Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Dynamic Learning Environment/Multiple Strategies
When you walk into a classroom you encounter many students. It is essential to keep in mind that each of these students are unique, and have a distinctive learning style. There are three broad categories of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile; all of these learners ascertain optimum knowledge in separate ways. Howard Gardner once said, “Children are best served by having opportunities to gain and demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways.” Incorporating an assortment of teaching and learning strategies can have a noticeable affect on student engagement and achievement. When educators apply the use of varied teaching strategies, they are supporting a belief in individual learning styles and preferences, and they are more apt to engage students in the successful acquisition of knowledge.On the New Horizons for Learning website, Dee Dickinson points out the following, “Students who struggle in schools with curriculum and instruction based primarily on verbal proficiency, arts processes are extremely powerful” (1997). Teachers can use multiple strategies as a means of connecting with each group of students by teaching children through means of art, music, cooking, centers, and games.
|“||I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.||”|
In Victoria Jacob's writing, Teaching Core Curriculum Content through the Arts, she states, “Arts in elementary schools have often been separated from the core curriculum and instead, offered as enrichment activities that are considered beneficial but not essential” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 2). The officials of the schools she refers to, in addition to other critics, pose the question, “Why should we have art in our schools?” One response to this question is that when the arts are well taught, they are able to engage the minds and hearts of young people by giving them the means to know and enjoy their world. The arts also help them to become literate in an increasingly visual world.
Art encourages self-directed learning, and provides new challenges to students who are already considered successful. It shows improvement in discipline and academic achievement in students who may have had previous issues with traditional learning. The ability to create, interpret, and integrate visual messages is an essential component of literacy. Reports from the National Art Education Association (NAEA) showed that “Students in art study score higher on both their Verbal and Math SAT tests than those who are not enrolled in arts courses” (Guenter 2005). Art education helps children make sense of their world by providing them with motivational tools to reach a new level of understanding of their education, and make connections to the world of ideas. Integrating art into everyday learning gives students who are primarily visual and kinesthetic learners a better chance to learn, as well as giving every student the chance to learn more effectively. In this way, teaching art enables students to achieve their highest level of learning.
|“||Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.||”|
—Ludwig van Beethoven
Music is another essential component of the curriculum which, by many, is often over-looked and thought of as irrelevant to education. MENC 2002 shows that skills learned through the discipline of music are transferable to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills, which are useful in every part of any curriculum. Catchy tunes and phrases provide children with an easy way to recite and remember facts. For example, a kindergarten teacher at Greenbrier Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia writes songs about the famous historical figures and the knowledge that kindergarteners are expected to know for the VA SOLs. She testifies that through her twenty-five years of teaching experience, her students are better able to retain the information that they had been taught when they put it in the form of a song. Not only does music make learning more fun, and facts easier to recall, but another significant feature of music is that it strengthens the right side of the brain. This is an important characteristic because studies have shown that the more parts of the brain that are used, the better the user’s synapses develop (Connell 2007).
Several studies provide evidence that children who participate in music programs show improved spatial-temporal skills, enhanced academic performance, and better social skills (Prescott 2005). This is also true of just listening to music. Teachers know from the expressions on their students' faces that music promotes wonder and provides benefits far beyond what can be assessed by research. Students enjoy, gain nourishment, and build confidence through participation in music. A professor in the department of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, Norman Weinberger, Ph.D., says that music “appears to really bring out the best in students, capitalizing on their natural curiosity and allowing it to flourish in a varied, stimulating environment” (Prescott 2005).
Integrating music into the everyday learning environment helps students improve themselves in many ways. The U.S. National Child Welfare Association states, "Through music, a child enters a world of beauty, expresses his/her inmost self, tastes the joy of creating, widens his/her sympathies, develops the mind, soothes and refines the spirit, and adds grace to the body" (Dickinson 1997).
|“||Cookery has become a noble art, a noble science.||”|
Although many restrictions have been placed on the allowance of food in the classroom, it is still permissible to cook with fresh, store bought ingredients and obtained office approval. Cooking can be incorporated into various lessons for each of the core subject areas. For example, produce can be sliced in a demonstration about fractions, or can also be used to study social studies and geography by investigating topics such as: where it originated, where it is grown now, who first ate it, and how. More involved cooking demonstrations give students the chance to explore the science of chemical changes as they see how foods differ when heated, frozen, or mixed (Giancoli 2007). The importance of following directions and doing things in a sequential order play a big role in cooking, and the value of organization is also demonstrated. Having students participate in cooking aids in the development of their fine motor coordination, and uses decision-making and problem-solving skills when something unexpected happens. Students also enhance their vocabulary while they are working in the classroom kitchen. They learn new units of measurement, as well as the names of foods, ingredients, and kitchen utensils. Lessons about basic nutrients, heat safety, and proper sanitation can also be linked into the curriculum (Giancoli 2007).
