Monthly Archives: March 2013

Who Cares About Arts Education?!

Monet, da Vinci, and Van Gogh. Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. George Bernard Shaw,
Tennessee Williams, and William Shakespeare.

Arts Education

Other than their mothers, whose life has really been influenced by what these men
have done? Naturally, we’ve enjoyed what they’ve produced; but have any of their
accomplishments led to ours?

Why should we waste precious resources – which are already severely limited – on arts
education? Sure. Beating on a drum can help blow off steam. And brandishing a paint-
laden brush can foster creativity. Donning a costume and reciting lines on stage might
even boost self-confidence.

But other than that – what good are the arts?

Adios!

Art education in public schools has been on the decline since 1980. Due to sever budget
cuts that have nearly crippled public education lately, even the few classes that survived
the last three decades have pretty much become extinct.

Many people say, “Good riddance!” Classes that teach skills like playing an instrument
or painting a sunset are better off getting axed, leaving valuable dollars for worth-while
classes like reading and math.

But Wait Just a Minute…

It turns out art fans are crowing quite loudly these days. Why? The arts might actually
be more beneficial than we thought. Gasp!

New research shows that a well-rounded educational experience is best. And “well-
rounded” includes the arts. In fact, this teaching method is closely linked to academic
achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable
opportunity. Who knew?!

While everyone has been worrying about how to improve math and reading scores, one
of the primary study aids has quietly slipped out the back door.

A recent study followed high school students for three years. The participants fell into
two groups. One group took the minimum art education requirement. The other group
took more than the minimum. And guess what happened. The students who took more
art classes did better in both math and reading.

Students who took extra arts classes were 1.5 times more likely to meet or exceed the
ACT Plan national average composite scores in these subjects. Additionally, they
excelled in statewide tests for math, reading and writing.

Good grief. That kind of takes the wind out the sails of any naysayers.

That’s Not All. There’s More.

We all know there is more to life than math and reading scores. Learning to learn is far
more important. And guess what. Art helps with that too. In fact, it seems art education
helps with just about everything!

There is a direct correlation between the ability to read music and the ability to conquer
math problems. Music students in a recent study had much higher math scores than their
non-musical counterparts. And, students from low socio-economic backgrounds were
two times as likely to comprehend math topics if they had musical training.

Want to enhance your child’s vocabulary, phonics skills, and syllabification (the
separation of a word into syllables)? What about teaching them to appreciate history,
myths, folktales, geography and culture? Well, help them study the lyrics of music.
They can learn all that and more.

Thematic learning helps youngsters learn in a safe, enjoyable, student-centered
environment. This style is perfect for anyone who is struggling to learn a second
language. For example, non-native English speakers should study music if they want to
master the language faster.

Learning to play a musical instrument is no easy feat. Many people quit before they
really give it a chance. If a youngster can stick it out, they will learn the importance
of hard work, practice, and discipline. Many of today’s youngsters need to learn those
lessons. Entitlement is like a nasty four letter word.

Contributing to an orchestra, band, or choir forces students to collaborate, work as a
team, strive for a common goal, and develop negotiation skills.

Those fruity, creative types have always valued art education. Apparently, the rest of us
had better learn to appreciate the arts too. Go figure. The nutty ones have had it right all
along!

References:

Good Reasons Why Your Child Should Study Music. Retrieved from Schoolatoz
http://www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au/homework-and-study/other-subjects-and-projects/the-arts/why-your-child-should-study-music
Kloberdanz, K. (2012). Want Your Kids to Excel in Math and Reading? Teach Them to Paint.
http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/23/want-kids-excel-math-reading-teach-them-paint
Schwartz, J. (2012). Kids Like Blues: Using Music and Video to Rock Your Classroom.
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/kids-like-blues-music-video-jon-schwartz

Essay Writing Tips – Learn from the Greatest

For many students, writing an essay is a daunting task. Often times, they don’t
know where to begin. If students don’t know where to begin, they definitely don’t
know where they will end up.

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.

Essay Writing Tips

Instead of letting them flounder through the writing process, break it down into
manageable steps. Here are eight steps to share with your students.
Since youngster rarely do anything just because we tell them to, let some of the literary greats be the ones to break the news to your students. The success
of these famous authors will (hopefully!) spur your young writers on to equal
greatness.

1. Research

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above
all others: read a lot and write a lot.” For essay writing, this tip is especially
important.

Students need to conduct thorough research until they become an expert on
the topic. They should consult the internet, academic databases, journals,
publications, and any other reputable source they can find.

Encourage students to immerse themselves in the words of great thinkers.

2. Analyze

Once students have a strong and knowledgeable foundation on the topic, they
need to start analyzing the argument of the essay. They should define the claims
they want to make, write out their reasoning for a particular stance, and find the
corresponding evidence to back up that claim.

Students need to sift through the research they accumulated to find the strengths
and weaknesses of the logic. Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts
that people skip.” As such, analysis is one of the most important parts of essay
writing.

3. Brainstorm

In addition to all the mind-blowing evidence students will amass, they also need
to have insight of their own. Encourage students to engage in brainstorming
activities. A simple suggestion could be to make a list of questions related to the
topic and come up with answers for each.

When brainstorming, remind students there is no such thing as a wrong answer
or too much thought. Ray Branbury said, “Quantity produces quality. If you
only write a few things, you’re doomed.” This is especially true when it comes to
brainstorming.

4. Condense

Remind students they need to condense their ideas into a single thesis
statement. Encourage them to take their best idea and run with it. Use a thesis
statement to structure the entire essay. This will tell readers where they are
going and why.

Edgar Allen Poe could have easily substituted “essay” for “short story” when he
stated: “A short story must have a single mood, and every sentence must build
towards it.”

5. Outline

At this stage, students might feel they are no better off than they were before
they started research. Why? Because a pile of evidence is just as intimidating
as a blank piece of paper. Where is a student supposed to go next? According
to Erica Jong, “The hardest part is believing in yourself at the notebook state. It
is like believing in dreams in the morning.”

Students need to create an outline. This will help them organize their thoughts
and begin to give their essay structure.

Encourage them to write a one sentence description for each paragraph. Then,
list bullet points to express what information each paragraph will contain.

6. Write

Take the information from the outline and start writing. Students should skip the
introduction and go straight for the meat of the essay.

Each paragraph should be focused on a single idea that supports the thesis.
And students need to support each ascertain with evidence. Remind students to
expound on an idea, yet make their paragraphs concise and focused.

Richard Hugo advises writers to “make the subject of the sentence you are
writing different from the subject of the sentence you just wrote.”

7. Introduce and Conclude

Now that students have written the majority of the essay, it is time to focus on the
two most challenging aspects: the introduction and conclusion.

If students try to write the introduction first, they may never make it past the
opening paragraph. John Steinbeck could sympathize. “Abandon the idea that
you are ever going to finish…write just one page for each day, it helps. Then
when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”