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The Independent Art students presented their year-long inquiry process on Wednesday evening, May 16, 2012 with their Independent Art Show in the library/art wing of Trinity High School from 6:00pm-8:00pm. The girls were madly rushing in and out of the artroom throughout the day putting finishing touches on art pieces or repairing a piece that may have gotten bumped in the artroom. At 3:00 pm, the girls came running into the artroom to begin setting up racks in their chosen area,moving display cubes into strategic positions and hanging their artwork, “tweaking and re-tweaking” until their guests and the art community arrived. The unveiling of the installation piece, “The Spark Within”, a series of 36 panels depicting “Ah-ha” moments in the lives of these 9 talented young ladies was very well received! The girls stood proudly at their displays and discussed their artist statements  and processes with the viewers and circulated among the crowds to admire one another’s displays. This was the girls’ night to shine and so they did! At the end of the evening, 4 artists had sold artwork which I told them they are now considered professional artists!

Helping the students plan the show is a ton of work, but it was well worth it! Giving the students the opportunity to use inquiry and make their own choices regarding the creation of their art was definitely worth all the worK. What great artwork was created with the help of my cig group and AE2.0.



Last week the members of the M & D CIG met at Trinity High school to finalize the spotlight sharing presentation. We have compiled a video slideshow with various pictures from our classrooms and voice over narrations we recorded at the last IU day. It’s strange to think that this project will be over soon. These people and this process has become such an ingrained part of the school year for me. Over the course of my three years in the program I have gained valuable ideas for new and innovative ways to teach my students as well as a great network of colleagues in the area. I hope to find new ways to work with all of these people and wish them and our faculty members the best in all future endeavors.

I figured that I should wrap things up with a “this is what I learned” post. My CIG has been examining inquiry strategies that may or may not increase motivation and determination in our classrooms. My strategy involved the implementation of a rewards system for my students. Initially the system was a success. The students wanted the reward (band bucks toward school store purchases) and where willing to work for it. As the weeks progressed, however, I saw less and less motivation to do well on the playing tests. At first I determined that this was not a reliable method of motivating students. But recently, something funny happened. I’m seeing more and more kids in my room in the mornings and an increased motivation to play/perform well. I think that it just may have taken more time than I thought it should. And, during several weeks in which there was a lull in student motivation the students were in the middle of PSSA testing. As a result, I am beginning to believe that a rewards system can be a point of motivation to students. But, it can’t be the only thing. Students have to make a personal connection to their art in order to keep them coming back. Things like a reward for hard practice can help move them in the right direction, but ultimately they have to see the value in what they are doing and want to get better.

With consistent practice the students realized they can improve and they became determined to create and to experiment. So it’s not necessarily the cutting-edge concepts, but having some success in a new skill that enhanced their motivation. As the students began to “get” throwing a pot on the wheel, they were more than willing to help other students. Together they would problem solve and show some independence. I interviewed a student who seemed to fall into this category. His name is Logan and he is a junior in a Sr. High Art Class.

Do you enjoy ceramics and working in the potter’s wheel? If so, why?
Logan: Very much! I like doing it because it is something I am good at.

During the ceramics unit in art class, how often did you come to the art room to work?
Logan: As often as I could! Up to three periods a day if I could.

So how did all of this practice help you?
Logan: It got me to where I am now. I can center the clay in like 10 seconds and the rest just comes naturally. It’s a good feeling to finish a nice looking pot.

What do you recommend to other students who are less motivated than you?
Logan: They just have to get past the hard stuff and don’t get too frustrated. They will get it, and then they will love it.

On our final work day at the IU the M and D CIG decided to put our research into a digital story. In 3 minutes or less each member of the group would tell their own part of the story. After the script was complete we each made an audio recording of our own portion. It was decided that Jen Joyce would put the story together and that we would need to send her the pictures or videos we wanted included. This past Thursday we all got together in Sherry Knight’s room at Trinity High School to see the finished project and discuss how we would conduct our presentation the following Friday. We were blown away by what Jen had put together. She really did a great job and had obviously put a lot of time into the project. It is so nice, and has been nice, to work with such creative and smart people. People who take the initiative to get something done and then come through with a product that goes beyond expectations. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the members of my CIG as well as member in years past. Looking forward to Friday!

Would like to make my last blog as a kind of reflection of the Arts Educator 2.0 class over the last four years.

This class started for me my first year of employment in the Washington School District, fall of 2008. When I was hired in Washington, I already had a permanent teaching license and 19 years of teaching experience in the state of WV. My Washington School District colleagues, along with myself, were all offered the opportunity to take this new class that our Superintendent had gotten word of from the IU-1 called “Arts Educator 2.0”.

