painted for free.

“Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the amount of wall space,” said Robert de los Rius, owner of WynwoodMap.com, “just amazing canvas for art.” He organized the painting: 73 artists from Miami and around the world participated.

He also launched a fundraiser to develop an arts program called the “RAW Project” –- Reimagining the Arts in Wynwood.

“This is a critical time where kids choose who they want to be, what they want to be and what they want to get into,” Diana Contreras, a Miami artist who participated in the project, told HuffPost. “And they need a way to express themselves.”

Students feel calmer and safer in the new environment, Thompson-Williams said. The middle school is losing fewer students to charters.