EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

EDU 6363 Social Studies, Language Arts and Arts

Fine Arts and Technology

Within every community there begs opportunities to implement and involve the arts.  In Seattle alone there are over 30 museums.  While each of these field trips would cost money there are group discounts and programs available for education that may require little or no monies.  School districts have funds set aside to support some additional curriculum and if married with another discipline of study a natural integration of curriculum occurs.  Even if there are no opportunities or funds to take a field trip the beauty of technology is that “virtual” field trips are a comprehensive way to support what in the past could only have been observed by leaving the school campus.

No, while I do believe the experience of seeing artwork in person is a gift it is not often the reality for many districts across the nation.  Online support then becomes a perfect opportunity for viable experience for arts education.  For example the Simthsonian, based in Washington D.C., offers virtual tours and online art education.  Artwork that students might not be able to afford to see in person they can now witness and enjoy repeatedly online.  By simply having access to a computer a whole world of arts education is open to all, no matter the socio-economic status.

In addition to funding, the challenge of time often becomes an obstacle for comprehensive arts education.  Virtual educational art programs offer a compromise for integration of arts into classroom curriculum with no additional time burden.  With fewer and fewer specialized art teachers, the regular classroom teacher is forced to seek out alternative options for exposing students to fine arts. Some of these virtual programs are user friendly and support the average classroom teacher who is looking to incorporate the arts but might not be as knowledgeable as an art specialist.  Teachers are nothing if they are not resourceful and the following websites are some great places to start looking for local  and virtual resources to support and supplement arts education.

Seattle Art Museum- SAM

Website Seattle Area Museums



EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

Search for Meaning- EDU 6363             

The need to incorporate character education in curriculum is essential for supporting not only community in the classroom but communities outside the classroom and within the world.  By supporting and developing a strong community of students that not only practice the vital skills necessary for cooperation with in a community but advocate for thoughtful, respectful, reasonable, and civil rights for all individuals. I define character education as providing supportive guidance for cooperative learning within communities by learning, practicing, and modeling and growth through trial and failure and for the fostering of civil regard toward one another.  I am not all together sure that all parents, teachers, administrators etc. would be on board with my definition or my idea of how it would work.  In fact I see a huge challenge in our society for any failure at all being an acceptable form of learning.  I read a fascinating article in The Atlantic called, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy by, Lori Gottlieb, that chronicles the despair our children are facing today in a society where everyone is a winner or more simply put  how the cult of self-esteem is ruining our kids.  Written from the mother’s point of view, which is essentially our role when the student is at school by virtue of ‘Guardian Ad Litem’, the expectation is to not only educate students academically but socially as well.  One story the author reflects on is whether or not to tell her young son that a friend had died of cancer. In the end she does and although he asked a lot of questions, “he did not faint from the truth.” Instead, “my trusting him to handle the news probably made him more trusting of me, and ultimately more emotionally secure.”  (Gottlieb, 2011, p. 67)   Emotional intelligence is a key component for character education.

That’s what we want right?  More emotionally secure students through a process of habitual personal discovery in a safe environment that incorporates character education.  The value of allowing for failure ceases the constant accommodation and praise for every single student, no matter what the effort, but rather supports and recognizes appropriately earned accomplishments.  Woven tightly within any academic and social classroom structure should be character education.  The Nord and Haynes lecture provides distinction between education and socialization, training and indoctrination. Indoctrination or socialization is, “…when we teach (or socialize) them to accept doctrines, or a point of view, uncritically.” This can be observed in young children when adults provide rules, i.e. you must share with your sister, and children learn to accept this behavior without question.  “We educate them, by contrast, when we provide them with a measure of critical distance on their subjects, enabling them to think in an informed and reflective way about alternatives.” (p. 4).  Especially, in the primary level we see evidence of indoctrination and socialization, but just as vital, if not more, is the need to provide disciplined modeling and repetitive behavior that allows for reflective character building opportunities to be discovered.  What are we teaching children if everyone get a medal just for showing up?  We need to teach students that strong character will serve them well in this world not that their character doesn’t matter!

One way this could be introduced across curriculum is by determining characteristics that matter to you and your school/classroom.   For example pick an important words or slogan to put throughout the school and classroom i.e.; Perseverance, Tolerance, Responsibility, Respect, Determination, and Work Hard, Be Nice, or There Are No Shortcuts.  As a class make an “T” chart of what these look like and sound like i.e., Tolerance looks like everyone working together, looks cooperative and respectful, Tolerance sound like each person in a group having a chance to share their ideas even if they are different and contrarily each person listening to one another’s idea.  Then, repetitively, ask the students to share how they have used tolerance and provide an example (they can refer to the “T” chart).  This repetition allows students the opportunity to practice important character experience and verbally define each characteristic.

Lastly, I have to, once again, share an article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure?  The focus throughout is on character education and emotional intelligence.  The following is what happened when two educators were searching to define the “science of good character.”

Seligman and Peterson consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters, and they settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras. The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude. (Tough, 2011)

I think somehow all these characteristics hold value; our job is to share and impart the value, the action, and importance with our students.

