This is Elizabeth Peterson's page
In The Arts and Literacy Part One, we took a look at how drama and movement can be integrated with literacy. In part two, we took a closer look at music. Today, let’s discuss the visual arts.
In the Common Core State Standards there is much to do about working with and examining texts. I’d like to consider how these skills can be addressed using visual art.
The following links and standards come from http://www.corestandards.org/. The commentary after each standard is my own interpretation of how each of the standards can be paralleled and taught through visual art.
Key Ideas and Details
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
In reading a piece of art, students are studying the details. They need to look closely at everything in the fore and background, examine facial expressions and body language and draw conclusions about the action in the work. In addition, students can read into a image by examining all the pieces to decipher a central theme or summarize a main idea.
For great artwork to use for these exercises, visit and browse www.googleartproject.com . There you can pull from a magnitude of great art pieces. For example, this image, A Beech Wood in May near Iselingen Manor.
Craft and Structure
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
This is where you have a great opportunity to collaborate with your art teacher! Discussing and analyzing how an artist chooses colors, shapes, creates balance and shading parallels how an author chooses words, structures their text and shapes the tone of a piece of literature. In addition, you can look at point of view and purpose. In the painting example above, you could look at the various points of view from the different characters (including the dog) and discuss the purpose of such a painting in comparison to others you may examine or study.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
These standards relate quite directly with the arts. Here you could take images (and poetry and music and drama pieces) that represents a piece of literature and evaluate the content in each. Finding a book with great illustrations may be all you need to do to get started with this. Paying attention to a story’s illustrations is an important strategy that can be overlooked by some readers.
The second standard here can refer to comparing two pieces of art that address the same topic. Take these two images of a couple dancing. There are many details in each that can be compared according to the CCSS.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
I firmly believe that learners can and should practice literacy skills through the arts. It is a tangible way for them to understand the concept or the skill without the possible stumbling blocks that written text may cause. In addition providing for an opportunity to work the mind in this way offers a challenge for those who come easily to English language arts. In other words, regardless of whether you are teaching struggling or proficient readers, working literacy skills and strategies through the arts has its benefits for all.
Last week, we took a look at how drama and movement can be integrated with literacy. This week, we take a closer look at music.
Music and literacy go hand in had. The parallels between the two are amazing. In fact, someone can work all their life to become literate in music, just as one may do so to become literate in a language. You must learn to listen to it, read it, write, perform it and respond to it. This is the same for language: you listen, read it, write it, speak it, and respond to it. In essence, anyone who studies music can become a more effective language learner.
Music Listening and Reading
Let’s first consider the parallels between music listening and reading. When someone reads, there are things they do before, during and after the experience. In fact when we teach reading, our lessons are structured around this format.
The same applies to listening to or “reading” music. Before you listen, you must know some background about the genre, composer or piece. While you listen, you are concentrating on the experience by becoming familiar with the music as you listen to it many times. After you listen, you interpret what you have just experienced by making judgments about the music.
Knowing the background of the music we listen to can be beneficial. We can learn about the composer, the time in which he/she lived or the style of the piece. Learning about and playing some of the instruments that are used can also provide students with some good vocabulary to use later as well as using vocabulary words learned in music class.
As soon as we begin to read a story we are experiencing it. The same goes for listening. The more we listen to a piece of music, the more we remember main themes, hear the detailed layers of the instruments, anticipate familiar or favorite parts and even pick up on new surprises. Listening to good music has the same effect as reading a good story: we want to listen over and over to continue enjoying the experience.
After we have experienced a piece, we are open to interpretation. We think about and discuss what the piece means to us, making judgments about it, the instruments and even the composer. It is in this stage that integration takes place. Your objective for your students will determine what activity your students may do after they listen. You may want them to write, draw, create something, or practice their speaking skills. This is true integration and the sky is the limit.
Writing and Composition
What better way to explore the writing process than with music?! Musical creation, or composition, is nearly identical to the writing process that we teach our students. Just look:
||Students brainstorm sounds/melodies for their composition.
||Students brainstorm ideas/topics for their writing.
||Students get their ideas down.
||Students get their ideas down.
||Students ask: What do I want to improve?
||Students ask: What do I want to improve?
||Students make final corrections using a checklist.
||Students make final corrections using a checklist.
||Students make a final score and perform the piece for an audience.
||Students make a final draft (book or otherwise) and read their piece to an audience.
