Thursday, December 9, 2010

Handout for the Arts

Handout coming as soon as I figure out how to upload .pdfs from this computer.

Any time we are required to create a handout, I think first of all about the ways in which I can make the information accessible to the different learning styles of the teachers who may read the handout. In the case of advocating for integration of the arts, something which is not wholeheartedly embraced by educators, the information must primarily be compelling and clearly stated and appeal to teachers' fundamental goal of meeting the developmental needs of every student in their care. I also believe it necessary to address the expected concern that integration of the arts requires additional, time, effort, and focus that are not currently available in the standard early childhood classroom.

To that end, I felt the handout had to be visually interesting for “picture smart” people as well as informational and well written for “word smart” people, and present data to appeal to “logic smart” people as well. Each of the other intelligences held by teachers can be covered through careful design of the presentation. By designing this handout and training session in this way, the point being made through the topic itself – the vital way in which the Arts meet the needs of various learning styles in our students – can become internalized by those who may otherwise disagree with the need for the Arts in the classroom.

When creating an introductory pamphlet, there must be a definition of terms. In this case, I used the phrase “the Arts Classroom”to explain an environment in which the Arts hold equal importance with all other content areas and means of learning. Each area within the Arts also was defined, and examples provided on how the environment is affected by their presence, and ways in which each content area benefits from exploring in each art area. There was also the need to support the idea with scientific research, primarily through the work of Dr. Gardner. Although space did not allow me to present a lesson plan of a Project which includes exploration and learning through all areas, a resource link to in the section “Content Areas through the Arts” provides forty-three web pages of example hands-on arts activities cross-linked to each content area for the preschool level.

Finally, I felt it vital to demonstrate the ease with which the arts can be integrated physically into the classroom environment. Throughout my coursework at Walden I have had many opportunities to design a classroom through the aid of free Classroom Architect software online. At each step, I use my prior classroom layout and adapt it to include the new information I have learned. Initially, the Literacy Center held primary focus. Following a course on projects and integrated learning, I adjusted to re-prioritize the importance of research space and group technology use. After these changes to the layout, I discovered that a new arrangement to balance the Arts into the classroom took nearly no effort at all. Visual Arts shares space with the Writing Center and work tables, which were already positioned near sinks on hard floors for messy Science work. Music shares the space with the Listening Center, and moving one table allowed sufficient space for Movement in the same area. A drama stage was built-in with the addition of a climbing loft (also used for Movement activities) in the Pretend Play Center. In all, rearranging a classroom to encourage the arts took approximately five minutes. Providing the layout in this handout, along with examples and descriptions, helps to emphasize how simply and quickly these adjustments can be undertaken.

Integration of the arts is vital for the way in which children learn today. Not only do they fit perfectly with the developmental level of preschoolers, but today's children have moved from reading books to surfing the internet, television has become more flashy and loud to appeal to shrinking attention spans, and children struggle with real life stresses at much younger ages than ever before. Integrating the arts at every age level reaches out to these kids who fall behind and have no access to methods of learning that allow them to succeed. I hope to have made the vital importance of this concept clear through this teaching handout on the Arts.

References (2008). Classroom architect. Flash software. Accessed November 13, 2010, from (2009). Learning styles: The multiple intelligences redefine “smart”. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from

Gardner, H. (1999). Multiple intelligences. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from

Kaser, M. R. (n.d.) Multiple intelligences theory by Howard Gardner. JPG Image. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from

John Locke Quote

Very cool John Locke quote from Some Thoughts Concerning Education in defense of learning through play:

Thus children may be cozened into a knowledge [of] letters; be taught to read without perceiving it to be anything but a sport, and play themselves into that others are whipped for. Children should not have anything like work, or serious, laid on them; neither their minds nor bodies will bear it. It injures their healths; and their being forced and tied down to their books, in an age at enmity with all such restraint, has; I doubt not, been the reason why a great many have hated books and learning all their lives after: it is like a surfeit, that leaves an aversion behind, not to be removed. I have therefore thought, that if playthings were fitted to this purpose, as they are usually to none, contrivances might be made to teach children to read, whilst they thought they were only playing.

