Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Why Do We Need Pacing Guides?
It's been over a week since I created my last post, and I'm going through blog writing withdrawal. At the end of the school year, it may be time to wind down, but the workload does not get any lighter.
One of the many reasons why I started slowing down in my posts is because we are a "Rising Star" school district. "Rising Star" means that we are under review for refinement in our curriculum, environment, and everyday school practices. As the art representative for our district, I report to the curriculum department whenever the state is in need of evidence of our visual arts practices.
Recently, we were asked by the state to create a month-by-month pacing guide of the art curriculum. A pacing guide is a document created to show what concepts and standards you are incorporating month by month. Many districts have adopted pacing guides to keep classrooms on task and ready for ISATS, as well as prerequisite knowledge for the next school year.
From many conversations I've had with art education colleagues, many art departments have also adapted this method of pacing as well. It helps to keep all visual art teachers on track to scaffold student knowledge and experience with materials. Not all school districts require the art department to follow a guide. If you do not, you have the freedom to choose which lessons to teach in your class, granted they follow any state standard you are required to teach.
In our district, we have four art teachers total: one stationary elementary teacher (has a room without a sink and no kiln), two traveling art teachers (I have two rooms with sinks, and a kiln at one school, while the other traveller has two rooms with sinks and no kiln), and one junior high art teacher (room, sinks, and kiln). When we were told to create a month to month pacing guide, we were given a challenge.
How could we follow month to month when we each have different situations?
With seeing students once a week for 40 minutes, how can we stay on task when days off, assemblies, and school wide events get in the way???
It's not as if we haven't combined lessons before. We have made sure in the past to scaffold student learning year by year, so when they reach jr. high, the students are at the same level of learning. One teacher may focus on the concept of perspective one month, while another visited perspective in a different month since her school was focusing on another theme at the time.
Another challenge was materials. Not all art teachers have a kiln, and half of us previously pushed a cart froom room to room. With lack of storage space, we found ways to work with what we had. When students reach the junior high, my previous students may know the methods of ceramic clay, firing, and glazing, but the elementary students from the other schools may only know air dry clay (and not all elementary teachers work with clay).
With all the challenges presented, we still had to divise a plan, which is currently in the works.
So to share what we have so far, we designed the guide in a table format. We have a column for the month, standard, concepts, and overall idea of the lesson. The guide is in progress, but it's a start to show the state that we are working toward refinement.
This is an example page of our 1st grade pacing guide so far. This is an in-progress document, so a full document will be posted once finished (and when I figure out how to post a microsoft document into my blog posts, it will look MUCH better).
So if my pacing guide isn't finished...why am I writing about this?
Every art teacher has a different situation. Some have guides to follow, others have free reign. I'm curious to hear what you have. If you browse passed this post by chance, please take a moment to share what your district does. It would be nice to gain a perspective on how common or uncommon pacing guides are in the art curriculum.