Just explaining these connections between writing and composing to your students isn’t enough, though. Going through the actual process of composing can be used to explore and reinforce the writing process. Sometimes students need a new motivation to see things from another perspective and what better way than to change things up a bit and have them go through the same process with a different outcome? A piece of music!
Have students write a short composition using anything from body percussion (slaps, claps and snaps) to small instruments (hand drums, cymbals and shakers). They can compose their own Sound Symphonies using symbols to identify sounds they want all the while, they will go through the writing process from sound ideas to performance in front of their class.
Lyrics and Stories
Of course lyrics are a natural connection music has to literacy. They are authentic texts! Composers and song writers go through their own creative writing process to come up with lyrics-poems that have meter, rhyme and tell a story or send a message.
Lyrics are poems and poems are lyrics. When I taught 8th grade music, I created an entire unit around this reciprocal relationship between poetry and lyrics. We started by looking at the lyrics to Led Zepplin’s The Ocean. (I did not tell them they were lyrics to a song, just handed them the paper.) We read it, discussed it a bit, talked about meter, rhythm and rhyme, and then I pressed play to the song. (And as I rocked out a little, they gave me some looks, but I’m ok with that. )
The inverse to this would be to read poems to the accompaniment of music. You can do this with so many poems. Shel Silverstein is a favorite and honestly any kid poetry would work well due to the heavy emphasis on meter.
Of course, not all poetry is stricken with rhyme and rhythm such as that. And so it is important to point out the flowing, musical quality that poetry has even if it is not with a strong meter. For example, recite a haiku to sounds of nature coupled with instrumental music or visit a site that showcases poetry slams.
Singing a song is another form of storytelling. Not only is this how epic poems and stories have been passed down for thousands of years, but it continues to be a way for people to express life in seriousness and humor, reality and fantasy – much like the genres found in literature.
I know of a great music teacher who has many picture books that contain the lyrics to songs. She uses them often as a reading teacher would use for a read aloud. Introduces the book to her students, takes a picture walk, sometimes reads through the lyrics and then sings the song with them while turning the pages to display the wonderful illustrations. Often the book will come with a recording of the song to play while you look, read and sing on. There are some great examples of these on Big Universe too.
Lyrics provide another layer of music that can be shared with your students and connected to literacy through poetry and storytelling.
Other Skills Can be Honed While Listening to Music
My favorite way to integrate music into literacy instruction is through Active Listening time. This is something I do with my students each day during snack time. We listen to a piece of music for an entire week and throughout the week we focus on a variety of literacy skills.
- Visualization – What do you think of as you listen? Is there a story that unfolds? Who/what do you see in your mind?
- Inferencing – What in the music makes you see what you see? What in the music gives you that overall feeling?
- BME – Every good piece of writing (and MUSIC ) has a beginning, middle and end. Listen for these qualities in the music and see how they parallel stories you read and write.
Just these three things alone give us so much to discuss and listen for that our time simply flies by!
This is just scratching the surface of what you can do when you integrate music with literacy. What are some other ways to integrate music into your literacy programs?
Photo Credit: www.iconwallstickers.co.uk
Photo Credit: http://triblocal.com
All the arts can be integrated with literacy. For this post, let’s take a look at drama and movement.
Think about the elements of a story: character, setting, plot. In theatre, a story comes alive, complete with props, scenes, costumes and actors. However, you don’t have to put on a full out production to make this happen. Using tableau is one of my favorite ways to incorporate drama techniques quickly into what we are doing in the classroom. For tableau, a group of students create a freeze frame using just their bodies to encapsulate a moment in time. Think of a prompt you can ask of your students. Have them create a tableau to show
- the beginning action in a story.
- the climax of a chapter or story.
- the relationship between and among characters.
- the problem or conflict in a story.
- the solution of the story.
- the epilogue in a story.
Characterization is another way to use drama in literacy. Have students become and act like a character from the story. Bring to your students’ attention how the person would look (facial expression, body language), act and talk. You can assign students to become different characters and have them interact with one another. Again, giving them a prompt can help with this. Be creative and ask students to do things straight from the book as well as make things up. Have characters
- discuss a scene in the story.
- discuss a current event.
- work together on a problem (like building something or coloring the same picture).
- go to a coffee shop and order some food.
Movement and dance can also tell a story. The story can be as simple as an individual moving through the growth of a plant from seed to flower or as complex as a dance that tells the story of a girl’s search for love.