A Classroom for Ana

Originally published 22 October 2008.

I was bored. I drew a classroom. Ana wants to see it, so here it is. PLAN A

Here's PLAN B, basically the same classroom but shifted around so that a neighboring classroom could share the entry, bathroom and kitchen:

Ana thinks the whole group area is too big and some neighboring areas too small. But she really likes the term 'Recentering Zone', which really is actually the Time Out corner. *grin* So I guess I've done well enough.

How am I smart?

Originally published 12 November 2008.

This week we're learning about Lilian G. Katz, Howard Gardner, and Daniel Goleman. They offer us the Project approach, Multiple Intelligences (different strengths and weaknesses we have that affect our learning), and Emotional Intelligences (like your IQ, this tests your Emotional levels instead of your Intelligence levels).

Here's some fun quizzes we had to take for our discussion post:

Here's my results for the first and third options, testing my multiple intelligences. I took the snowflake one (test 1) twice (click to make it big enough to read):

Book recommendation for Multiple Intelligences:
How am I smart? by Dr. Kathy Koch (pronounced 'cook'). Originally written for jr. high/high school kids, it's now marketed to parents. It's a very easy read, quite fascinating; she also includes tips and ideas for how to create an environment to implement them in learning and every day life.

Here's the results of my Emotional Intelligence (EQ - test 2). Sorry, no spiffy chart. I wish there was!:

"Your results indicate an above average score on emotional intelligence.

What Does Your Score Mean?
People with a better than average score on emotional intelligence tend to be good at interpreting, understanding, and acting upon emotions. They are usually quite good at dealing with social or emotional conflicts, expressing their feelings, and dealing with emotional situations.

It's important to remember that no matter how good your score is, there is always room to improve your emotional intelligence. Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow. Take stock of your strong points and find ways to continue to develop and apply these skills."

How about you?

The problem with kids these days...

Originally published 11 April 2010.

Following is the text of what I submitted for this week's Discussion assignment on the status of play.  Free play is required for children to be healthy developmentally in all areas, but many kids aren't given that option. When kids don't get the chance to decide on their own how they will play, they lose the ability to make specific kinds of decisions and navigate diplomacy, a skill called "executive function". This lack causes severe difficulties and behavior problems. This text is my reaction to the articles assigned on the topic. They were really quite fascinating; I'll link them at the end.

Throughout our readings there has been a continuing theme that perhaps could use a different perspective. Each article has addressed a similar variety of potential issues that have lead to the situation in which we find ourselves today regarding play. However, these issues have been presented simply as causes, and not truly confronted head-on as the source of the issue. The problem here is not a debate over what is appropriate for our children. The problem really has nothing to do with the children at all... it's the adults.

Many children are no longer allowed to free play because of physical danger; either they have no safe outdoor place to play or the indoor environment is not safe to navigate unguided. In other words, parents are afraid of harm, and therefore assert control over where and how their children play.

Many children do not free play while at home because parents believe they must interact with their child but don't have time to do so, and so they turn on the TV or computer. In other words, parents are afraid of what other people will think if they say no to a request and schedule more time around their children. And so they assert control through where the children are and what they're doing so that they (the parent) does not need to be present.

Many children are overbooked through activities and events to the point of creating stress disorders. This happens because parents may be afraid of what other parents think, or are afraid that they are not good enough parents, instead of being secure in the knowledge that they are smart and intelligent people who can learn about children and be confident about what is right for their own child. In response to that fear, they micromanage every moment of their child's day.

The fact that play is being eliminated from classrooms across the country stems from an adult fear that the children will not meet up to the world's expectations; not only when they are adults, but also as children. Our world is so overly competitive in a way that children don't naturally understand, and so adults push them in a reflection of their own fear of failure. This fear of failure, of the potential of not living up to the rest of the world, causes adults to control academic requirements and school responsibilities to assert the potential to win.

