Karen Tribble Infuses Arts into Student’s Daily Lives

Teaching with the arts is a way of life for Karen. The arts are in all that she teaches. Karen says, “Music and the visual arts were imbedded in my curriculum during my first 20 years of teaching in primary grades. Unfortunately now that I am in intermediate grades, music is not as evident in the schools. But the visual arts are part of our daily lives. My students now say the days of the week like this: “Sunday, Artday, Tuesday…” Little do they realize so much of what we do in other subjects is grounded by the learning that we do in the visual arts. Artday is not our only day. I have been involved in the adoption of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in our school district and I am one of the lead teachers in VTS at Sonoma Mountain Elementary School in Petaluma where I teach.”

Karen brings us a unit of study in visual arts called “Modern Totems” for grades 4-8. Areas of study before this lesson include Northwest Coast Native American culture, freeform poetry, and use of ruler and measurement. This activity is integrated with history, language arts, measurement in math, and some music. The lesson is so integrated that the children were not even aware of the subject areas as different components. They are all part of the whole.

By the conclusion of the lesson, the students should be aware of the significance of the totem to Native American cultures, of the influence of contemporary artist Laurel Burch on the arts, and of the interconnection between Native American storytelling and art. They also learn to connect their own literary creations with visual artistic representation, and be able to use pastels. Most importantly, they will be aware of the joy of creating something that wasn’t in existence before they applied pastel to paper.

Karen often creates a mystery about what the next activity is going to be. Sometimes there are several steps, and she will only let them in on what is happening one step at a time. Karen says that this strategy has been instrumental in creating the atmosphere of trust in her classroom.

Karen calls all artwork authentic assessment as it reveals so much about the children without their feeling judged. Her students frequently discuss their work, why they enjoyed it, and admire the work of others. In her class, every child’s work is showcased for every project. After they are put up, students spend time looking, discussing, and admiring. She has even had children quietly look at all the others, and then decide they want to a “do over,” which is always allowed.

Please go to the Arts Assessment compendium at www.ccsesaarts.com to find Karen’s complete Arts Learning and Assessment Project. Many of her strategies can be applied to multiple grade levels.

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