Movement can also be used when responding to a piece of literature (story, poetry or lyrics) or as you gather your thoughts to create a story. Think about the use of time, space and energy as a means to express the elements of a story. Time refers to the speed of the movement (even beat, accents, syncopation), space refers to the various ways to move (straight line, curvy, twisted, etc) and examples of energy are strong/weak, heavy/light and bound/free. These are concepts you can practice as a warm up before students try using them in response to literature. Try one of these:
- Move to a steady tempo: walk, skip, bounce, hop
- Move in a line: straight, curvy, zig zag
- With your feet planted, move your body in circles, curves, etc.
- Move around the space as if you are heavy/light, strong/weak, etc.
When responding to literature, students should have a good understanding of the story so that they can move appropriately. Here are some ideas:
- Students can show the action of a scene through movement. (Is the scene exciting or adventurous, dull or relaxing?)
- Students create a dance for a character in the story. (How would the character move at this time in the story?)
- Students create a dance that shows the sequence of a scene, chapter of story. For this, there will be a beginning, middle and end to their dance.
Enjoy the variety of ways drama and movement can enhance your students’ appreciation for and understanding of the stories you read and learn.
This past week end, my husband and I finally subscribed to Netflix. (Why has it taken us so long?) One of the first movies we downloaded was The Grey with Liam Neeson. It was a great movie set in the wilderness of Alaska where a plane of oil riggers crashes and seven men are left to fend for themselves against the cold, starvation and a ferocious pack of wolves. It was a great movie that got me re-interested in wolves.
It took me back to a field trip I took with my class and the other fourth grades to Wolf Hollow in Ispwich, Massachusetts. There we learned a lot about the behaviors and personalities of wolves. It was quite interesting to learn how wolf packs are like an old-fashioned, traditional family. Every wolf knows their place and every wolf helps out the family. If not, you are on your own.
In recent days, I’ve gone online here to Big Universe to see what books are available and, as usual, I am not disappointed. There is a great collection of age levels, topics and genres. Take a look:
Family Pack - This picture book tells the story of a female wolf who wanders and finds a mate. Together they start their own family.
One Wolf Howls
- This counting book of sorts takes you through the year with beautiful pictures of wolves’ behaviors.
– This funny book discusses wolf behaviors through a little girl who goes to camp and comes back acting strangely.
Wolf Pack of the Winisk River
- This chapter book is beautifully written in poetry telling the story of a lone wolf’s search for a pack and journey of survival.
There are other options as well. The read aloud version of Boy Who Cried Wolf is a great addition to this collection as well as a rendition of Little Red Riding Hood, called Little Ruth Reddingford and the Wolf. For all the wolf titles, go to this link
Wolves are fascinating animals from the real life behaviors of tight knit families to the portrayal in fables and fantasy, we are amazed by them and it shows in literature. It’s no doubt then, that you can find this great collection right here at Big Universe.
After my last post where I explained how my students created flip books to illustrate the various text and graphic features of informational texts, I was excited to see that Rourke Educational Media is the publisher spotlight of this week! They have some amazing informational resources that I look forward to sharing with my students this week.
Here are only a few of the high interest informational texts they provide.
American Coins and Bills
Arctic Appetizers: Studying Food Webs in the Arctic
Landing at Ellis Island
The White House
And they have bilingual texts as well! This is a great resource for me as I have many bilingual and ELL students in my classroom.
¡Barcos! ¡Barcos! ¡Barcos! (Boats! Boats! Boats!) (Mis Primeros Descubrimientos)
But it’s their encyclopedias that really caught my eye. They are top notch.
There are 9 Volumes in this series of Science Encyclopedias. There’s a set in English and one in Spanish.
Rourke’s World of Science Encyclopedia, Volume 1: Human Life
Descubre el mundo de las ciencia Enciclopedia (Rourke’s World of Science Encyclopedia) Volume 1
There are 14 Volumes of Encyclopedias focusing on the History of Our Presidents.
Rourke’s Complete History of Our Presidents Encyclopedia, Volume 13
And a set focusing on Native American History and Culture. (10 Volumes)
Rourke’s Native American History and Culture Encyclopedia, Volume 1
These encyclopedias are beautifully laid out and offer great examples of everything from headings and captions to illustrations and diagrams, things we teach our students to look for and study before and during their reading of informational text.
Today, I plan to show my students some of these pages using my computer’s projector as a way to discuss yesterday’s inauguration of President Obama and as a culminating activity to the text and graphic features we have been studying. I know students will be captivated by the digital format of these encyclopedias.
If you haven’t already, please check out this wonderful collection of Rourke Encyclopedias and Informational Texts. There is surely something for every class!