All of the teachers that took this class from all around Washington County had no idea exactly what to expect that first day of Arts Educator 2.0 at the Intermediate Unit -1 until our class professor, Dr. Mara Linaberger stood up in front of us that morning, welcomed us, and proceeded to discuss the purpose and direction that this class would take that year. Little did we all know that four years later, many of us from Year 1 would STILL be here!!!!

This class was all about inquiry in the arts classroom, along with how to incorporate the latest in 21st century technology. The pre-test that we took that morning of our first day of class completely blew me out of the water. Inquiry???? Didn’t know much about that. Critical thinking??? Discussed it, but hadn’t used it a great deal in the classroom yet. So I knew right off the bat that this class was really going to expand my knowledge as an arts teacher.

And this class was more than just a class, it was an experience, too!!! We spent the first hour of each morning with guest artists / dancers / musicians that allowed us to experience art and music in ways that most of us hadn’t had the opportunity to do before!! We had artists, dancers, and musicians that offered our palates a wide variety of artistic expression.

Now this was the first time a class of this caliper had been done, so it constantly had to be re-evaluated and re-examined for it’s effectiveness for all those involved. Were there some glitches?? Of course. Were they worked out? Of course! The class was always evolving throughout the entire four years. Why?? Because the instructors cared enough about us as educators to want to make this class the best and most enriching experience possible. They constantly got input from us about what was working / not working, then the professors would have meetings of their own to find ways to make this fit the wants and needs of us educators. It was a constant work in progress that evolved into a really great four year project!

The first year required that each teacher had to create their own unit plan, as well as a PPDP (which is a “Personal Professional Development Plan”). In the second year, we started with the concept of creating CIG group. CIG is short for “Collaborative Inquiry Group”. This idea was a GREAT new addition to this class because it gave us the opportunity to bounce ideas off of others in the class, and to create a unified CIG project with input from all CIG members. Another bonus of having CIG groups is the friendships and professional relationships we have built by working together. The whole CIG group concept was utilized again in year three and year four.

Technology “toys” – yet another bonus we received for taking this class. How excited we all were to be given a budget and be able to pick and choose any tech stuff that we thought would add to our arts curriculum at our schools. Q3’s, netbooks, flash drives, ipads, ipods, etc. all were purchases we made to help add quality to our personal classroom curriculums. Again, this all was made possible through the efforts of our arts educator professors!!!!

What about tech concepts that we learned about?? Skype-ing, wikispaces, wordpress, NINGs, dropbox, etc., all are examples of technologies that we not only learned about, but we learned to use as well throughout this four-year process.

The main focus, though, was always inquiry – and this made all of us much better thinkers and educators. It made us utilize inquiry in order to not only structure our classroom methods better, but also helped us to help our students to become better thinkers / problem solvers. It also enabled us and our students to improve our abilities at critical thinking.

So, in closing, I wanted to say “thanks”. Thanks for all that I learned in the four years of taking this class, and for helping me to become a better teacher for my students. I hope that the tools that I have been given in this class will help me to always continue to evolve my abilities as an educator – my students deserve the very best I can give them!

For my next inquiry blog, I would like to discuss the whole “star” concept that my colleague, David Dayton, has been using with his 5th and 6th grade band students.

I had been discussing our whole inquiry process with Dave, what our inquiry question was, and what we had hoped to accomplish by the end of this year’s class. Now, Dave and I have been discussing the whole issue of students lack of effort and motivation in our classes for some time now, so really digging into this concept seemed to be the next logical thing to do. Dave has been saying that “maybe if the students reeived some sort of reward it may help” for years. So, we started kicking around some ideas as to what would be an appropriate reward that might get students more motivated to practice their band instruments at home. We discussed extra credit in the gradebook, we discussed special classs privileges, we even discussed a way to give those who practiced a pizza party. None of these really clicked with either one of us. Then Dave said, “what if we just give the students a gold star for every line that they practice in the book; but only if they show by their performance that they have actually worked on it and that they have actually made improvements on it!” This sounded like a great idea to me!!!  So, how was this going to work, anyways??? Dave said, “let me try it with the 5th and 6th grade band students first and see if it works with them. If it does, next year we’ll try it with the 7th and 8th grade band students as well!” So, I asked Dave what exactly would the students have to do in order to earn a star??? He said that each day he was going to allow the students to play certain lines individually for him during class, and again, if they played them well, or could at least demonstrate that they had worked on them and made improvements, that student would be awarded a star. Dave also printed up wallposter-sized charts with all of the students names on them – he printed up a chart with all of his 5th graders names on it, and one with all of his 6th graders names on it. Once he started putting stars on these, students started counting how many stars they had, as well as counting the number of stars that their classmates had earned. Now it had officially become a contest!!! Students became very competitive with each other in seeing who could earn the most stars. So far this concept seems to be getting the students tol practice more outside of the classroom, which in turn is improving their individual playing abilities. Next year, Dave and I will try this with the 7th and 8th grade band students and see if we get the same results!!!

