Choice-based Art for Students with Disabilities

Thursday, January 06, 2005

3jan2005_A new beginning of choice-based art centers

Monday, 3 jan 2005 was a new beginning to restart with new teaching strategy in my art room at school. I am the PreK-12 Visual Arts teacher for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing with communication disorder students. Some of these students also have additional special needs and all are being served with IEP services.
Since Oct 2004, when we, teachers for the deaf, were told to re-evaluate our existing curriculums and teaching methods. We are preparing to be re-accreditated by the Vermont Department of Education and newly accreditated by Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) within next two years.
At the beginning of my own teaching's self-assessment, I have found myself not being quite happy with the way I was teaching for several reasons:

  1. For past six years working at this school, I am witnessing the incoming student population being evolved from normal deaf and hard-of-hearing students to similar kinds of students but with additional disabilities [emotional, mental, and physical learning difficulties].
  2. With newer population, their IEP services have increased. Thus more students were being pulled out of my art classes for services. Which in turns were tangling up my daily teachings, lesson plannings, and assessing my student's artistic progresses (and additionally being a case manager which I am not thrilled doing this part).
  3. The previous art curriculums I have developed and used were mostly teacher-centered lessons I provided to my students. Yet, I felt never satisfied and I sensed the students felt the same way. I had longed for some kind of better learning choices to empower my students' artistic instincts and to nurture their creative outcomes.
So I spent past 3 months researching and reading on internet and at libraries plus talking with my colleagues, administrators, and several art educators in Vermont. Then on the internet one night before two-weeks winter break, I bumbled into The Knowledge Loom website! Ooooo boy, bingo! I was so excited when I read it and kept reading more on it.
I gave up my one-week vacation before 24 Dec and spent three solid days from dawn to dusk to re-arrange my art room's spaces roughly into centers. The advantages I had were I was Montessori-trained and understood how "centers" work; and it was a mid-year break, a perfect time to start afresh. Then after vacation, I informed my principal of my curriculum changes ahead of time when the students returned this past Monday 3 January.
The students were in for a surprise! I started them out with the Drawing Center while I am continuing to work on the next centers: clay, fiber arts, and paper constructions. Amazingly so far, my students have had no problems making new transitions, accepting new rules and routines. They even discovered they can choose within the creative-structured choices I set out for them while other centers are "under construction" and to sit wherever they can focus best on their creativity. The students and I have been re-energized!
I will posted some pixs of my "under constrction" centers as soon as I figure out to blog these online.


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