Last year I really wanted to try and improve the writing quality of my students.
So in week 1 Term 1, as we were all getting to know each other I asked them what they would like to create on one large wall in our classroom. I explained it had to be something we all agreed on as this was going to be their focus for their writing for Term 1. I spilt them off into groups to discuss it. Later we all gathered on the mat and each group got to share what they felt would be the best. After much deliberation we had it. The Magical Kingdom Of Boondagilay
I wasn't sure at the time how much success we would have, but the only way to improve is to take risks and try new things.
I was really excited by the children's ownership of the mural and to top it off their writing was exciting. There was so much going on in the mural that their imaginations could take off...no holding back. It was a positive outcome and their writing did improve. They had something to write about right in front of them.
I believe when kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. The society we live in today needs people who are forward thinking, inventive people who seek new ways to make improvements, not people who can only follow others directions. Art is one way to encourage this process.
So moving forward......
I was fortunate to stay with my same class and move with them into Year 3. Once again writing has seemed to be the biggest problem. Because my children are not surrounded by literacy in their homes they struggle to come up with new ideas. I downloaded onto their i-pads many fun, short children's stories. I read them a sophisticated picture book after lunch each day where we spent 10 minutes after reading it, discussing the characters, the setting, the beginning, middle and end of the story. We also discuss the plot, the adventure that took place, the problem in the story, the solution.
I felt I was giving them so many tools to go off and write some descriptive, amazing, and interesting narratives. Some children did and they really took off. But majority still struggled to come up with a plan or even anything to write about.
So I asked them if they would like to make another mural. They all agreed and we started to make a mural of our own made up universe. Our Inquiry for Term 3 is about space so we wanted to keep the theme running. The Universe of Zola was created with different aliens, evil queens, rockets with the children's faces on them flying around, the Moggy Moon where the Flat Foots lived. You name it we had it. Beside that we created the real Solar System beside it.
Once again writing in my class improved. The children had ownership of what they had created, they were proud of it and wanted to write some cool stories and share them with their friends.
Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievement. A report by the Americans For Arts, states that young people who participate regularly in the arts, are four times more likely to be recognised with academic achievement, to participate in either science or math fairs/shows or win awards for writing essays, poems, or speeches than children who do not participate.
But I still wanted to explore more with the arts and how it can benefit my students.
As it was Maori Language week we sat down as a class and looked at some Maori designs. We all decided we wanted to move away from the traditional red, black and white designs and focus more on the earth (the flora and fauna) of NZ. Below are just a few examples.
Next week I hope to introduce my students to a range of Maori myths and legends. Discuss as a class the messages behind each legend. I want them to use their art as inspiration to write their own Maori legend, pulling in all their knowledge they have learnt in Te Reo classes, their own life experiences, and some great imagination.
Following this writing exercise, we will be looking at writing a Recount on the experience of creating their art. You could also explore Instructional writing. Each format of writing requires different language, formats and outcomes.
So one piece of art work set up properly can inspire many visions.
Dr Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University believes that children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art Education, teaches students how to interpret, criticize and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it. Knowledge about the visual arts, such as graphic symbolism is especially important in helping students become smart consumers and navigate a world filled with marketing logos.
I am excited to see how this plan of using art to inspire writing will go.
Next week I hope to be posting some examples of the students Maori legends.