Our M and D CIG group came about within the first Arts Educator 2.0 class. As our group sat there, we began to discuss where we were going to go with our inquiry for this year’s class. We discussed how we all were experiencing the same issues: trying to get students motivated enough to give their best effort in all of our art / music classes. So, we began to kick around ideas of what we could use as our inquiry question, which would then be the focus of our work for the remainder of this class. After much discussion, we came up with our inquiry question:

“How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and art classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?”

We then discussed that probably a great place to start with knowing how to improve student motivation was to create a survey / questionaire for all of our students. We could then examine the results and see what would seem to stimulate our students’ efforts / motivation in our classrooms. The survey would begin by getting some basic information from our students, just so that we would know what grade each student was in that completed the survey. Then, we continued the survey.  Some sample questions from our survey were:

– “During the rest of this year in class, I want to learn how to…”

– “I would be more motivated in this class if only…”

– “Do you practice / sketch outside of instruction time?”

– “If yes, how often?”

– “If not at all, why?” (and one more sample question)

– “I would put more effort into practicing / sketching if…”

We all contributed questions to our survey, printed them up at our respective schools, and had each / most of our classes take a day and complete them. The results were very interesting!!!!

One answer that seemed to occur regularly on my surveys had to deal with allowing my chorus students to have a voice in selecting music that they would enjoy. So, when we returned to school after the holidays, I pulled out all of our latest “Hal Leonard” catalogs, grabbed the CD’s out from the inner sleeves, and track by track, the students and I listened to samples of the latest choral arrangements. We would then take a vote by a showing of hands as to which arrangements were the students’ favorites. I would still pick selections from their favorites that I believed to be the best in quality, but the students still were happy that they had a hand in picking music that they would be singing for our spring concerts. It makes it so much more enjoyable in class now that the students are not only not complaining about the music that we are working on, but they are also putting much more effort into the songs since they themselves helped me to select them!

For my CIG Meeting #2 blogpost, I would like to briefly discuss our last meeting at the IU-1 on April 16. I will be honest, I was very apprehensive going into our final meeting that morning. I know that we had our concept of our final project firmly in place, but I still wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to contribute. Plus, I know that 45-minutes had been decided as the amount of time each CIG was going to be allotted for our final project presentation.

So our M and D CIG begins our morning session and begin to start detailing the concept of our “movie”. Other members start discussing what they have collected from their classrooms (i.e., pics, interviews, etc) and it finally starts hitting me what photos I can take to add to our project. I again hear about what the other members of our CIG are doing in their classsrooms, what they are capturing from their students, and about what is working or not working. We decide who is going to be the “go-to” person for our “movie”, and set a deadline date for getting to her all of our contributions for our group project.

We then move onto creating our personal narratives that will be the audio track contributions to our movie. We each take time to sit and write our narratives that basically sum up what we have done / are doing in our classrooms to try and get our students more motivated. We finish our narratives and, one at a time, begin to read our narratives to the group while someone times them. We get through only about two or so of our narratives and they have ended up being anywhere from 4-7 minutes in length…….TOO LONG!!!!! We go back to our written scripts and begin to edit them down to a few minutes because after lunch, we will be recording them for our movie.

After lunch, we go back one at a time to the computer lab to record our narratives. Michael does his recording first, comes back and his time is within a few seconds of what the narrative should be! I did mine second, same thing! Then Marlynn does hers and she’s within seconds as well!!!

All the pieces of this puzzle have begun to fall into place nicely….let’s just hope that on May 18th, our project presentation will go just as well!!!!

Our CIG had a skype session earlier this semester to discuss where we stood with our inquiry process. We went around from member to member to discuss what all we were trying to do within our classrooms to try and help motivate students. Michael discussed how he had started using “band bucks” as a reward for his students that they could use to redeem at the school store. At the time, it seemed to be working well with his students. They were practicing outside of the classroom on their instrument more than they ever had.

I had discussed how my co-worker Dave Dayton and I have discussed our inquiry question, and he had chosen to let 5th and 6th grade band students play lines in their band book for gold stars. As long as the student shows improvement, a gold star is awarded. Then, Dave posts a chart on the wall with a list of all 5th and 6th grade band students’ names and how many stars they have been awarded. Once the chart was posted, the students started counting stars on the charts and a competition with each other had begun. As of now, the gold star system seems to be working.

After we discussed what all we had been trying in our classrooms, we began to discuss what all information we were going to collect to put intro our final project.

June 2017
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