EDU 6363- Language Arts, Social Studies & Arts

All Things Considered

Themes…are they good?  Are they thorough? Do they make connections for students in a real way?  Are students compelled by the curriculum of a large theme within smaller contextual units?  Does it get tedious?  These are some of the questions discussed during our lecture, and some that still linger about the use of instructional themes in a classroom. Instructional themes seem to naturally supply very real interdisciplinary connections.

Good themes can help generate deeper connections to real life examples. But what is a “good” theme?  Two characteristics for a good theme as explained with reference to A. Ellis, et. al. are ideas that, “transcend time and space” and ideas that “deepen the level of learning by promoting moral well-being, literacy, and problem solving.” Development of higher order thinking and deeper thought processing are outcomes that teachers should be observing and supporting for students throughout a thematic study. In order to select a theme that is “good” it should meet a criterion that has relevance and connections to the academic and social growth of the students and have the added component of real world application.  Instructional themes seem to offer a way to weave a compelling curriculum throughout the day, over a longer period of time.  For example a thematic unit on “Human Rights” as seen through the eyes of a slave could afford opportunities to make multiple interdisciplinary connections as well as real life connections.  Students could study poetry, read novels, study the history of slavery, sing songs about freedom, search for the mathematical connections of slave trade, write poetry, journal or make a film about slavery, examine the implications of slavery on the world we live in today, etc. Although this is a very powerful and sometimes uncomfortable subject to teach, it is imperative that students learn the way to ponder the relevance to life in the world today and make personal connection so as to develop social responsibility.

Until I am applying the strategies of theme in a real classroom my understanding of the smaller details will have to wait.  However, I do see the value in the organic connections that can be made by using broader themes to relate different disciplines to one another.  Curriculum becomes naturally more compelling when teachers and students develop, reach, and peruse higher order thinking and questioning.

EDU 6363 Lanuage Arts, Social Studies & Arts

Reflection is Powerful

“We had the experience but missed the meaning.”- T. S. Eliot

The importance of reflective thinking during and at the end of a lesson is paramount to students’ retention of concepts.  By simply infusing lessons and units with “I learned…” statements,  “Think Aloud” partner activities, and “Week in Review”  discussions,  retention of big ideas and the supporting information becomes the foundation for students’ knowledge to be built upon.

Each of these reflective strategies offers students a chance to articulate their thinking.  “I Learned” statements help students organize their thoughts filtering through details to better shape the big ideas in their own mind.  “Think aloud” partner or small group activities involve students in peer teaching.  Partners or groups work together to find a statement or answer that best reflects their thinking.  The beauty of the partner or group-work is that it is a chance for individual students to incorporate others opinions into their own thinking and have their own voice heard on a smaller scale. It can also be helpful for a student who may be struggling to hear peer reflections to make personal cognitive connections. “Week in Review” discussions are beneficial for both student and teacher as a way to articulate new thinking, assess understanding of lesson, review facts, big idea and recall connections important to retention of information.

It is through reflection, then, that better comprehension and retention emerges.   Learning through reflection becomes an activity for students to negotiate comprehension through a varied context.  This context is meaningful and authentic for students as they work within their peer environment.  Thus, making student cognitive development is both emergent and social.

EDU 6363- Language Arts, Social Studies, and Art

The 7 Continents and 5 Oceans

The other day, fueled by the energy of my mentor teacher and the excitement of a new unit, I observed a beautifully orchestrated interdisciplinary lesson.  The learning target: to teach the students, to mastery, the seven continents and the five oceans as they are located on a map.  This learning target was written on the board and the lecture began unfolding as maps, globes, pictures, labels, colors, and facts came to life before the student’s eyes.  The integration of curriculum was flawless.  The students became an active part of the lesson by participating both mentally and physically in the gathering and presenting of information.

The lesson started by first looking at a globe.  The students used their knowledge to share what they know about a globe versus a map.  Next the class examined aspects of the world map by observing a teacher created map. Before their eyes the teacher presented a lecture/drawing of the world.  The lecture started first by drawing a sphere and markers representing the equator, and latitudinal and longitudinal degrees.  Then she began to illustrate the continents starting with North America.  She drew the shape of the continent and explained facts about it while providing details and additional pictures to support geographically significant areas i.e. Florida’s unique shape or The Great Lakes.  The lecture continued for each of the other six continents, providing support for each continent with significant geographical areas of importance.  After each continent was represented on the map, the five oceans were then introduced.  Historical significance was developed about the origins of their names, i.e. Atlantic Ocean was named after Atlas Atlantic meaning “the sea of Atlas”, or that the Southern Ocean was only just discovered in 2000 by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).  Each fact or supporting detail that she offered was documented and or labeled on the map.

