C.J. ran into a friend of ours this week who asked him “Where’s James?” He replied, “School’s out and he’s on vacation so of course he’s taking a class.”
C.J. knows me very well. Just about every summer, if we’re not taking some sort of dramatic month-long trip, I take at least one class, usually a class for teachers. So I spend the last week in class, taking Course B of the Integrated Learning Specialist Program through the Alameda County Office of Education.
It’s really much more fun than it sounds like. The program is concerned with bringing arts back into the classroom, along with several other things, but I really took it for the arts focus. I took this particular week of courses because it met in San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum which is a wonderful place that I can travel to via ferry-boat. A daily boat ride, time in a great art museum, and a chance to make a bunch of art projects….who could resist?
We had to write a two page paper about our week at the end of the class. I thought I’d include mine here in the very off-chance that it might be of interest and in the hope that having it out here on-line might help remind me to do everything I want to do in my classes next year.
I took this class because I wanted to bring more artwork into my English/history class. My department hopes to use artwork as part of our history curriculum and as a means to increase student engagement. I would like to do more art, to be honest, for its own sake. Specifically, I was looking for strategies and activities and for ways I could replace unit tests with artwork. We’d also like to bring some straightforward art history into the mix.
As far as assessment, unit tests in particular go… I’m very excited by Making Thinking Visible in particular the possibilities the concept map has. I think it can replace at least one of our six unit tests. Maybe more, though doing something like that loses its novelty bonus with repetition. I think I can use it to ensure the students have gained the knowledge I want them to take away while giving them the opportunity to go deep into other connections and ideas they have about the material. I believe a test should also be a learning tool; the concept map may be able to pull this off. My plan is to give the students a list of terms I want on their concept map and to ask them to add terms of their own. Say ten from me, at least ten of your own. The connections they make and explain should show their understanding at least as well as a more traditional essay question/test item does. I’m also working through the Teaching for Understanding ideas, i.e. having a test on the plague in Europe by applying what students know about it to the plague in China for example.
I plan on having the students create their own Open House displays next year, like we did yesterday. I don’t know yet if these will be a group effort or if they’ll make some sort of individual project nor how much they will incorporate the learning process, but I’m very excited about doing this. I hope it will increase attendance at Open House this year.
I am most jazzed about using the Artful Thinking activities we did yesterday. I’ve already emailed my department the article and I expect we’ll be all over it with our first English unit on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. They will be all over our history curriculum, too. I think the 10 x 2 activity will be a great addition to our writing program. This may have the unintended consequence of producing a large number of amateur art critics, but I can live with that.
My teacher class ended on Friday, so of course I spent yesterday at The Center for the Book learning how to make a flat-back case binding. I’ve included a picture of the book I made. I’m very please with the results and excited to get to work making more. I do have a list of people I promised mail-art to which I need to get to first. I haven’t forgotten you all.
So today I’ll be working in my studio and resting up from my week of classes. I may even get around to finishing Thomas Hardy’s The Distracted Preacher, a novella I started reading on the boat Friday. I read three books on the ferry-boat, so look for lots of reviews this week.
How’s your summer been so far?
P.S. I decided to post a picture of the false bookcase secret door C.J. has been making. It’s not quite finished yet, but it looks good enough at this point to show off.