The Benefits of Integrating Art into the Classroom

ArtDid you know that today is National Arts Advocacy Day? Well, I didn’t either until I read The Link Between Art and Education. Not to worry, if you are not able to join the live event on Capitol Hill, you can participate virtually.

In some ways, celebrating the arts with a nationally recognized day is a step forward. Yet, the fact that art (particularly in elementary and secondary education) requires a special day reflects a step backward.
While some look at art as one more thing to fit into the school day, art teachers know that learning to apply human creativity and imagination can actually help kids become better students and better problem solvers.

In a study of 25,000 middle and high school students, those with an art education performed better on standardized tests. In fact, the more art classes a student took, the higher their SAT scores. Other benefits of an art education include improved reading and language skills, improved mathematics skills, improved thinking skills, improved social skills, and a greater motivation to learn – all leading to positive school enrollment.

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Can Mandarin Save a Failing Georgia School?

This says something.In a recent segment of the CBS Evening News, reporter, Mark Strassman shared how a failing Macon, Georgia school district is mandating Mandarin language lessons in order to stave off a staggering fifty percent failure to graduate rate. Within three years, all 25,000 students in Bibb County will be learning Mandarin. In fact, third graders at Sonny Carter Elementary School have already begun.

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Exploring New York City with Curious Kids

New York City A trip to New York City is a wonderful way to beat the summer doldrums. After asking my 8-year old and 6-year old where they’d like to spend a few days, we landed on New York (sorry kids, maybe next year we’ll visit Dublin or Rome. LOL!). They had both been to New York a few years back and fell in love with the city. This time though, we were going with 3 others. In our group we had 4 children and 3 adults. The question soon became, “What do you want to do?”

After a ton of research and planning, we ended up with a great mix of fun and educational experiences to fill the kids’ curious minds and to ignite their creativity. Here are some of the highlights.

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Poetry: Music of the Soul

Colouring pencils Français : Crayons de couleu...As part of an end of the year project, my oldest son’s teacher embarked on a poetry lesson. In this intensive, active learning project, the kids learned about the different kinds of poems, wrote a half dozen poems, and celebrated the end of second grade with a poetry reading. By the way, did you know poems include acrostic, ballad, cinquain, and more? Fascinating.

The poetry reading was bittersweet in many ways. It marked the end of my son’s time at the school and served as a yardstick to demonstrate how much he had grown, learned, and developed.

Voltaire once said, “Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”

Each of my son’s poems showed different sides of him – playful, serious, fun, logical, sports-minded, and even profound. In particular, my son’s Color poem moved me. I was surprised by how such a young mind (8-years old) could be so introspective. The way my son was able to dig so deep and explore the figurative and affective aspects of nature caught me by surprise.

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Is Gaming the Future of Education?

Controlador de Video-Games

I started reading Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken and can’t wait to learn more about how gaming is being used for social good. Though I am only on Chapter 1 (yes, I could use more free time. LOL!), I recognize many of the “gamer” traits in my two boys. At just 8 and 5-years old, both kids enjoy playing video games. In fact, my 5-year old has been waking up extra early every day in order to get time alone with the Wii before his brother wakes up. At first, I was disappointed that my younger son felt pressured to exchange sleep for improving his game play. After all, I’d hate to think the Wii was so competitive and/or addicting that my Kindergartener would go to such great lengths to play. However, after chatting with him about why he woke up early, I was surprised (and happy) to learn my 5-year old’s efforts to get better at the Wii were not necessarily aimed at beating his older brother, but for self-improvement and the joy that comes with unlocking new achievements.

And, in case you think play is easy, it really isn’t. Playing games is hard work. McGonigal describes the video game experience as, “…always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s virtually nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability – or what both game designers and psychologies call ‘flow.’”

BTW, “flow” is another way of describing the state of extreme happiness. To learn more, take a look at the field of positive psychology.

How to Explain Leap Year to a Kid

My youngest brother was born on February 29th. Given 2012 is a Leap Year, my kids are fascinated with the fact their Uncle is “only 9-years old.” Technically, he’s really 36, but who’s counting :-)

The concept of Leap Year is confusing. In explaining why we have Leap Year to my Kindergartener, he quizzically asked, “So…the reason he [meaning his Uncle] is 9-years old, but looks older than most 9-year old’s is that when he was born, he was really 10?”

I love how children fill in the gaps by making up and testing assumptions. Though I wasn’t quite sure about the soundness of the reasoning (LOL!), my Kindergartener was on the right track when thinking about making up time.  I wondered how to simply describe Leap Year. Here’s where I’ve landed.

A calendar year has 365 days

English: Calendar

While, a solar year, or the length of time it takes the Earth to travel around the sun, is 365-1/4 days

NASA exploration of sun earth magnetism

 

Every four years, one extra day is added into the calendar year to catch up to the solar year  (i.e 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1)

A pie-chart showing fourths split into pieces

I’m going to try this description with my Kindergartener tonight. Wish me luck.

