Sunday, March 20, 2016

Celebrating the Arts!

Hi!  I'm Hannah from 21st Century K and I'm excited to share how my school works to celebrate the arts.  In response to new program reviews and standards a few years ago, we began holding an Arts Showcase for our primary students each spring.  

After reviewing the standards we found that while we provided more than adequate opportunities for experiences with visual art, music, dance, and drama in a learning/classroom-type environment we failed to offer our students the opportunity to create, collaborate, perform, critique and explore the arts in their own unique ways.  
So, we encouraged students (and their families) to choose anything creative for which they felt they had special talent or aptitude, and plan a way to present that talent to their classmates.  Then each class held individual performances and voted on which talent/presentation/performance they would like to represent their class in a school wide Create Arts Day Showcase.  No emphasis is placed on winning and losing or who is better/worse.  Our showcase isn't a talent show and very few parents attend. It is simply a way for students to share a way in which they are creative.

What resulted was more than any of our teachers could have ever imagined...

Our young students, as an audience, were respectful, encouraging, and thoughtful. Within each classroom a special story unfolded.   In a second grade classroom an athletic boy puts together a basketball dribbling routine and sets it to music for which the crowd cheers. In one third grade classroom a friend with special needs sings a Michael Jackson song and is unanimously voted into the show where she receives a standing ovation. In another class, a quiet boy shares his amazing computerized robot for which he wrote the programming and is voted into the show over the Broadway show-tune belted out by the girl who regularly participates in local theater performances. In my Kindergarten classroom a typically outgoing and boisterous girl quietly shares a memoir she wrote about her lost pet goldfish and she is hugged by her friends, many of whom are brought to tears.  My own daughter, when she was in second grade, was begged by her class to sing "Let It Go" for the school showcase, encouraging her to overcome stage fright and perform for an audience for the first time in her life. I watched her blossom before my very eyes and was touched to see her classmates give her encouraging looks and a loud, supportive ovation as she finished the song. Many more students played instruments, performed dance routines, and paraded visual arts pieces across the gym.  Each time the crowd of primary students would cheer and clap as if they were at a Grammy-nominated performance.

We all learn a lot of valuable lessons during this week of the school year.

  • As teachers we are reminded that the "extra" stuff (about which we may grumble when it interrupts our comfortable school day routine) is worthy of our time.
  • As regular educators we are reminded that the arts programs are vital to our school and our students (and that the art, drama, music, and PE teachers have a hard job).
  • We learn to view many of our students in a new light... many of which are little diamonds in the rough or have secret talents about which we didn't know.
  • From our students we learn that a little bit of grace and humility can go a long way and that supporting each other by cheering wildly when someone else succeeds is just what friends should do.
  • Interested in starting your own Creative Arts Day?

We send parents a note one week prior saying all students are welcome to participate by preparing any creative presentation including, but certainly not limited to, any visual arts pieces, vocal/instrumental performances, creative writing, dance or other movement routine, anything involving creativity with technology, and dramatic performances or collaborations. Each teacher provides a little class time to discuss projects and ideas, and provides time for friends who may not ave time at home to prepare.  Each class plans a day for class performances and works together to choose one student to perform at the school wide assembly.  Administrators and arts teachers work together to make sure students have all they need and to set a schedule for the school showcase. Then on a Friday afternoon we all gather in the gym to simply celebrate creativity and the arts.

It's simple... after all, the best things in life always are.
Add the Arts to your Common Core instruction in grades K, 1st, and 2nd with this fun unit, "Talents," at 21st Century K on TpT.


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