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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching artist’

I’ve read before about inventive approaches to teaching math — and my daughter-in-law, who coaches teachers of math, probably knows most of them. But recently, the Washington Post examined a new method, one that uses dance.

Reporter Moriah Balingit described observing a kindergarten game that “actually was a serious math lesson about big and small and non-standard measurements. Dreamed up by [drama teacher Melissa] Richardson and kindergarten teacher Carol Hunt, it aims to get the children to think of animal steps as units of measurement, using them to mark how many it takes each animal to get from a starting line to the target.

“[Today] teachers are using dance, drama and the visual arts to teach a variety of academic subjects in a more engaging way. …

“The Wolf Trap Institute, based at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, brought Richardson to Westlawn Elementary through a program that pairs art teachers with early-childhood educators to formulate math lessons. The program also provides professional development to teachers.

“And the program appears to have been effective: A study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in classes headed by Wolf Trap-trained teachers performed better on math assessments than did their peers being taught by teachers who were not in the program. …

“Researcher Mengli Song said the students in the program did not necessarily learn additional math content but they did demonstrate a better grasp of the material. And the effect was comparable to other early-childhood interventions. …

“Jennifer Cooper, director of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, said arts integration — particularly lessons where children get to move and play — is a good way to reach a lot of children who struggle with traditional book lessons.

“ ‘By embodying a concept . . . and putting it through your body in a multi-sensory way, you’re going to reach a lot of different kinds of learners,’ Cooper said.”

Read more at the Washington Post, here.

Photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post
Teaching artist Melissa Richardson, right, from the Wolf Trap Institute, watches her kindergarten students at Westlawn Elementary School take large bear steps during a math lesson in Falls Church, Va.

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Did you catch the story today about the young boy whose composition was performed by the New York Philharmonic?

At the National Public Radio site, Jeff Lunden writes: “What would it be like if you were 10 years old and composed a piece of music that was played by the New York Philharmonic? For a few New York City school kids, including one fifth-grader, it’s a dream come true, thanks to the orchestra’s Very Young Composers program.

“Composer Jon Deak, who played bass with the New York Philharmonic for more than 40 years, says the idea for Very Young Composers came when he and conductor Marin Alsop visited an elementary school in Brooklyn several years ago.”

Now every year, “72 lucky kids in six New York area schools participate in this free after-school program. …

” ‘The kids are not chosen for being musical geniuses,’ [the Philharmonic’s director of education, Theodore] Wiprud says. ‘The guidelines we give the schools, in trying to identify some fourth- and fifth-graders for the program, is that they be kids for whom this could make a difference. Whether or not they study an instrument is not necessarily a good predictor of whether they’re going to do something creative in music.’ …

” ‘Some of these kids have trouble locating middle C on a piano,’ Deak says. ‘Does that mean they can’t compose music of depth? No. What do they have to do? They have to hum it for us, sing, whistle, tap the rhythms — even if they can’t notate them — and we get their piece.’

“As [teaching artist and composer Daniel] Felsenfeld puts it, ‘The most important thing about this class is that you never, ever, ever write their music for them — not even a little.’ ”

I’m hearing a refrain from yesterday’s post: all children have music in them and you should just let it flower.

Read more and listen to the performance of young Milo Poniewozik’s composition at NPR.

Photograph of student Milo Poniewozik and the New York Philharmonic: Michael DiVito

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