eNews - May 5, 2016


While walking across a high school campus last week, I overheard two students discussing their experience after taking portions of the CAASPP test that morning. They were confident with some parts of the test and were sure they “bombed” others. “I had no idea what they were asking on some of the questions,” stated one of the students. “I didn’t even get to all of the questions!” stated the other. Both students expressed concern about not doing well and one stated, “And this is just the beginning!” Later in the day, I attended an administrative meeting in another district. Testing coordinators and teachers were meeting to talk about testing and tension, stress, and frustration levels with the process were highly evident on both sides.

In California at least 3.2 million students will participate in state testing. This is a challenging time for teachers, administrators, and our students. Testing brings up so many thoughts and feelings for everyone and takes over all that we do in school until it is complete. Schedules change, services are cancelled, doors have DO NOT DISTURB!! TESTING signs posted, and students are told to, “Study, study, study, go to bed early and be sure to eat breakfast!” It is indeed a challenging time!

After weeks of test prep, and actual test-taking, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, we can dream, plan and look forward to rejuvenating ourselves and our students. What better to bring into our classrooms than the abstract, non-prescriptive, creative personal expression of the arts? Used as a catharsis, as a break, and a way to rejuvenate the soul, mind and heart, the arts could be the perfect way to spend time during the first couple of weeks after testing ends.

Elena Aguilar, a Transformational Leadership Coach, suggests the following activities to get your mind going and lead you to research what might be most appropriate for your students.

  1. Play music. Start a genre or composer study. Listen to music with the lights off. Invite students to draw or paint while they listen. Share music they may have never heard: Tibetan monks chanting, Balinese gamelan, West African blues, Andean flutes, or Beethoven.

  2. Create observational drawings. All you need are pencils (some left over from testing!) and paper.

  3. Make life drawings. Draw plants, objects or something found on a walk around the school grounds.

  4. Appreciate Photography. Look at photos, study them, and discuss them. What makes some more powerful? If you have the resources, send students on a photographing mission or pair photographs with poetry.

  5. Listen to nature. Record sounds of nature and have kids listen to them in a dark room – a great activity connected to science (scientists use other senses in their work).

  6. Create a Collage. Use tissue paper and glue or ask for donations of old magazines/catalogues and create new images.

  7. Appreciate Nature. Look for high speed YouTube videos of images like raindrops hitting the ground (this can be connected with physics and math – mass, acceleration, vectors - http://www.npr.org/templates/story.php?storyid=100333707).

  8. Identify Patterns. Algebra was invented in the Middle East by artists trying to figure out patterns and how they connect to geometry.

More ideas can be found at Teaching Ideas (http://teachingideas.co.uk/art/contents.htm)

Once you start looking and thinking, you’ll find endless resources and more ideas than you will have time to implement. Perhaps you will even be encouraged to integrate the arts on a routine basis in your classes. Here’s to a successful testing period and a wonderful creative arts follow up!!