- Following the principles of UDL, I have incorporated audio, hyperlinks, graphics and large text into this blog.
So now that we understand:
1. Teachers need to know the academic and social profile of their students/class as a starting point
2. Marginal students point the way to better instruction for all students
3. We need to re-evaluate the general curriculum to make it more effective for all students
4. Planning up front cannot be done in isolation - it requires collaboration between general and special education teachers,
we can then look at what kind of instructional strategies, tools and specific activities lend themselves to engaging ALL learners. My experience is that the Fine Arts and the integration of technology are essential in that mix. If I think back to a previous reference to Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, I am reminded of how the four main disciplines of the Arts - Drama, Music, Dance and Visual Arts - allow for a variety of ways to engage in learning. Once again, this aligns clearly with the UDL framework of Multiple Means of Representation, Multiple Means of Expression and Multiple Means of Engagement:
I am very passionate about the ability of the Fine Arts to activate learning. Neuroscience backs this up and most importantly, so does the feedback and experience of our students. If I think back to when I had the most FUN in school, it was around those very activities where I was moving around, playing music and creating art. Something as simple as "Wink Murder" as an ice-breaker or acting out a vignette of a scene from a novel; these activities ingrain learning in our minds and hearts. Furthermore, educational research tells us that student achievement increases with the integration of the arts.
Unfortunately, this powerful vehicle for learning and socialization is too often deemed as an "extra thing" that as educators, we relegate to rare moments or we limit its scope to visual art projects only. Ironically, the Fine Arts are best served as a vehicle for learning all subject areas - integrated into daily lesson plans. While this can rely on the talents of the teacher and their confidence in this area, the risk is worth the reward. Not only that, there is so much potential in a school to share the talents of all the staff so that no one teacher need be responsible for all the arts disciplines. In the schools where I have worked, we organized Fine Arts modules for this very purpose. It entailed creating family groupings of students and included not only all the staff, but several community members sharing their talents in mini-courses that took place over three months - two afternoons per week. Here's an example of that framework:
If you want to bring joy to learning AND improve student achievement, support and advocate for the Fine Arts in your school and district.
Have a great week.