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Islamic Pattern Prints

At our yearly foreign film festival my 6th graders watched the movie Children of Heaven (Iran) 1997.

In the movie Ali takes his little sister Zahra's shoes to the shoemaker to be repaired, but loses them on the way home.  The siblings decide to keep the predicament a secret from their parents, knowing there is no money to buy a replacement pair and fearing that they will be punished.  They devise a scheme to share Ali's sneakers:  Zahra will wear them to school in the morning and hand them off to Ali at midday so that he can attend afternoon classes.  All sorts of adventures arise as they try to hide their secret from their parents and teachers.  Zahra even spots her shoes on a schoolmate's feet, but the two become friends.  Ali enters a well-known running race in the hopes that he will win third prize:  a new pair of sneakers.  Will he win?

After viewing the film I have my students research Islamic art patterns.  Then they design their own geometric patterns on graph paper using at least two shapes which intersect or overlap.  (see examples: Download Islamic patterns).

Then my students transfer their patterns onto scratch foam and print a variety of one color prints.  Then they cut out the shapes, fill them with pattern and print them over their coordinating spaces on the printed patterns in different colors.  They end up with beautiful multi-colored prints which are filled with pattern and texture.

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Performance Assessment and the Arts

We often see student eyes look up when an arts teacher arrives in a classroom. We notice how quickly students quiet down as that art teacher starts the class. And we wonder why as the class progresses, students from all levels of academic achievement seem to want to demonstrate their understanding of what is required.

This connection between teacher, curriculum and student is celebrated in arts-integrated classrooms all over America. So how does one know, how do teachers and students know, that their connection is being properly assessed? They know this through the natural outgrowth of this engaged connection, a performance, and its assessment.

Performance assessments have been around for many years. Coming on the heels of authentic assessment, performance assessments have been gaining ground in schools as a more revealing way to assess student learning than standardized tests. Although standardized tests are easy to administer and valid and reliable to score, they promote top-down, one way to think, types of student learning. Performance assessments allow for multiple ways to solve problems, they foster creativity, and promote student engagement by honoring student ideas.

The arts have long used performances, portfolios and exhibitions as public ways to hold artists accountable for their work. Performance assessments as currently understood in schools are refined ways to support student engagement with curriculum. They fall under the highly regarded "project method" as the best way to assess student learning because they require students to engage over time in producing a quality demonstration of student understanding. As opposed to standardized tests or quizzes, which are more of a snapshot of student memorization of learning, performance assessments engage students in the full range of Bloom's Taxonomy: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create.

Performance assessments might include observation, interviews, learning logs, portfolios, exhibitions, debates and public speaking of all sorts. The arts promote this kind of learning through a clear goal of public presentation of student work, followed by hours of self-directed preparation and culminating in the public dispay of the work accompanied by a rubric of clear criteria for judging the work.

Performance assessments help the integration of the arts, the integration of multiple skill sets and could be quite useful to all academic work.

Maori Pattern Prints

In my last post I shared my school's tradition of the Foreign Film Festival, as well as information about the movie our eighth graders watched and the follow-up art project.  I want to continue in that vein to share the movie our seventh graders watched as well as the follow-up art project.

The seventh graders watched the movie "Whale Rider".  On the east coast of New Zealand, the people of Whangara believe that their presence dates back over a thousand years.  These Maori people trace their origins to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death by riding to shore on the back of a whale when his canoe collapsed.  From then on, the Wanghara cheif has always been a first-born male.  The cheif's oldest son fathers twins-a boy and a girl-but the boy and his mother die at birth.  The surviving girl is called Pai.  Pai believes that she is destined to be the new chief.  Her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader, and feels that many of the tribe's problems began when Pai's twin brother died.  Pai seems to possess some special gifts, especially when some whales become stranded on the beach.  Will she overcome her grandfather's prejudice and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny?

After viewing the movie, I have my students research Maori art and specifically, patterns found in Maori art.  Then the students each choose one quality or trait that is important in their own culture (i.e. strength, wisdom, health, etc.) and, as in Maori tradition, they consider an animal or object found in nature which represents that quality or trait.  Students then develop an original symbol using lines and shapes inspired by their animal or object to represent their important trait.

The symbols are then carved into wood printing plates, similar to the wood carvings found in Maori art, and printed as three color reduction prints.

My students love this project and the results are really beautiful.

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Artists Share Their Work

So sorry to have been offline, but the new year (Happy New Year!) will bring forward the fruits of our hard work in constructing a new way for artists to share their work: the Online Evidence of Teacher and Student Learning (ETSL) Database is an on-line space and a tool for collaborating on:                 

    • planning an arts-integrated unit,
    • documenting what happens,
    • assessing student learning,
    • reflecting on your own learning as educators.

The database is hosted online by the Empire State Partnerships (ESP). ESP was launched in 1996 as a joint initiative of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED). These agencies united with the goal of raising standards for students and integrating and reinstating the arts into classrooms throughout New York State. ESP is a program of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and is fiscally supported by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. ESP is dedicated to identifying, supporting and developing promising practices in collaborations between cultural organizations and schools. The focus of the project is on the achievement of the New York State Learning Standards and contributing to the improvement of teaching and learning in New York Schools. My organization (The SchoolWorks Lab, Inc.) is the evaluator of these partnerships and our role (Amy Chase Gulden, is an artist and our Senior Researcher) is to provide evaluations that constantly improve the rigor of arts-integrated work.

An ETSL Unit is a portfolio of documents, resources, and journal entries that shows how an arts unit works in a K-12 public school setting. Users can attach documents, photos, audio clips, and video. As the unit unfolds, users can continue to enter information into the ETSL Unit throughout the project and refine their "portfolio" as the work progresses.                   

An ETSL Unit generally:    

    • documents the story of an arts-integrated unit of  study in one classroom,
    • has a teaching artist and a classroom  teacher as its editors and creators.

The goal of the ETSL Unit is to show evidence of teacher and student learning through data collection, assessment and peer-to-peer documentation and evaluation. The first year of piloting, 2007-2008 follows many years of hard work by the field of funded partnerships to improve their work. This year, 2008-2009 we have switched to a fully digital module hosted on the ESP Website.

ETSL is for anyone engaged an Arts-in-Education partnership. Currently, only recipients of the following grants can register for the the Online ETSL Database:

    • ESP School-wide
    • ESP Project-based
    • Local Capacity Building Regrants (LCB)

If your partnership is not currently recieving funding through any of these granting opportunies, you can download the PowerPoint version of the ETSL Unit, downloadable below:

ETSL Template- PowerPoint Version

I hope you enjoy hearing and seeing this new effort in New York State!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Strategies for Arts Integration are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.