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"Teacherese" for Arts Programming
Clyde Berry, Director of Education, Fort Worth Opera
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EducationLink10/12/2012

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As September — and the new school year — approaches, it is important to remember the importance of the relationship with classroom teachers. Below, Clyde Berry, a classroom teacher for more than 10 years, offers "teacherse" for those working with teachers.

Every classroom teacher, especially with the current implementation of No Child Left Behind, has a very challenging task in creating smart lessons that will lead directly to high test scores. No other time is given to extracurricular or enrichment lessons, as schools/teachers with low test scores face serious disciplinary actions from their own school systems. While this is a serious impediment to the education paradigm, the bottom line of funding high-testing schools has become all important. Administrators will not allow anything to interfere or pull from test prep time and therefore risking funding.

Testing occupies the bulk of the school year, with pre-testing occurring during the first few weeks of school, to assess where students stand. Each quarter or semester will see an assessment to check for progress, with final testing taking place during the late third quarter/early fourth quarter of the school year. Remember, a teacher has a full year's curriculum to teach but only three-quarters of that time to allow for testing, and then the retakes/remediation of low-achieving students. Students who do not test well may not matriculate into the next grade.

So how do the arts, which are not tested as a core subject (and consequently considered less important), have a chance to fit into the education of the Scantron generation? The answer is to have a cross-curricular approach that does all of the work for the teacher. If an arts program has a direct correlation to a testable subject, it will not cause additional labor, teaching or organizing on the part of the teacher, and it does not occupy more than a class period, then it has a better chance of being brought into the school.

So how does one accomplish this?

What Teachers Have to Do
Every teacher must have a lesson plan that relates what is covered each day. While the format of plans varies, they all have these common components:
  1. The concept/goal is the overall knowledge the students will learn that day. Think of it as the big picture. "How to Make a Sandwich"
  2. The objective is the measurable (by testing) skill that students will be expected to master. "Students will learn to Spread Peanut Butter on Bread"
  3. The standards are the curriculum based informational points that have been identified as the crucial skills needed to indicate grade level subject mastery.
    • They usually have a subject code and number based on grade level.
    • Food 9.3 "Students will be able to use a knife in spreading applications"
    • This would be a ninth grade standard for Food class.
  4. The procedure is the step by step instructions for how this knowledge will be presented and practiced by the students. A good lesson will involve the material being presented three times in each learning style (visual, kinesthetic and auditory). With the inclusion of students with special needs, the procedure has to be flexible enough to allow it to be modified for differentiated instruction. Gifted students will need more activities, or alternate ones, as will students not fluent in English.
  5. Assessment is the way the learning retention of the students is checked. The lesson must be assessed that day for basic comprehension, as well as practice for later quizzes, tests and standardized testing.
What You can Do for the Teacher
  1. Write your program in your local lesson plan format. There are many samples of this online, or just call the local school to see if they have their own format.
  2. Include the local standards in your lesson plan. Be sure to check for every subject and grade level. Your local State Department of Education will have the standards posted online, or you can request a printed copy.
  3. Have pre- and post-event activities. There should be things the students can do before and after your visit to reinforce what they will learn from your program.
  4. Make an assessment and include a key for the teacher.
  5. Be sure the students do more than watch! Make sure the students generate something that the teacher can grade. Again, this makes your program relevant, directly involves the students learning and you have proof of their work to see the effectiveness of your program. Student feedback will help you revise your program.
  6. Be self-sufficient. As you can see, the paperwork of teaching is tedious and relentless. Don't make any more for them, and they are more likely to use you.
The time of year is also crucial to your program. Find out the local testing schedule and block that time out, as well as at least three weeks before and after it. Administrators need that time for last minute review or for retesting.

While all of this prep is very time-consuming, many organizations have been doing this for years. Go online and see what other arts groups are doing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Also, once you set it up for one program, other programs will come together much more quickly!
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