Monday, January 6, 2014

alignment....what in the world does that mean?

the new buzz word?

With Common Core State Standards sparking conversations, heightening anxieties and causing educational communities, near and far, to participate in what feels like a pin ball game of 'do this', 'no do that', 'here's another web site', 'this book', 'let's have another meeting', 
makes you confused.
And, seriously, no one wants to have another meeting.
So, instead of looking at what we are teaching (content), let's look at how we are teaching.  As an art teacher I am encouraged to talk with my fellow colleagues and see how I can align my curriculum to theirs.  First, I never really saw how that was fair.  Second, this notion concludes in drawing stick people with some charcoal because the subject is early man.  Third, I don't think that's what alignment actually means.  
I mean, I get it....but what are we aligning?

Caleb Chamberland: Electricity through ART
This question really didn't make much sense to me and I often questioned the meaning, until...these past couple of years when the flurry of new national initiatives came along.

There are skills that are transferable, that students do in every class.  What we as teachers and art teachers need to do is align those skills.  About 7 or 8 years ago, I took a graduate coarse focusing on Art and Literacy, in which the content of the class emphasized the importance of students using thinking strategies to achieve a better understanding an artwork but also to evoke high thinking skills.  
Basic questions to spark complex thoughts, whole group discussions and a bit of wonderment.

What do you see?
What's the story?
What makes you say that?
What more do you want to know?
How does it make you feel?

Most of these questions are components to Visual Thinking Strategies that both art teachers and classroom teachers can use in conjunction with their established curriculum.
What's so special about these questions? 
Nothing too special, other than the skills students need to use to respond them:
description....the list can go on and on.  The vocabulary seemed very familiar and it wasn't until I read through 

Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core: 55 Words That Make or Break Student Understanding that I had my Ah HA! moment.  

"Well this is what I do", I thought to myself....hmmm.

So, after 7 or 8 years, I started aligning.  Not what the students were 'doing' but what skills the students were using.  I sent out a message to my entire staff, asking them to fill out a survey answering some brief questions about what main units they were covering throughout the year. 
The list was great and helped me design a template using these basic questions in Google presentations, throughout the year about specific theme, unit or topic.  From science to social studies, to quick literature units to thematic studies about culture and tradition, I found a way to infiltrate the belly of the beast.  

And alignment made sense.

The best part, the teachers are using art: paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography in their own lesson plans about electricity, Native Americans, insects, weather, to name a few.
Carmen Lomas Garza: Family Traditions through ART
And, if the art teachers is using this vocabulary, these strategies and these thinking prompts....and the classroom teacher is doing the same.....
alignment makes more sense.

Check out some of my Google Presentations.
Apartheid through ART

xoxo, SMocK you.....buzzzzz.