Sunday, June 18, 2017

Engaging with the Arts

By: Leni Fragakis

As elementary educators, we all know the feeling of impending doom as we become frustrated with the number of standards to teach and the time allotted for instruction.  I have found that the only method to this superfluous standard madness is to integrate the content areas.  Here are some third grade ways to easily integrate science, social studies, and literacy standards by effectively using the arts as a means to weave together learning goals.

I use the Kennedy Center’s definition for Arts Integration as a guideline to creating deeper understanding for my students.  The Kennedy Center’s ARTSEDGE program even has lessons at your disposal!  My goal is to connect inquiry-based learning with arts integration to provide engaging learning opportunities.    

In the science standards for third grade, the reoccurring theme is the Renaissance Man who excels at many things.  An individual who influenced history with his careful examination of his surroundings was Leonardo da Vinci.  Teaching third graders about the Renaissance time period may seem unnecessary, but I have seen the connections generated and the creative understanding promoted.  

The theme of innovation and careful, detailed observation constructed an alternate universe for my students because they too wanted to become like da Vinci.  The classroom culture was transformed as the students learned that da Vinci would not have formulated his ideas about the universe without being reflective, dedicated, and meticulous.  If you have not already, you should view some of da Vinci sketches online or in person at an exhibit.  

In this unit of study, these were the main science objectives, but I do not feel that it is limited to these:

3.P.1 Understand motion and factors that affect motion
Students examined da Vinci’s sketches of catapults, military machines, crossbow, and hydraulics.
Students were provided minimal supplies such as a wooden dowel, paperclips, rubber bands, and a tongue depressor in order to create a marshmallow catapult that would launch the farthest.
After numerous trials, students would sketch (in da Vinci fashion) their catapult for the students in years to come.

3.L.1 Understand human body systems and how they are essential for life
Student will examine da Vinci’s bones and muscle sketches in true Renaissance fashion with dimmed lighting.
Students will use tracing paper to challenge themselves to use as much detail as da Vinci did in tracing his sketches.
Students will make observations about the interactions between bones and muscles.

Possible Literacy Connections
Compare and contrast in a Venn diagram the Mona Lisa and the Head of a Woman
Predict the story behind Mona Lisa’s smile

Study which facts from Magic Tree House Monday with a Mad Genius are true compared to the nonfiction text, Who Was Leonardo da Vinci?
Create, sketch, and write about your own invention and your inspiration to one of da Vinci’s sketches
After reading Magic Tree House, write on the prompt “If I had wings…”  Students wrote their stories on feathers to create class “wings.”

Knowing da Vinci’s ideas were progressive for the times, students will begin to make connections to today’s technological advances and be inspired to create their own inventions.

About the Author
Leni Fragakis has worked at The Arts Based School in Winston-Salem, NC, for five years, teaching 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades.  She has her BA (Elementary Education, minor Special Education), MEd (Literacy), and administration add-on from High Point University.  She is working toward her EdD in cultural foundations and leadership from UNCG.  Published by the International Literacy Association, Leni also presents on her passions of literacy and arts integration at workshops in and out of NC.    

Sunday, June 4, 2017

From Blank Stares to Understanding Main Idea

by: Denise Jones

Have you ever witnessed the blank stare of a student when asked to locate the main idea of a passage or paragraph? It’s all too common, but there could be a simple place where you can backtrack to. It’s a step that students may have missed along the way.

The missing link can be as simple as understanding categories and category titles.  It can be the beginning of making connections to finding the main idea.  The following lesson may seem simplistic, but can be THE THING that brings students to a point of understanding.

First, create an anchor chart with a list of categories but no title.  Students will analyze the list to establish a title.  Then, hand out index cards (which you have created)  that contain category titles.  Some examples are: transportation, seasons, sports, things you shine, types of money, presidents, etc. The students will receive this card with a partner, fold a piece of paper into four squares, and illustrate four pictures that represent this category. At this point, teachers need to emphasize the importance of utilizing details in the pictures.  Each team places their illustrations under an Elmo. The class determines the category title (main idea) from the illustrations drawn (supporting details). Students begin to make the connections, providing a basis for these larger concepts.

At a school in which I coach, third through fifth graders have completed these tasks.  I have seen light bulbs go off, and have noted significant improvement with continued practice.  Our fifth grade scores jumped from a 38% to a 79% on our formative assessments in just three weeks.  No more do blank stares greet me as I discuss main idea and supporting details with these students.

Denise Jones is an award winning educator.  She has twenty-three years of experience in this field, including eighteen years as an Elementary Education teacher and five years as an Instructional Coach. Denise has experience in grading educational portfolios for East Carolina University.  A graduate of William Paterson University, Mrs. Jones has a Bachelor of Arts in both Elementary Education and Sociology and has been a member of the NCAE organization for more than twenty years. Professional highlights include presenting at the NC Teachers of English Association in Asheboro NC, writing a published vignette,  and aiding a school with the Leader in Me process to attain Lighthouse Status through Steven Covey.