 

 

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Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall a...

A recent Huffington Post article identified gap in what schools are teaching students and what employers are looking for in the workforce. Starting in elementary school, the primary focus of the curriculum is to improve basic skills. Policies like No Child Left Behind heighten the issue by promoting the testing and standardization of basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic. However, in reality, employers find it is not the basic skills that are missing, but the applied skills including critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.

Many argue America’s educational system was built for a different era – an era where finding the one correct answer was key. Nowadays, the pace of change, the global nature of business, and complex decision making show there is not always one right answer, but a growing need to creatively solve problems. The days of rote thinking are in the past.
Will creating indices that measure creativity help?
To answer this question, we must ask what exactly will be measured. While some educators feel the index should measure the number of classes in drama and art schools offer, it is important to

understand creativity goes beyond the arts. States like California and Massachusetts will be the first to define measurement criteria as both have approved bills to develop a Creativity and Innovation Index.
While the key performance indicators of creativity have yet to be defined, the notion of measuring creativity is a positive one. For, as John E. Jones stated, “What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
This article was first published on IIR’s Front End of Innovation as “Creativity Index Aims to Bolster Much Needed Workforce Skills.”
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Do You See What I See?

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Over the past week, I’ve been observing how my kids take in and process information. This little experiment has been fascinating.  What I’ve come to realize is that although we might be looking at the same thing, my kids and I “see” different things. This is particularly true with my 8-year old son.

My son had just finished a few pages of his multiplication workbook and asked me to check his answers. He’s much (much, much) more mathematically inclined than I am, so I wasn’t surprised when he answered all the math problems correctly. What did surprise me was a pattern he saw when multiplying by 5.

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A Creative Way to Teach Multiplication

In an earlier post, I mentioned how my oldest son asked to learn multiplication. To encourage his love of math, I bought a multiplication workbook and left it, along with a pencil, in the living room. What I’ve found is when my son comes into this frequently used room, he grabs the pencil and starts working on multiplication. In thinking about other ways to nurture multiplication, we started playing “Multiplcation War.”

What is Multiplication War? Well, it’s like the card game War, but rather than using regular playing cards, we use multiplication flash cards. Here are instructions:

  1. Grab a set of multiplication flash cards, or make your own by writing down the 12 Times Table. To create your own cards write down one multiplication problem per index card. Start with 1×1 and go all the way to 12 x 12. Note, don’t write down the answers on the index cards. Once you’ve written down all the multiplication problems, you should have 144 index cards.
  2. Deal out all the cards. Players do not look at the cards. Keep them face down. The goal of the game is to win all the cards.
  3. Players turn over their top card. Each player computes their multiplication problem. The one with the higher total wins the cards. Keep playing.
  4. If players turned up cards are equal, there is a War. Saying, “W-A-R spells WAR” each player places 5 cards face down onto their original card. Each player turns up their last card. The player with the higher total wins the cards.
  5. The game ends when one player wins all the cards, or after a designated number of rounds. When you end the game depends on how much time you have. If you play until one person wins all the cards, it can take a long time. Hint: playing until one person has all the cards is a great way to pass a rainy day.

We’ve been playing Multiplication War for the past week. What I love about the game is that it helps my oldest son reinforce his knowledge of multiplication. And, though I thought Multiplication War would be too difficult for my Kindergartener, he’s addicted to the game. It turns out, my younger son is able to look at the numbers on the cards and conceptually figure out which multiplication problem results in the highest total. He told me, “9×3 is more than 8×1 because 9 and 3 are bigger than 8 and 1.”

Even though my youngest son isn’t able to guess every multiplication problem correctly, he’s learning the basic skills that will help him get ready to multiply. To help younger children play Multiplication War, you can provide them with a 12 Times Table answer key. See the example below or use this link for a printable version. Additionally, earning a masters of arts in teaching will teach you new and exciting methods to make learning fun for students of all ages.

Multiplication

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A fun, creative, and inexpensive way to encourage multiplication!

Number Sense: How to Help Your Kids Reach their Math Potential

math problems for girls

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

With the back to school season upon us, memories of my elementary school years flash before me. I don’t know about you, but as a child I knew instinctively what type of student I was and what type of student I wasn’t. While subjects like English, Language and History felt natural, I was never one for math.  I was reminded of my gut feeling about math as I read the New York Times article, “In Future Math Whizzes, Signs of ‘Number Sense’“. The article confirms math abilities can be identified even before children enter school.

The New York Times reports children as young as three have a ‘number sense’, or intuition when it comes to mathematical concepts. In research that first appeared in the Developmental Sciences journal, Dr. Melissa Libertus, psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, found preschoolers were able to use their number sense to estimate whether there were more blue or yellow dots flashing on the screen even before they could count. The children with better number sense were also better at simple math problems.

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