Centers and Games
|“||Games have a far greater educational influence than most people are aware of.||”|
Group interaction has proven to be very useful for students of all ages. One form of group interaction for elementary students is obtained by working in centers. Centers offer motivation and flexibility to meet the diverse needs of today's students (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000). Centers teach many valuable concepts, some of which are social aspects and others are more traditional educational values. Through centers, students are able to practice cooperation and learn to take turns. They are able to discuss with each other and develop more elaborate language. These opportunities for social collaboration allow student participation on a variety of levels and integrate success into each child’s experience (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000).
Children also gain the possibility of making choices about their learning. Some of the educational benefits of centers include the development of classification skills and number concepts, as well as problem-solving abilities. Additionally, students learn to make generalizations about the properties of various objects, organize and conceptualize the world, and follow a mental plan. They also further develop gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Another benefit of centers is that they provide a great opportunity for integrating technology into the classroom.
While working in centers, students develop a positive self-concept as well as a positive attitude toward learning. The classroom structure provided allows teachers to assess students regularly while they are engaged in meaningful and purposeful activities. Teacher observation of center behaviors provides significant information regarding each student's level of independence, interdependence, and cooperative skills. (Van Deusen-MacLeod 2000). Educational games also serve as a productive method for teaching students. Games can be used as a means of introducing material and gaining students’ interest, for more in-depth exploration of a subject, or as a review of content. Games sharpen students’ skills and encourage them to learn more, while making learning a fun experience. Popular game shows such as Jeopardy!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and 1 vs. 100, serve as popular models for review games in the classroom and can be related to all subjects. Studies show that students who are involved in the learning process have more fun and better retain information than ones who are not.
Exposing students to abstract learning by various forms of interaction will teach them logic and reasoning, and will help them to grasp what might not be represented on the surface. This is why teachers should use multiple strategies in order to produce meaningful learning results through use of art, music, cooking, centers, and games. The arts make a tremendous impact of the developmental growth of every child. Cooking can promote a better understanding of science and inforces the importance of following directions. Centers and games help children's social skills and also provide a fun method for discovery and learning. Each of these interactive, hands-on forms of educating encourages students to further engage themselves in the learning process, and helps them to retain greater knowledge. It is crucial that teachers use an assortment of instructional activities in order to entice all students and excite them about their education.
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- Connell, D. (2007). Pathways to reach every learner. Retrieved on September 6, 2007 from: http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id+3629
- Dickinson, Dee. (1997) Learning Through the Arts New Horizons for Learning Retrieved on November 8, 2007 from: http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/arts/dickinson_lrnarts.htm
- Giancoli, Andrea (2007). The Family Fork. Cooking in the Classroom. September 10, 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/blogs/kids_nutrition/2007/05/cooking-in-classroom.html
- Guenter, Cris (2005). The California Education Association. Retrieved on September 18, 2007 from: http://wwwstatic.kern.org/gems/teachingArtsVisualArts/CAEAposition.pdf
- Jacobs, V. and Goldberg, M. (1999). Teaching Core Curriculum Content through the Arts. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Ontario, Canada.
- MENC - The National Association for Music Education (2002). Music education facts and figures. Retrieved on September 12, 2007 from: http://www.menc.org/information/advocate/facts.html
- Prescott, Jennifer O. (2005). Music in the Classroom. Instructor’s Handy Guide for Bringing Music Into Your Classroom. Retrieved on September 13, 2007 from: http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/Jan05_music.htm
- Van Deusen-MacLeod, Betsy (2000). Literacy Centers in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved on September 12, 2007 from: http://www.ncacasi.org/jsi/2001v2i1/literacy