Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Study, Teaching Literacy Through Art

This is the book I have been reading in preparation for the new school year and I L-O-V-E this book.  It is fantastic.  I highly recommend this to art educators that are interested in art advocacy and interdisciplinary art education.  Author Beth Olshansky is a literacy teacher who loves the arts.  This book would be great for a book study group.  Invite administration and gen. ed. teachers to join you in a book study which is an excellent way to advocate for the arts in your school and will help them understand the importance of what we do as visual arts teachers.  The book is a pleasant read so they won't be angry with you for torturing them and it is extremely relevant to all. curricular

Olshansky presents researched based evidence to advocate for using visual and kinesthetic teaching/learning styles to educate students in literacy.  She used Dr. Sue Teele research which showed that in the average lower el. classroom 25 out of 26 students are visual and kinesthetic learners while only a little more than half the class has strengths in verbal learning. "Teele's research revealed that students retain their visual and kinesthetic strengths all through elementary and middle school.  Her study documented that after third grade, students' strengths as verbal learners actually diminish.  Today, this phenomenon, is often reffered to as 'fourth-grade slump'" (Olshansky, 12).  She further iterates the connection between graduation rates/school success and a students ability to read on level in third grade.

With the new challenges that educators face in today's society and educational system there is a great deal of pressure to teach to the test.  This kind of drilling is based in verbal learning so essentially we have created a system that does a disservice to the majority of our students.  So, as art educators where does that leave us?  We can support the learning taking place in the gen. ed. classroom through this art based literacy approach.  I know all to well the worries that visual art teachers have in the back of their minds about losing the quality of their art programs to the other disciplines.  Continually we are asked to be more, know more and do more.  We are painters, ceramicists, photographers, graphic designers, therapist, nurse, and now math, science and English teachers.

Yes, it is sometimes overwhelming, but know that you are not alone.  Art teachers across the country face the same challenges.  In the end, our job description is changing and our methods must change with it.  We do need to be more, know more, and do more as we struggle to justify why the arts should continue to exist in public schools.  I know this battle becomes tiresome because we all already know why.  We, art educators, see it and live it everyday.  Art based literacy, and perhaps the ambitious undertaking of a staff book study group, is a great way to advocate for your program without endangering its content. 

At the very least take a chance and read The Power of Pictures, Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art.  It is a tool that will make you a more understanding educator of your students' needs.  It even includes a DVD which I can't wait to watch.  I will let you know more as I complete the book and design lesson plans.

Artfully Yours, E

No comments:

Post a Comment