Flip books are fun to make and to read. This past week my students made great flip books to help illustrate their understanding of informational text features. We focused on what to look for as we pre-read informational texts through a picture walk and text walk.
Here is what my students created:
If you are interested in how to make a flip book, here are the directions:
- Get 3-4 sheets of paper. (For this project, we used 4 sheets.)
- Fan out the paper to about 1/2 inch or the width of a finger.
- Keeping the papers lined up, carefully fold so that the fanning meets and you have the desired number of tabs for your book.
- Saddle staple on the fold or staple at the edge.
Notice the flip books we created are cut up the middle to create a t-chart. (We did not cut the outside paper which creates the cover, though.) The students used only one color so that they had to find and use a variety of media to create interest and also to differentiate among the title and headings.
Inside the flip book, students glued examples of each of the text and graphic features. This took a long time, but it was a great exercise. The students discussed the features as they looked through old magazines, searching for something that would add to their flip books. If they couldn’t find something to cut out, they found something to photocopy in one of the many resources we have in the room.
Here is a flip book opened:
These books are so much fun to create! You can use them for just about any subject area or purpose and I encourage you to try making one with your students.
Creating a flip book to focus in on textural features was a great way for my students to show their understanding of the variety of features. They were asking great questions, sharing ideas and enjoying their time while they worked.
Music is a powerful tool for so many things. It can be something we use in our schools to help motivate our students as well as set the tone for our classroom.
Listening to music is a great way to bring music into your day, but what I find from other teachers is that they don’t know where to start when it comes to picking out just the right music. Depending on what you do and teach will affect what type of music you wish to use.
Let’s focus on reading. Some people love reading to music, others do not. You may want to test the waters in your classroom to see what your students prefer or ask them their opinion on the matter.
Of course you need to consider what type of reading your students may be doing. If they are free reading for enjoyment, they may welcome music more readily than if they are reading a selection on which they will be tested. Others may need some music in the background to help them focus in a testing situation.
Here are some options of music and sound you can consider when choosing to play music while reading.
1. Instrumental Music – If you choose music, the best type to consider is instrumental, or music without lyrics. The words that make up lyrics can get in the way as your mind will wander between the words you read and the words you hear.
There is a multitude of instrumental music you can use from classical pieces to popular songs. Don’t assume just any instrumental piece will do, though. You must consider the tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume) of the piece. Usually, a slower, peaceful piece will suit a quiet reader’s needs more so than something more intense, loud or fast. So, stay away from rocking guitar solos and intense Beethoven symphonies. You may search your own music collection or a variety of playlists online for titles that are collected to soothe, relax and create a peaceful atmosphere.
2. White noise is another option for sound while reading. It doesn’t have the potential distract-ability that music does as it does not have a melody or other layers of instrumentation. Sometimes I find that even instrumental music can be distracting for people who are attuned to music and have a good ear to listen actively.
White noise can be helpful in situations where there may be random noises outside your classroom or office that tend to break your concentration. I work in an open concept school and white noise or a variation of it can be helpful to drown out the unpredictable noise from the hall.
3. Soundscapes are another way to create an isolated atmosphere without melodious music. These can be anything from a soundtrack of an ocean’s crashing waves to the sounds recorded in nature to the constant sound of children playing and laughing.
4. Silence is always a great alternative. Although hard to come by, it is a great way to produce an area where readers can focus on reading.
Of course the objective in bringing sound (or the absence of it) to a classroom or small group of readers is to help them focus. Each group and each individual student may need something different. Have fun experimenting with a variety of musical genres and other sounds as well as silence and have students start to identify what may help them to read.
The holidays are over, and now is a time when people of all ages look at the year anew. January is a great time to reevaluate where you are, where you have been and where you want to be. This is true in our personal lives as well as our professional lives and is certainly true for our students. This January, consider using this as a way to revisit good reading strategies and encourage good reading habits. Here are four ideas to get your juices flowing.
1. Choosing Good Reads
Students need help with this every so often. They may start the school year off choosing books well, just like you instructed them to do and then, as with many things, their desire or energy to take the time and pick out a just right or high interest book to read on their own wanes. Use this new season to help them get back to picking out good reading material.
2. Set Aside Time
With a new year comes the desire to have improved habits. One of the most basic of these is putting aside time to do important tasks. Reading is one of them. If you haven’t already, find a time in your day to have sustained silent reading time where students – all students (and you as well) drop everything and read!
