Monday, December 14, 2009

Beethoven's Birthday - a December Holiday

Yes, in my family, it seems that Beethoven's birthday is its own little holiday. No, we do not have a party or exchange gifts, but we do remember that on December 16th a most magnificent man, one who changed music forever, was born.

My grandfather was, to say the least, a fan of Beethoven's music and life. He celebrated the man's life and found in him a genius with such a life's story. It is this love and appreciation for music that was passed down to my mother, uncle and, of course to me!

Now, as a teacher, I use Beethoven's birthday to celebrate the holiday season in a new way. All month we learn about the man and listen to his music. On his birth week, I do a thematic learning approach and try to fit in all things Beethoven in our lessons: from penmanship practice using Beethoven quotes and developing our understanding about fact and opinion using short articles about his life in reading groups to practicing our math using Beethoven-based word problems.

Each year, my classes enjoy this extra attention to a man whose music they know and love. This year I have a class of very interested students who even want to have a mini recital of Beethoven's music. A handful of students will play excerpts of pieces they know on a variety of instruments. What a fun way to end our 2009 year! I can't wait.

I never would have imagined that a long, forgotten birthday would have had such potential to keep my students focused and excited all the way to the holiday break. But that seems to be what is happening. I love it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Results of the Teacher Survey in Arts Integration

I have conducted a survey in my school district on arts integration and have discovered that there is a real interest in it! I invited all elementary teachers to participate and as of this blog date, 31 have completed the survey. At this point, I can account for the results as only a "dipstick" of the attitudes and practices of the arts in our district.

There are some roadblocks, however... the top two being time (71%) and curriculum demands (61%), followed by money (45%).

My colleagues, I am proud to say, see and understand the importance of the arts. The vast majority of the participants considering the arts, in general important (85%) and each individual art form questioned (visual, movement/dance, music, poetry, drama, storytelling, technology/media), was also seen as important by the majority. At the top of the list was music (79%), visual arts (72%) and poetry (76%). No art form was seen as unimportant and the only ones that were even considered as "somewhat unimportant" were movement/dance, drama and technology/media all ranging at a mere 3-4% in that category. All other percentages to be accounted for were in the "somewhat important" category.

As for integration, my colleagues who participated in the survey again showed their belief in at least some arts integration by reporting that a majority conduct all of the arts (except drama) on a weekly or daily basis. However, the percentages are not astounding: Visual Arts (48% weekly), movement/dance (27% weekly), music (45% daily), poetry (31% weekly), drama (24% monthly), storytelling (35% weekly), technology/media (41% weekly).

My colleagues are also interested in professional development opportunities in the arts! The majority were interested in opportunities in all art forms, but the highest percentages were for visual arts and music (76%) and poetry (72%). The other options were "no interest" or "not sure". A couple of participants took the time to comment that the reason for indicating that they were disinterested in these opportunities was TIME - either because of other curriculum demands or personal obligations outside of school.

When asked, "If you were given time to collaborate more this other teachers in the area of arts integration, would you?" The majority replied YES (72%), the rest said Maybe and no one said no! (There is opportunity here!!!)

Please note that this survey time frame is not over and once I have more completed surveys, I will update the information.

Also,along with surveying classroom, special ed, and reading teachers, I conducted a separate survey for arts teachers and specialists. These results will be reported in a separate blog...