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Creative Ways to Teach Specials Online

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Diggs 1 By Amanda Gordon

Diggs-Latham Elementary

SEPTEMBER 18, 2020 – Creativity is the key to success as well as successful Arts classes in person and online. As we planned for remote learning and synchronous instruction over Zoom and Microsoft Teams, our creativity that we use in our craft was necessary to create unique scenarios to keep our students engaged and learning through the Arts at a distance.

“I brought home tools, supplies, prints, posters and decorations from my classroom as well as collected decorations and tools from my own studio at home. I used my guest room to set up a teaching space. So, each morning, I ‘go to work’ in my home classroom,” said Amanda Gordon, Art Teacher and A+ Magnet Coordinator.

“Visuals are important for inspiration in Art class. I’ve created a literal, remote teaching space as well as my online, virtual teaching space. When students meet with me, I want my surroundings to be bright, cheerful, and set the tone for school. They see artwork, decorations, quotes, books, and art supplies around me and on my desk.”

Diggs 5 “Students and I are creating art traditionally on paper with crayons, markers, and colored pencils as well as using apps and digital drawing tools. I have a backdrop for creating videos or taking pictures and stools and pedestals for setting up a still-life or easels. I have two laptops when necessary, a lapel mic and speakers as well as an external webcam; this allows me to switch cameras, change angles and show students close ups of drawings.

“Online, I have a Canvas site for each grade as well as multiple pages that include a Bitmoji classroom, a digital art gallery wall, playlists with digital prints, instructional videos, virtual tours and more.”

When Physical Education Teacher, Barry Friedman, started building his at-home teaching space, he knew he would need room to move to help instruct students in exercises and activities. Even though they would be face-to-face but through a screen, he wanted students to see and understand the need to keep active.

He explained, “Teaching remote physical education has been a positive experience.  It has taught me various methods of engaging students through technology.  Despite the circumstances, our students have made tremendous adjustments. Go Tigers!”

Our Dance Teacher, Amanda Nelson, had similar thoughts when she began planning and setting up a remote space for teaching dance. Daily, she brings integration, original choreography, character education, and rigorous dance instruction to her students.

After weighing the challenges and brainstorming ways to teach dance virtually, Mrs. Nelson shared: “I am now getting into a routine and things are smoothing out.  My dining room has been converted into an in-home studio where I can move with the students full out as if I were LIVE with them.”

Diggs 12 “It has been an adjustment, but seeing our students smile and get excited to dance with me again has made the long hours and hard work worth it.  The kids are really starting to get the hang of remote learning.  They are so resilient.  The thing I miss the most about my live class is hearing the laughter and giving hugs or fist bumps on the way out the door.”

“So to compensate for this, we all unmute and ‘Love each other up!’ before we go.  Other than getting a great workout and dancing, positive affirmation, mindfulness and letting them know they are missed is extremely important to my teaching.”

As our Music department set up their remote teaching areas and planned for virtual music instruction, they asked themselves many questions such as how to keep students engaged from a distance and how to make the most of the technology available to minimize any lag in sound during singing and rhythm exercises.

Music and Band teacher, Rick Sigler, set up a mini-recording studio in his home. He has a condenser recording mic that he uses for live teaching as well as creating instructional videos. He created a green screen and set up stations around his teaching area to be able to switch between instruments during class. Mr. Sigler continues to use puppets and toys to get the attention of students, and his personality lends itself to staying animated.

Mr. Sigler said: “Teaching music has been quite an exciting challenge! I have had a fun time recreating my teaching practice for our Tigers, creating videos, learning about new ways to share music, and having fun at the same time. I look forward to seeing all of our musicians singing and dancing in person, but until that time, I am excited to be making music one screen at a time!”

Diggs 44 Orchestra Teacher Lisa Morris set up a teaching corner in her home. She used a portable divider to create a backdrop for her live teaching and videos. She uses two screens to monitor students as well as share music apps and tools during class. Her online classroom includes links with digital activities as well as forms for responding to prompts and assessing students’ understanding.

Morris especially likes “Groove Pizza,” an app that allows students to review rhythms, compare and contrast them as well as create their own rhythm combinations. While using Groove Pizza in her classes, Mrs. Morris helped students look at notations as well.

Mrs. Morris said: “Teaching music online has its challenges, but it has advantages too! I have been engaging with my students by teaching them rhythm and other music concepts in musicals.

“The students have on-demand sing-a-longs, look at the notation, and create their own beats in online tools.” During remote learning, Mrs. Morris’s lessons are focusing more on general music skills and building her students’ knowledge of theory.

Diggs-Latham Elementary is an A+ Magnet School; our theme is Arts Integration and Performance, and we offer a variety of Specials including Visual Art, Dance with Drama integration, General Music with a Focus on Band, Orchestra and Physical Education.

Diggs 77 Our students sing, dance, play, move, create, draw, paint, and much more. Our Specialists/Arts Team teachers are artists, musicians, performers, and coaches outside the classroom, and we approach our classrooms in a way to help create future artists, musicians, and performers as well.

Through creativity and innovation, we are continuing to support future artists and teach our subjects and craft even in remote learning.