January 30, 2011

Student Teaching At Ravenswood Elementary School- Context

So I finished my first week at Ravenswood as of Friday. I was mostly observing but I did sneak in a couple of demonstrations and a lecture here and there.
My cooperating teacher is the wonderful and famous Ms. Kitty Conde.

Ravenswood is a fine and performing arts magnet cluster school, which means that Ms. Kitty is part of a cohort of teachers who really push to improve their instruction and who are responsible for integrating art with other content areas in order to support the other teachers in the school and help the students understand the integrated connections between subjects. In order to do this the FAPAMCA teachers give and receive rich professional development throughout the year.
I should give you a little background about Ms. Kitty's pedagogy and praxis.

There are three primary pedagogical influences that have shaped the way Ms. Kitty teaches art and organizes classroom structures. The first and most important is Lois Hetland, a professor at MASSART, who wrote a book called Studio Thinking. The book describes what the arts really teach on their own, when they are taught well. Lois Hetland and Kitty believe the arts teach artistic behaviors such as learning to envision, learning to develop craft, and learning to engage and persist (there are eight total that Hetland and her associates at Project Zero have identified). The second major influence is the Reggio Emilio schools in Italy. The pedagogy of Reggio Emilio states that the classroom, or the environment, is the third teacher. In this way, the supplies should be organized in an aesthetically pleasing manner and accessible for students to explore. The third major influence is the Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop Structure. Ravenswood School, in general, embraces this model, and the way it translates best in Kitty’s room is through the idea of the mini-lesson. Most days Ms. Kitty sets a timer at the beginning of class for 5-7 minutes and she teaches the kids a mini-lesson, such as how to attach one material to another, or how to shade, etc. The kids then can choose to apply the information they heard that day or not apply it if they so choose. She really works hard to respect the students’ studio time by setting that egg timer and limiting her talking time. The rest of her instruction takes place either with small groups of students who are working on similar things and need more direction, or one on one with students as she walks around.

Because Ms. Kitty believes wholeheartedly in teaching for artistic behaviors, in process over product, and in autonomy and genuine engagement on the part of the student, Ms. Kitty’s room is organized into “studios”. Students have a lot of choice in her room, as they pick which studios to engage with on any given day. You can read more about Choice or TAB (teaching for artistic behavior) here. In the art room at Ravenswood, there is a construction studio, painting studio, drawing studio, collage studio, sculpture studio (mostly clay), and technology studio. Throughout most the year, students can choose from any of these centers to express and communicate their ideas. Sometimes Ms. Kitty gives the students a theme to consider when making work, but often the students decide on their own content. Ms. Kitty does not devise what the project, or product will look like, but rather she has students focus on learning certain artistic behaviors such as envisioning, reflecting, persisting and problem solving. Furthermore, the students get out and put back their own supplies, everyday, no matter how young they are. When the kids are small not all the studios are “open” to them, but they still put back their own drawing, construction and collage supplies. Ms. Kitty believes this teaches kids to be independent and responsible for their own supplies. The kids really do know where things go if the classroom is organized.

The Construction Studio at Ravenswood!

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