Monday, February 18, 2013

The Interactive Notebook :: Creation beyond the Art classroom

Did you know that before I become the private high school art teacher and blogger that I am I was a 6th grade core subjects in the public schools? Indeed I was! I spent two years at a public middle school teaching Reading/Language Arts and then Social Studies and then - praise be to GOD(!!!!!!) - I was given the opportunity to be where I am doing what I am now. And while I love what I am doing now and wouldn't ever want to go back, I still remember all of the ways and days spent getting bit by the bug that helped me to find my heart for teaching and then follow it to where I am now.

Last week I really got to reminisce and revisit that time when I started teaching by facilitating a professional development workshop at an inservice event done by my school every year. I don't know when this inservice event started but in the four years I have been here it has been formally named "Brainfest" and we have invited other local area private schools to join in the day that includes at least two teacher-led workshop sessions for professional development purposes and then a wonderful catered lunch. Just about anybody who is in attendance can jump on the side of being a facilitator and you're allowed to instruct/speak on just about anything you want to. Last year I paired up with a colleague and did a workshop focusing on the Millenial generation in the classroom. This year I single-handedly tackled the AVID Curriculum's brilliant idea of the Interactive Notebook that I used to use and LOVE daily in my early teaching career days of the core subjects. Ever heard of it? Well! Let me just tell you about one of the most awesome ways to teach AND learn on any content area and grade level EVER.

In a nutshell, the Interactive Notebook is multi-dimensional vessel for a student to collect knowledge every day and then be able to take and CREATE something with what they have learned. Every page of a student's notebook becomes completely unique and is created to have a specific purpose for something else to springboard off. Also, many of the pages require action in order to access the material/information on them. Students have to lift, fold, tuck, adhere, or color just about every page of the book so that their notebook becomes (for lack of any other way to put it) a POP-up version of what was once a boring school notebook easily lost, forgotten, or despised because of what it contained. Each project or double-page spread is a mini-project unto itself that only serves as encouragement to keep doing more and more and MORE pages and spreads. You want to talk about good return on investment? The Interactive Notebook is absolutely worth it's weight in Ticonderoga pencil leads!

[via] This person can't get enough of the Interactive Notebook either and I don't blame them.

I LOVE the Interactive Notebook and before I was able to be in a classroom that allowed me to create without bounds, the Interactive Notebook mostly satiate the unquenchable thirst I have to be creative AND create. And because I can't help but remember where I came from, I fully acknowledge that were it not for the Interactive Notebook, I probably would have quit teaching forever and maybe even never made it to where I am now.

As a visual art educator I feel like I am always having to "fight" for and assert my position that I am a "REAL" teacher. So sad that I even have to acknowledge such a thing but it's the truth. *Shrug* Doing this session for my colleagues last week at the Brainfest was a great way for me to really prove and SHOW that cutting, pasting, coloring, and CREATING has a place not only in the art classroom but also in EVERY classroom and content area. It also showed - without a shadow of a doubt - that I am not simply "hanging out" with my students everyday "making stuff." It was a blessing to be given the opportunity to share what I love with everyone I work with and help them to see that what I love aligns and scaffolds beautifully the things they do in their classrooms.

I don't have the full presentation to show you about how/what I did at my session because it was a very hands-on step-by-step process that I did alongside them where I helped each of the attendees make their own "take-away" notebook page-by-page by way of showing them demonstrations with a document camera. Every attendee was from a different subject area - core subjects and electives alike(!) on ALL grade levels - and not one of them had ever tried something like this before in any of their classrooms. By the end of the session each of them was very SOLD on incorporating it into their classroom goings-on and they were very excited to do so even despite their hesitation just because this was something different than what they have ever done.

I am a visual art teacher but I also know I am so much more than that and that goes the same for YOU. We as art teachers know we are something special (seriously - it's OK if we toot our own horns to others and not just sit in our art rooms being misunderstood!) but nobody will know that if we don't show them. I mean, we teach our student artists everyday the importance of SHOWING over telling. So, I implore you all to do something similar as what I did - you don't even need a special event to do it - and teach one of your colleagues how powerful folding, cutting, pasting, and coloring can be. And if you need any help? Here are some awesome links for you to help be a better teacher of teachers yourself...

I shared the above links with the attendees of my workshop and I hope they are useful to you or a colleague you might know. Here's to spreading the LOVE for CREATING a type of learning that will only greatly expand upon itself. 

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