I admit, I am a harsh critic when it comes to teaching. I am quick to find holes in pedagogy and engagement; skeptical when I hear about the best teacher in the school from the administrator. To be fair, I am also my own worst critic of my own teaching.
In other words, it is hard to blow me away these days. I am usually set after observing a teacher for about 10 minutes. So I stand (or type) before you humbled and in awe of a teacher who captivated and amazed me this week.
I had the privilege of having my lab students observe Ms. Adams, a dance teacher at Arts Based School here in Winston-Salem. I will do my best to paint a picture of what we saw:
Day 1: Ms. Adams was teaching a Kindergarten class. The students were learning about weather in science, so on the board were weather vocabulary words that they had been learning about with their classroom teacher (tornado, thunderstorm, rain, snow, wind, etc.). The students came up with symbols that could represent each of these words, such as a swirling cyclone diagram for tornado. Then the class broke into groups of two or three and had a dry erase board and marker. Each group came up with a dance movement for each weather vocabulary word (like a hammering movement for thunderstorm). Next, each group was able to come up with a sequence of weather terms that they wrote on their dry erase board, for which they could use the full word or write the symbol. Finally, the group had to practice their movement sequence based on the movements they derived for each word in the order they wrote them down. As time wound up, she took her tambourine and hit it twice, at which point all students stopped what they were doing and faced her like little soldiers. She then had the students line up and share what letter they were on today (E - expert, S - skilled, N - novice). This was a self-reflection on their ability to listen to directions in class, perform the required tasks, and control their bodies and behavior.
Day 2: On this day, Ms. Adams was teaching a 2nd grade class. When we walked in, the class was broken up into pairs, with partners making human mirrored images with each other. They then had to identify how many lines of symmetry their formation had created. Ms. Adams challenged them to create formations that would have three and four lines of symmetry. Students were called back to the dry erase board, where they reviewed various shapes they had been learning with their classroom teacher. Next, students received large stretchy bands (see picture below):
Ms. Adams, a veteran educator (and also the NC Charter School 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year), showed how easily and how much fun it can be to integrate movement into curriculum. She demonstrated rigor in her approach, and the active engagement was flawless. The collaboration of content and the arts is skillfully done at Arts Based School, and Ms. Adams has at least one new huge fan of hers!