Sunday, September 4, 2011

Adapting Your Curriculum and Instruction

Your schedule and classes change every year, and, if you’re on a cart or travel, your workload changes just as much.  Keeping a strict curriculum is one of my biggest challenges, but I find ways to work with it.   The way to plan your curriculum is to focus on what your goals are for the year.   One of my goals in each lesson is to have the students understand why they create their piece and how they can use their knowledge gained in the real world.  Even on a cart, we still need to include those 21st century learning skills.

The elements of art and principles of design are fundamental in the art curriculum.  Each lesson is embedded with at least two, and can always be revisited. When planning your lessons and creating your examples, note the elements and principles used and focus on them when explaining your objectives.

The state and national standards are in place for a reason…like how students can understand how art reflects in society and everyday life (besides the Illinois standard 25).   Make sure you touch upon the standards and memorize them.  When you’re approached by your administrator and asked how the lesson relates to the fine arts standards, know your stuff.  Materials can be modified and artists can be changed around to meet the standards too.  For example…when teaching coil pottery, I use ceramic pottery because my home base school shares a kiln with the Jr. High.  At my cart school, I use air-dry clay to teach the same lesson.  Same concept learned, different material used.

Here are some tips to assist you in planning your curriculum for the school year when travelling:

     1. If you teach the same grades at different schools, plan your lessons around the same time.  This will help save you from extra planning, and you can easily just prepare more materials for the lesson rather than gather more materials for multiple lessons.

     2.  Bring your lesson plan book with you to all schools.  If you make any sudden changes, you can note them in the book so you’re aware of them for other schools.  I’m a person that has to write everything down, but if you’re not, tie that string around your finger in some way you can as a reminder.

     3.  To save on carrying extra materials from school to school, spend a little extra time creating examples for each school that can be stored away.  It may take a few years, but you carry less and less each year.

     4.  Teaching multiple schools over time?  When I started travelling in my first year, I carried so much from school to school, I needed a suitcase on wheels.  Now, I carry a recycled paper bag.  Each year, I tried to order materials I knew I was going to use for the next year.  Over the next few years, I carried less and less because I knew the materials were already at the other school!

     5.  Even travelling, I try to find ways to integrate lessons.  Since I have freedom planning my curriculum, I collaborated with the 6th grade teachers to have art history inspired lessons that follow their social studies lessons.    Find your way to collaborate with the homeroom teacher.  It shows teamwork, and creates an imaginative environment for the students.

If you have a strict curriculum in your school district, I invite you to share your ways you adapt in a travelling situation.  Every school district is different…some educators have freedom in planning their curriculum, others must follow a guideline.  In my district the 3 elementary art teachers collaborate to discuss how we each meet the standards and what concepts we wish the students to learn before reaching the Jr. High level.  We then communicate throughout the year on how we incorporated specific materials within our lessons.  There are so many ways to adapt lessons in a travelling situation.  You could plan units, themes, integrations, highlighted artists, and much more.  The advice I have for new teachers is this:  work with what you have.  Through time, you will find an organized method to your curriculum.

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