My opinion is that the best way to fix this problem is world-wide therapy sessions! Seriously though, the pattern of fear --> control is one that arises in many areas of life, in overprotective parenting, in disorders and crimes, in dysfunctional marriages, in struggling businesses, in political budgets. While a certain amount of fear is healthy and instinctive, I believe our technological age and city living has led to a loss of real areas in which we were not meant to control, but merely to observe and learn. Living as we do, we have more time for introspection and emotional connection to our fears, and less practice letting things be as nature intends. Humankind has been successfully navigating life for millions of years, but not until recently has living become relatively easy for most. We've become soft and squeamish as a society, and allowed our fears to overtake us.

In order to let our children play, to learn and develop naturally as children were created to do, adults (parents, teachers, and lawmakers included) must step back from their fear and release control. They must allow for the possibility that a child may get poked with the stick they swing, that they might get muddy or bitten by mosquitoes in the creek, or that they might experience the pain of a friend calling them names. As most of our resources have pointed out, living through and learning from experiences like these lead us to understand how to navigate life and to be successful in our future. Depriving our children of these opportunities in the name of avoiding potential harm will instead create a whole new range of developmental problems, and a society in which adults no longer understand how to interact appropriately with one another.

List copied from our "Resources" tab for Modules 1 & 2 from Walden University:
(Sorry for the wonky formatting)

Required Resources
Supplemental Resources

  • Web Article: Taking Play Seriously

  • Web Article: Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control

  • Video: Stuart Brown: Why Play is Vital--No Matter Your Age

  • Web Article: Recess and the Importance of Play

  • Introduction 
    Organized Activities Marginalizing Free Time 
    Technological Innovations 
    Web Article: The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development
    Increased Focus on Academics
    • Web Article: Another Look at What Young Children Should be Learning
    • Web Article: Should Preschools Teach All Work and No Play? 
    • Web Article: No Outdoor Play Hurts Children 
    • Web Article: Alliance for Childhood Campaigns to Take Pressure off Children 
    • Web Article: The Three R’s: A Fourth is Crucial, Too: Recess 
    • Web Article: Recess and the Importance of Play 
    • Video: Immersion

      The arts in education

      Originally published 09 November 2010.

      I felt that this topic brought up enough emotional heat that I'd just share it with the rest of you! 

      Definition: "The Arts" in my textbook includes visual arts (painting, sculpting, etc.), music, movement, dance, and theatre.

      The assignment:  "What responsibility, if any, do early childhood professionals have to advocate for arts education in a community’s public schools? Explain your views.  Then choose one area of the arts and describe an argument you would use to make a case for a visual arts, music education, or creative movement program for children of all ages."

      This subject is one in which I struggle to productively structure my thoughts because it simply seems too obvious. As educators we must somehow reach into every child and trigger motivation and a love of learning. People, regardless of age, are extremely complex creations. We know that people have different strengths and weaknesses and different ways of viewing the world, and that identifying and strategizing with each of these unique things is the key to accomplishing our goals with our students. To leave out the arts - visual arts, music, movement, dance, and theatre - excludes a significant segment of children from the potential of success. In a developmentally appropriate classroom that meets every child's needs, the arts must be available in equal measures with other styles of learning.

      Not only do children often express their conscious thoughts, as well as process learning, by working creatively with their hands and bodies, but research has shown that the arts tap into a deeper subconscious that allows children to process things of which they are unaware. Music and visual arts are often used in therapeutic settings for children recovering from trauma or learning to cope with severe disabilities, emphasizing the vital importance of these methods of interaction (Kozlowska & Hanney, 2001), (Carpente, 2002). Allowing children daily experience with this part of their minds and souls gives them the opportunity to more easily access these areas in times of trouble or difficulty, and feel safe within themselves throughout those learning processes.

      In the same way that some people learn best by listening, or learn best by seeing pictures, or learn best by reading text, other people learn best through a connection to music. In infancy, sounds enter the brain before the eyes are able to properly intake vision. Extremely young children are able to process and acknowledge differences in tones and pitches, and learn to identify individuals by their voices before they are able to see them clearly. Sound, and the processes of it through music, relates to our earliest natural abilities to learn. Many people find it much easier to memorize facts as lyrics to songs. The structure of sung speech imitates sound patterns required for developing strong reading skills. Many songs for young children are fundamental early literacy elements, such as rhymes and poetry, put to music.

