Sunday, March 18, 2012

Integrating Language Arts

Sue and I did a three-day brain gym training ("Brain Gym 101"). We are interested in whole brain learning, as our field has long espoused teaching "The Whole Child". As far back as 2004, when Educational Leadership devoted a whole issue to this special subject, I have tried to teach children as whole individuals. In the Early Childhood field we teach that a child learns through play, and that play involves all aspects of the brain and body. Play is the serious work of childhood. I maintain that play can also be the serious work of adulthood, if by play you mean being alive and creative. 
In a previous blog post I recounted an encounter with a graduate of our progressive preschool program who was  now in a (good) public kindergarten. He marveled at the difference between his experience in our program and his present one, where he was told he couldn't play because he "had to learn". More recently a former student visited our playground and told me he had only "fifteen" minutes morning and afternoon to play outside. Our children are in for a rude shock when they enter the "real" world of education.
It doesn't have to be that way, of course, but, as teachers have lamented for years, only non-educators need apply when policy is made. These policies are forced on schools and schools must respond with less movement, more worksheets, more focused lessons on content areas (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies).
Above is a picture of a plate crudely crafted on our carpet with that magnificent magic tool of early childhood, masking tape. The children were interested in food preparation and (surprise!) eating, so we decided to sneak some content into the mix by introducing the new dietary guidelines. You can see that words are printed in each quarter-plate for the food categories (Content areas: Language Arts; Math). The first day I asked the children individually what food they wanted to "be" (no sweets, boo hoo) and then invited them to stand in the appropriate quarter. The children debated among themselves where each of them should stand, which made this collaborative (Content area: Social Studies). The next day I had laminated pictures of food for them to place in the quarters. We discussed cooked and raw foods (Content area: Science). In each whole group activity the children were moving, talking, listening, and reading. Oh, and learning, too. 
I believe that for Sue and myself the Brain Gym training reminded us of the importance of movement for teaching the whole child. Sometimes teachers fall asleep. That is, we go into automatic pilot and do what we usually do, such as talking..talking...talking. That's when we need to wake up in our own bodies and teach from "The Whole Teacher".  If would be excellent if we could send policy-makers to Brain Gym training, or any other workshop on developmentally appropriate teaching and learning, so that they could "wake up" to their own learning potential. They might concede that whole-brain learning is right for children, too.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Student's Feedback

I so enjoyed teaching Art, Music & Movement for Young Children this semester. I teach it often, but for some reason this time was special. I think having my blog available to students to see how I teach the arts myself helped make what I told them more credible. I wasn't just teaching out of a text. Working in an arts-oriented program also helped me do the best work I could which served as a model for them. One of my college students was so intrigued by my presentations about my work "in the trenches" that she came to observe our program to take notes for one she is forming for her church.

In a final exam one student expressed her enjoyment and learning from this course by saying, "This class taught me a lot because there were manydifferent topics that we talked about. I had no clue about them or justhadn’t realized them. I’m really glad I took this class. Prof. Multop was agreat teacher and she taught this class very well. It was full of greatexperiences and activities. My favorite in particular was when our class got upand listened to different types of cultural music and we danced around in acircle. It was a lot of fun!"

What more could a professor want?