Pictures of supporting evidence developed throughout the lecture and labels of the seven continent and the five oceans were then passed out to all the students.  The teacher then went through the lecture again by asking students questions.  This prompted kinesthetic connections by providing an opportunity for students to place labels or pictures on their World Map.  After this the teacher took students through a sketching exercise helping to additionally solidify information through mind mapping and art.  The teacher taught the students “quick draw” a map with seven circles and showed how they could be used to label the seven continent and five oceans properly.  The students then had the opportunity to sketch their own world map in 10 minutes and provide proper labeling.  The sketches were collected and assessed to see if additional instruction was needed and ascertain if the learning targets were met.

The lesson described above is a social studies lesson that beautifully incorporates history, art, literature, science, geography, and math.  It is an example of a successfully planned interdisciplinary lesson using integrated curriculum.  Each of the different levels of knowledge that were addressed in the reading this week; facts, topics, concepts, enduring understanding and principles and theories, were represented and practiced throughout the lesson.  The ideas of KNOW/DO/BE were woven into the fabric of the lecture, practiced, repeated and observed while the students actively participated.

EDU 6363 Language, Arts, & Social Studies

The Columbia Icefield is an enormous icefield comprised of six large glaciers: Athabasca, Castleguard Columbia, Dome, Stutfield and Saskatchewan Glacier.  From these glaciers, through the Columbia Icefield, fresh water flows to three different oceans: Atlantic, Pacific and the Artic Oceans. Icefields, by definition, are colossal elongated areas of multiple glaciers that wrap around mountains to form a glacial valley leaving only the peaks of mountains showing.  These peaks are called nunatak. The area of the Columbia Icefield is about 170,000 miles; it ranges from 328 ft. to 1,197 ft. in depth, and gets up to 275 inches of snowfall per year.

Located in the Canadian Rockies it spans the continental divide of North America, fringing on the borders of two national parks; Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.  The Columbia Icefield is one of the last reminders of the thick ice mass that once covered most of Western Canada’s mountains.  From afar that glacier looks like a frozen river but there is movement from this glacier as it slowly melts.  The ice is in constant motion moving forward at a rate of about 3 cm per day.  Over the last 125 years the glacier has receded, melting away half of its initial volume and receding almost one mile.   The Athabasca Glacier is the most central glacier to the Columbia Icefield and by far the most visited.  Many visitors arrive year round to witness the glory and wonder of the glacial beauty its power is not a forced to be reckoned with.  The glacier in spite of its beauty is very considered dangerous.

EDU 6363: Language Arts, Social Studies, Art

EDU 6363: Language Arts- social Studies-Arts

What I Learned …

As I reflect on the readings and the lecture from this week I realize I find myself drawn to the idea of Interdisciplinary Studies.  While multidisciplinary studies and trans-disciplinary studies each have value and merit, I find myself considering the ways in which I will be able to adopt an interdisciplinary curriculum for my future classroom.  Dr. Scheuerman defined interdisciplinary curriculum integration as, “separate subjects with instruction around common themes and skills.”  (Scheuerman, 2012)  In a classroom that adopts interdisciplinary curriculum, students are encouraged to seek out and understand relationships between, and to, each academic discipline.  In order to accomplish interdisciplinary integration proper guidance by a teacher is a necessary component for greater academic understanding and deeper learning for the student.

I grew up in a time where multidisciplinary instruction was the preferred method.  It was rare that one subject, for example, science, had anything to do with art.  I found myself uninterested, disconnected and bored throughout most of my elementary and high school years.

I remember only a handful of teachers who took the time to connect ideas, build relationships between disciplines, and revisit theses commonalities often enough so that my understanding deepened.  To this day I can quickly recall a few of the lessons I learned where connections were made and strengthened.  So how does interdisciplinary curriculum make this any different for students?  How do we make interdisciplinary integration the preferred standard today?  According to, Why Should Schools Embrace Integrated Studies?: It Fosters a Way of Learning that Mimics Real Life, on, “ …our daily life and work are not stratified into “the math part, the science part, the history part and the English part.”  (Staff, 2008) Integrated teaching uses multiple academic disciplines, blends ideas and supports deeper personal connections for students.  By repeating and revisiting thematic ideas throughout lessons in many content areas, students have multiple opportunities to grapple with material.  The organic nature of interdisciplinary curriculum lends itself to repetition and brain imprinting.  “Brain research suggests the notion that learning increases when information is presented in meaningful connected patterns”. (Staff, 2008) Students that learn in an interdisciplinary classroom often have better cooperative strategies, are able to make more thoughtful decisions, have increased problem-solving skills and seem to be more personally connected to their education.  Additionally, students show more motivation and continued interest in their education than if they were taught each subject separately.

Learning more about interdisciplinary curriculum has strengthened my belief in the benefits for both student and teacher.  By developing curriculum that repeats and revisits themes, allows for integration of different academic disciplines, develops personal connections and depth of understanding, learning is improved.  I feel an immediate connection to this style of teaching for its practical application to “real-life” learning.  I imagine that more and more classrooms will begin to adopt this style of teaching as the preferred norm.

Works Cited:

Scheuerman, D. R. (2012). Integrated Studies Methods- Session 1: Ideas, Definitions, and Co-Teaching. EDU 6363. Seattle.

Staff, E. (2008, October 6). Retrieved January 6, 2012, from Edutopia: