Archive for February, 2013


Visit to Etna-Dixmont School

February 28, 2013

Jen Nash, Music teacher Extraordinaire

5th gr For quite a while elementary music teacher Jen Nash and I had been trying to schedule a time for me to visit her school and it finally happened the week before February break. I had the full visit from meeting teachers, administrators, lunch in the teachers room, playground duty, and the best part was being in Jen’s classroom.

I arrived in time for a kindergarten class. I am always impressed with elementary music teachers and the energy it takes to teach and Jen was no exception! Moving from one activity to the next challenging the students as they were introduced to a variety of concepts and building on ones mastered from previous lessons. Ongoing assessment was evident throughout the lesson. Jen keeps her ipad close by making notes throughout.

The students went on a “bear hunt” and flipped between being a blur of movement to silent movers to climbing and slithering and sliding through different environments.  Throughout the lesson students were engaged in their learning, enthusiastic, happy, and able to move at their pace. Their motor coordination, movements, personal space, interactions with their classmates were tapped throughout the song. And all the while they were singing and dancing! Jen interwove literacy throughout the lesson providing students the opportunity to know success as they relied on each other and worked individually.

kindI had the chance to be there for an individual saxophone lesson, 5th grade band, and the middle jazz band practice as they readied for the competition scheduled later in the week. Which, by the way, they received a 1-rating and will go on to the state competition – congratulations! During my visit Jen played the sax, trombone, and the drums.

I had a chance to speak to principal Jane Stork who is proud of the work that Jen and the students are doing in music education. Superintendent Greg Potter stopped by for a visit as well. I lucked out for lunch since it was the teachers once a month pot luck. The theme was Mardi Gras and the choices were all very yummy!

A great big THANK YOU to Jen for inviting me and the opportunity to see her and the students “in action” – a wonderful day at Etna-Dixmont School!

Jen has been an integral part of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) as a first phase teacher leader. When I arrived in her classroom I noticed written on the board the saying: “Music… can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ~Leonard Bernstein. Jen told me that she had gotten the idea to write a quote on the board by phase 2 teacher leader Jane Kirton from Sanford High School. It was a reminder to me that the MAAI is about fulfilling its mission of “Creating an environment in Maine where assessment in arts education is an integral part of the work all arts educators do to deepen student learning in the Arts” AND so much more! The importance of bringing arts teachers together to exchange ideas, ask questions, provide alternatives, and share best practices is ongoing. I invite you to join the work and play at one of the upcoming  MAAI Mega-regional and/or regional workshops.

trumbone jen

jazz band

blur kind.

sax alyssa




February 27, 2013

Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 8.40.45 PMYesterday the ACTEM newsletter, Electronic Educator, arrived in my mailbox. No, not my email box, but the postal service mail. I really like receiving it but I like it even more knowing what the organization is all about and that they still send a paper copy. It is also available online at

I was very excited to read about the fall conference keynote speaker Kevin Honeycutt. When Kevin started his career in education it was as a K-12 art teacher for 13 years. He also spent 17 summers leading creative adventure camps for kids of all ages.

For the past four years Kevin has hosted a creative learning site called ArtSnacks where he shares 150+ ten-minute drawing videos that support standards curriculum. Kevin refers to himself as a “Digital Dumpster Diver”. He collects and shares all kinds of digital resources for educators. Check out the resources on his website at

The annual MAINEEducation conference will be held October 10 and 11 at the Augusta Civic Center. You can learn more by clicking here. I am letting you know now since I know that many of you need to plan your professional development days for the 2013-14 school year.

Gary Lanoie, Executive Director of ACTEM said this about Kevin:  “I am really looking forward to Kevin Honeycutt’s keynote at the MAINEEducation 2013 conference.  I heard him at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia and was very impressed.”

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 8.37.25 PM

I suggest you join ACTEM since they have so much to offer. The membership fee is $20 and you can apply for up to $400 to put towards coursework in technology. It is a GREAT deal!

Also included in this issue of Electronic Educator is the update on MLTI and what is happening with the recent RFP. The Department has announced its conditional RFP awards to three companies, Apple, Inc., CTL (an Oregon-based computer manufacturer), and Hewlett-Packard Company were selected. You can download the entire article (and newsletter) by clicking here.


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Andrea Wollstadt

February 26, 2013

This is the 20th in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The  series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Andreaphoto2Andrea Wollstadt teaches general music to grades K, 4, and 5 and when the schedule allows she conducts a children’s choir. Andrea has been teaching music for 16 years and has taught every grade level- from Kindergarten to college-age students, and every music-education subject: band, chorus and general music. She presently works in the Biddeford School District where she has been teaching for 5 years. Andrea is one of those super teachers who sees approximately 600 students once a week.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

I absolutely love helping students discover what they are passionate about in music. Some students are real performers – they love to sing and dance in front of an audience. Other students are much more reserved – they enjoy writing music. I also have students who are very physical–they love drumming and finding the beat through movement. Helping students find that one thing in music they really connect with – that is the reason I teach!

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Flexibility – I believe you have to be flexible. What works in one school may not work in another. You have to look at each school, and the culture of the school, and figure out what will be the best possible program for students.
  2. K-12 collaboration – There needs to be a connection between all music staff K-12. Musically educating students does not stop when they leave your classroom! I think it’s important to look at the entire K-12 program and make sure it all makes sense and works together to create the most effective program. In my current position I am at an extreme disadvantage because I see students in kindergarten, and then not again until 4th grade. I work very hard with the music teachers in grades 1-3 and middle school. We make sure the transition from school to school is seamless. We have similar philosophies, we use similar language, and we have had many discussions on standards.
  3. Personal connection – I believe developing a personal connection with every student is THE most important aspect of teaching for any subject and all grade levels. This task can be quite daunting for arts teachers. I currently see between 550-600 students once a week! I want to get to know my students as much as possible. What kind of music do they like? Are they a fan of Katy Perry or Eminem? Are they more interested in performing, or do they like individual composition projects? It’s so important to get a sense of who they are!

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment allows me to take my classes from enrichment to education. If I never assessed my students I would never know where they are in their skills, and then I would not know how or what to teach them. The skill level in any of my classes varies greatly. I need to assess students so I can differentiate my instruction. I can offer more challenging activities for gifted students and easier activities for students who struggle. Assessment also allows me to figure out exactly how to help the students who struggle. If a student is not singing on pitch I need to figure out – are they above or below the pitch? Is this more of an ear-training problem or a vocal problem? OR is this possibly a student who has the ability to sing on pitch but does not demonstrate this ability in class due to shyness? Assessment can help me answer these questions and remedy the problem.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

I think of the assessment initiative as a giant “think-tank.” The biggest benefit to me has been the exposure to new ideas and perspectives from other arts teachers. I love all the creative ideas generated from our meetings and discussions. Even though I am a music teacher I am not really a creative thinker. I am much more of a concrete “black and white” type thinker. I really rely on other teachers for inspiration. The assessment initiative has provided that.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My technology skills. I have to say this–my sister is an audio engineer in Nashville and she would laugh hysterically if she new I was bragging about my technology skills! (I guess it’s all relative.) I am certainly no “techie,” but when I started teaching music I had ZERO skills and ZERO equipment. Over the years I’ve learned how to advocate for the equipment I really need. I have also taken classes and basically pestered people to help me learn what I needed. I am now a self-professed “Garage-Band Queen.”

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Time, Time, TIME!! There is never enough time with ANY of my students. The once a week classes are never once a week. There are constant interruptions to the schedule and most of the time I’m lucky if I see a class 3 times in a month. There’s never enough time to teach all the things I want/need/should be teaching!

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I really work hard every year to get to know each and every student. I learn all their names, I learn what kind of music they like, and I try and learn a few things about them. Whenever possible I make connections outside of our music classroom. I attend evening functions like family night, literacy night, etc. I also attend Winterfest, Chalk-on-the-walk, and other Biddeford activities. If I see my students in the grocery store I always walk over to chat for a few minutes.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Find the joy in the day to day activities and don’t sweat the small stuff. Take the time to stop and chat with kids, really listen to them sing (even if it is a JustinBieber song!) I get great joy when they get excited about musical things. Revel in that joy and look for it in each day.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Easy – build a state of the art music studio on our property next to our house. My husband and I would use the studio for recording and private lessons. We would also use the money to outfit the studio with top of the line instruments.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

No. My days as an elementary music teacher are never boring. I wouldn’t change a thing!

Thank you Andrea for telling your story!






To Blog or Snowshoe?

February 25, 2013

Early morning and late at night

snowshoeSo, I admit that I didn’t write a blog post this morning at 5AM like I often do because I chose to go for an early morning snowshoe. And, WOW! was it beautiful to be snow shoeing in the first light of day on the trail that we broke yesterday on the latest 12 inches of snow.

As my workday got underway the blog post was put aside and the end of day was here before I knew it. Instead of writing the blog post the full moon was calling my name. Off we went again for a walk on the snow under the brightest moon. I hope you had a chance to appreciate the snow and moon today if only for a few minutes!

Since this blog is focused on arts education you might be wondering what and how this post connects. I believe if we don’t take the time to participate in what we love and if we don’t take care of ourselves we will be less productive and effective. As I scurried back to work this morning after my early morning snowshoe I found a link to this article in my inbox. It has helped put today, and seizing the moment into perspective for me. Perhaps it will for you as well.





Dancing Classrooms

February 24, 2013

Dancing and much more

imagesIn 1984 Pierre Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau established Dancing Classrooms in New York City as a part of American Ballroom Theatre Company. The documentary Mad Hat Ballroom was created from the work that Dulaine established.

Boys become gentlemen and the girls become young ladies through Dulaine’s ballroom dancing program. Dancing classrooms is a 10-week, 20 session program that focuses on social development for grade 5 and 6 students. It uses a curriculum-based teaching approach where students are taught dancing vocabulary, 6 dances and social skills. About 180 teams compete each year at the conclusion of the program. The program has spread to 120 cities across the US.

John Wilson’s blog from February 24, called Unleashed Classroom highlights the Dancing Classrooms. Wilson is amazed when he visits NYC to see the program in action and includes: “Our children deserve to have smiles on their faces. Standardized tests, practice tests, and scripted learning have sapped most of the joy out of learning and teaching. The arts can give back much of that joy and can provide a foundation for creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. We need more arts and less testing. The arts will strengthen literacy, math, and science more than any test. When given the choice, I hope you dance.”

At the Dancing Classrooms website you can see several YouTubes with highlighting the program.

The Dulaine method philosophy:

  1. Respect & Compassion
  2. Being Present
  3. Creating a Safe Place
  4. Command & Control
  5. Language
  6. Humor & Joy

You can read the details of each on wikipedia. One teaching artist who works with the program said: “Dancing Classrooms is not about teaching ballroom dancing. The dance is a tool for getting the children to break down social barriers, learn about honor and respect, treat others carefully, improve self-confidence, communicate and cooperate, and accept others even if they are different.”


MAEA Spring Conference

February 23, 2013

Maine Art Education Association, Saturday, April 6, Lord Hall, UMaine campus

Registration is now available at
or you can get to registration through the MAEA website at

Registration deadline: Monday, March 25, .8CEUs available for full participation in conference



Interview with Daniel Pink

February 22, 2013

Dan’s New Book

Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 8.51.32 PMIf you haven’t read Daniel Pink’s first book called A Whole New Mind I recommend it. He talks all about ‘us’ – arts educators and the value of learning arts education. I also recommend another book he has written called Drive.

His most recent book is called To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Reading Others. In April Dan will be leading a webinar on Education Week and the topic is “How Teachers Can ‘Sell’ More to Students.” (cost)

The first question and answer in the interview with Larry Ferlazzo for his blog Classroom Q & A:

In your new book, you write that if we’re not actually selling a product in the traditional sense, then we are involved in non-sales selling — persuading, convincing, influencing.

You suggest that teaching has much in common with this kind of selling. You write:

“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources — not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end. That is also what, say, a good algebra teacher does. At the beginning of a term, students don’t know much about the subject. But the teacher works to convince his class to part with resources — time, attention, effort — and if they do, they will be better off when the term ends than they were when it began.”

How would you say this perspective fits in with the premise of your last book, Drive, and its emphasis on the importance of helping people develop intrinsic motivation?

If you’d like to read the entire blog post please click here.


Measuring Student Creativity

February 21, 2013

Topic of New Report

Can student creativity be assessed in a meaningful way? Should it even be evaluated? And if so, how? These are some of the questions explored in a new working paper published by the global Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Erik Robelen in his February 1, 2013 Curriculum Matters blog post sites the paper called Progression in Student Creativity in School: First Steps Towards New Forms of Formative Assessments and some of the highlights including:

In the new paper, the researchers put forward a definition for creativity focused on five “core dispositions.” Field -tested their work in a dozen schools. A creative mind, they say, is:

• Inquisitive
(wondering and questioning, exploring and investigating, challenging assumptions)

• Persistent
(sticking with difficulty, daring to be different, tolerating uncertainty)

• Imaginative
(playing with possibilities, making connections, using intuition)

• Collaborative
(sharing the product, giving and receiving feedback, cooperating appropriately)

• Disciplined
(developing techniques, reflecting critically, crafting and improving)


In Today’s News

February 20, 2013

Morse High School One-Act

In today’s the Forecaster newspaper there is an article called VHS makes bold return in Bath school’s 1-act play. It is a great review of the student play written by senior Sophie Mayo which will be performed in March called “Str8-2-Vid3o” (pronounced “Straight to Video”). Sophie has been involved with the 1-acts all four years of high school. Nine schools will compete on Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10. Sounds like this funny play will be one that you just might want to travel Morse High School in Bath to see.


Art Ideas for Teaching and Learning

February 20, 2013


Below are resources that can be used to connect visual art and literacy. If you have resources that you’ve used in your classroom please be sure and add them at the bottom of this post where it says ‘comment’.

  • ASCD SmartBrief includes the launch of Smithsonian Quests from Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. I suggest you check it out, looks very interesting.
  • Using Fotoapp on ipads grade 3 students used 6 words to describe themselves that were incorporated into their self-portraits. You can see the artwork by clicking here.
  • The Painter’s Key is a website that contains Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter. It is a community of creative people that you might find inspirational. Take a look by clicking here.
  • On this vimeo you will find student illustrated idioms. Please click here.
  • Andy Warhol was the inspiration for these black and white photo portraits that are accompanied by the artists’ statements. Please click here.
  • Symbaloo – Chris Milliken highly recommends this site.

Some of these ideas are from the Teacher Art Exchange.

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