Students should also take this opportunity to set aside time on their own to read. You can have them record these times by blocking out a section of their student planners or keeping a reading log.
3. Respond to What You Read
Teachers have students respond to reading in a variety of ways: through writing, journaling, conferencing, blogging or in literature circles. Discuss with your students ways they can respond to the reading that they do. Make a list with your students and invite them to use one of these methods of response for what they are currently reading. You may have them choose one way and have it due by the end of the week or month, or you may choose as a class which method to use and stick to it. Either way, your students will gain a better understanding of what they read as they respond to and report out their thoughts.
4. Share with Others
Sharing what you have read is a great motivator for students to read. Many students love sharing their opinions and ideas with their peers. If you don’t feel you have the opportunity or the time to set aside to do this regularly in your class, have a station where students can do this on their own. Create a box or board where students can write a quick book review for other students to look at. The review can be anything from one sentence to a few paragraphs. It could include an illustration or a star rating. Create a simple, age appropriate form students can fill in and display for others to see and read. This may create some interest in your class to share great stories.
Using January as an excuse to build great habits is a favorite strategy of mine. I love how a new year has that great feeling to reinvigorate ourselves. Be sure to use that for your students as well!
Character education is a great topic to cover any time of the year. In light of recent events, so many people have been talking about how getting down to the basics of good human behavior is something that is ever so important. We need to look out for each other, care for one another and show love and acceptance to all. At the same time we need to have appropriate consequences for bad behavior and know when what we have done is wrong.
Now is a great time to review what it means to be a caring person, a helpful friend and a person of integrity. Stories have always been a wonderful way to illustrate these types of character traits and behaviors and you have a library of books focused on character education at your fingertips right here at Big Universe.
Here are some examples:
Helping Hands – Ocho is the best at helping others. But who will help him when he needs it? Character concept: Caring: Be kind.
Let’s Bee Friends – Why is Bear bothered by Bee when she can be a sweet friend? Character concept: Trustworthiness: Be a good friend.
Living rough – In most ways, Poe is like the other kids in his school. He thinks about girls and tries to avoid too much contact with teachers. He has a loving father who helps him with his homework. But Poe has a secret, and almost every day some small act threatens to expose him. He doesn’t have a phone number to give to friends. He doesn’t have an address. Poe and his father are living in a tent on city land. When the city clears the land to build housing, Poe worries that they might not be able to find another site near his school. Will Poe have to expose his secret to get help for himself and his father?
Snowball Effect – Dylan and his friends snowball cars for entertainment on the weekend. When they don’t get enough reaction from passing cars, they put rocks in the middle of their snowballs. Their first attack with the loaded snowballs causes a car crash. His friends flee, but Dylan goes to the scene of the accident to make sure the driver is okay. He runs off when he knows help is on the way. Dylan is sighted, and rather than being punished, he is lauded as a hero. As his lies pile up, so does the hype about his heroics, and along with it, Dylan’s guilt.
These books are great for processing situations and leading discussions with kids about what is right, how to be kind and how to always do the right thing.
Getting a student to write a well developed story is a challenge. Young writers need to be so focused on a variety of things as they write: spelling, punctuation, topic development, sequencing, and handwriting to start. Often, because they are working so hard on putting all these things together, they lose focus on the story itself, the plot. Often they can get so wrapped up in telling the story that they tell too much. Part of my approach to having students be able to write a focused narrative this year has been to have them first focus on and develop the climax.
Using a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them visualize the rising and falling action surrounding the climax, students first decide upon their climax and write it in at the top. That way they can start to see how their entire story needs to work around that important moment they have chosen. My own students are starting to see how a good story doesn’t have to span a lot of time or tell about every event, but it does need to stay focused and detailed.
After writing in their climax, they fill in their beginning sections of the plan. Once that is done, it is easy to see how all the other parts of the story center around the climax.
This has helped many students see how a story’s plot is developed. We have even practiced simply planning out narratives to get a feel for how good stories really do focus on that climactic moment. Here’s one you can try:
Find some paintings or photos with people in them. Have students look at and discuss the visual by describing the characters and setting they see. Then tell students to find the climax in the story surrounding the picture. Maybe the picture takes place just before or right after the climax (hence it illustrates the rising or falling action) or maybe it shows the climax of the story. Regardless, have students describe the climax of the story and then work their way around the climax by describing the rising and falling action. Finally, have the students fill in a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them further develop their ideas before writing the narrative up on paper.
The key to a really good story is the climax. How else can you help students to develop that important part of the story?