      I was somewhat dismayed, however, to see how little attention our textbook gave to the ways in which music links to more concrete elements. The structures of music follow the same structures of beginning mathematics, providing patterns and repetitions, the abilities to compare, contrast, and serialize in audio form, and the rhythms necessary for counting and number sense. "Early childhood educators, knowing that math and music share similar inherent characteristics, can use simple musical elements to introduce mathematical concepts, interactions, and ideas to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers" (Geist & Geist, 2008, p. 21).

      Music also creates a direct link to science learning, as children can study sound itself, experiment with what kinds of substances carry sound and how, and learning about physiology and the ears, as well as developing empathy for the deaf and hard of hearing. Experiments can be done such as at the end of the movie, "Mr. Holland's Opus", in which orchestra music is translated into colored lights for the deaf audience.

      Music instruction goes far beyond simply being enjoyable, providing the opportunity to move the body, and putting early literacy to melody. It also goes beyond easy integration into other content areas. Music is another area in which people are able to express the deepest emotions and thoughts, that carries the hopes and dreams of many cultures. By providing daily music education, our children can have another avenue through which they are valued and know that they are able to express their true selves and be accepted.

      Carpente, J.A. (2002). Creative Music Therapy with a Boy with Multiple Impairments: Stepping out of isolation into new experiences. The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy. Retrieved from

      Geist, K., & Geist, E.A. (2008). Do re mi, 1-2-3, that's how easy math can be. Using music to support emergent mathematics. Young Children. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

      Kozlowska, K. & Hanney, L. (2001). An Art Therapy Group for Children Traumatized by Parental Violence and Separation. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2001; vol. 6, 1: pp. 49-78.

      Prairie, A. P., Isbell, R. T., & Raines, S. C. (2010). Teaching across the content areas: Math, science and the creative arts (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

      Social Responsibility in the Home

      Originally published 24 February 2010 as the introduction to a Sociology group project focused on families. The project can be viewed here.

      The idea of living a socially responsible life can be overwhelming for many of us. We think of politics and fund raising, of feeding hungry orphans or providing relief work in natural disaster areas. Those who are socially responsible care for their environment and the people around them. Someone who holds a door for a woman pushing a stroller or who throws their Pepsi can into a recycling bin instead of a trash can is making socially responsible choices. We each have an obligation to one another simply because we are created human; people need other people not only for commerce and production of things, but also for building a sense of self and purpose.

      Of course, we all know that there are some people in our communities who don't feel that a lifestyle of social responsibility is important.  They focus their everyday lives on making it through the day, striving for personal successes.  These individuals often contribute to difficulties in our communities through selfish actions both large and small.  In preparation for this project we asked ourselves, "How can otherwise healthy adults think that these acts are acceptable?" We decided to look more closely at the life of a child, based on a modern day understanding of Child Development, and the vital importance of the influence of a parent on the adult their child will become.

      In the book, How to Behave so Your Children Will Too, Sal Severe explains our premise:
      Children learn good behavior. Children learn misbehavior. Behavior does not occur by magic. It is not inherited. A well-behaved child is not the result of luck. Be encouraged - if children learn behavior, then children can learn to change behavior... If you are in pursuit of well-behaved, well-adjusted children, you need to understand how your behavior is connected with your child's behavior (Severe, n.d.).

      When a child is born into the world, the neurons in its brain begin to form and connect one to another, learning how to communicate and function within our world. Infants learn skills from observation and instinct before they know how to speak. In most families, the person the infant observes is the parent.  What a child learns before the age of five is what will be the most fundamental and physiological part of them; it will provide the foundation for everything they become (Martin, Fabes, 2009). Healthy and proper parenting in early years is vital for contributing to a content and healthy community, and for molding children into socially responsible adults.

      Many parents today do have the ability to care properly for their children, and we applaud their success. This study focuses on the concerns of those who struggle, and the wider effects of that struggle in various areas of the community. Within this project you will find a wealth of information related to the topic, touching on many different perspectives. Please feel free to browse and enjoy learning more about the issue of social responsibility in the home.