16-Differentiated Instruction and UDL

Differentiated Instruction in the Visual Arts:

After reading through the suggested resources by 21things4teachers I decided to do my own research on the topic of DI in the Visual Arts.  I found this fantastic article by Erica Edwards here on the topic (also read below).  The article speaks directly to my thoughts and applications towards DI in the Visual Arts.

Most classrooms are filled with students performing at various learning levels: some of them struggling, others performing well beyond grade-level expectations, and the rest falling somewhere in between. (Tomlinson, 2000)  Within each grouping of students, are individuals of varying “racial, ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds; physical, emotional, and academic abilities; different dominant languages; with different degrees of parental support, learner styles and preferences, and interests.” (Heise, 2007)  It is up to the teacher to maximize the learning that is taking place in their classroom by providing differentiated instruction that includes, involves, and inspires all learners.

The art classroom is a natural place for differentiated instruction.  Art is produced in all races, ethnicities, and cultures; it is an intrinsic part of the human experience.  Art can be used to open discussions about race and ethnicity that may seem taboo in other subject areas, connect us cross-culturally, and allow us to see and comprehend differing perspectives.  Learners with limitations whether physical, emotional, or academic have an opportunity to create and find success through art and art processes.  Art is a visual language that transcends much of the word-barrier and allows ESL and non-English speaking students to more-fully participate in learning.  And as a matter of course, art uses multiple modes of learning providing ample opportunity to reach every student, to connect art to each student, and to connect learning across the school curriculum.

In differentiating instruction for the classroom, a teacher must consider focusing on content, process, products, and learning environment:

  • In art education, content can be varied using demonstration and step-by-step instructions, art prints, supplementary texts, student choice, curriculum compacting, learning contracts, technology, and internet resources.
  • Processes and activities can be differentiated by the art teacher to engage the student and make learning relevant.  This means involving the learner by providing choices of art media and processes, creating centers that encourage exploration, using tiered activities “through which all learners work with the same goals, understandings, and skills, but proceed with different levels of support, challenge, or complexity,” and varying the length of time students spend completing tasks.
  • Art educators can vary products, projects, and lessons to give students the chance to demonstrate, apply, or extend their learning.  Students may be given options of how to communicate ideas and express knowledge.  The teacher will use rubric guided lesson planning to match and extend student’s varied skill level.  Students will spend time working independently, in small groups, as a class, and as a school to create products.
  • The art room learning environment altered to accommodate a number of differing objectives.  The art teacher can achieve a class-setting that is safe, engaging, and encouraging by setting clear guidelines, promoting respect and encouraging civil dialogue in critique and as a general rule, fostering inclusiveness, providing cross-cultural and cross-curriculum focuses, and  appropriating areas for students to create visually stimulating art, and quiet areas for students that may need less distraction.  (Tomlinson, 2000),  (Heise, 2007)

An art education program that uses Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligence as a base for creating varied learning experiences can help all students achieve in art and across the entire school curricula. We all have preferred learning styles and appealing to as many as possible can only strengthen our knowledge sets both in art and across the curricula.

  • Art will naturally appeal to students excelling in visual/spatial intelligence. They are visual thinkers and tend to enjoy viewing art and perform well at creating visually stimulating artworks.  The art teacher may provide activities including: gallery visits (actual and/or virtual), art prints in the classroom, and observational art activities.
  • Verbal/linguistic learners can be stimulated in the art room through visual story-telling, narration, class discussion, critique, and writing about art.  Having the students maintain journal/sketchbooks, holding critiques of art prints and class work, and using art prints to have students explain what they see are things that can be done to involve these students.
  • Students that are primarily logical/mathematical thinkers can be engaged with lessons that offer opportunities to see and create patterns, measure, identify and create visual weight and balance, work with geometric shapes, and use mathematical drawing and building like architectural design.
  • In the art classroom, Bodily/kinesthetic learners have opportunity to develop and use their hand-eye and hand-mind coordination through all art-making activities, experience hands-on creating, act out art works, and express emotions through color and symbolism.
  • Students favoring musical/rhythmic learning will have great success with creating art to music and identifying and using visual rhythm in art.
  • Interpersonally intelligent students will be given the chance to identify and discuss multiple perspectives, understandings, emotions, intentions, and motivations in the arts; and work in group settings developing art skills and relate the arts to other subject matter.
  • Students that are intrapersonal thinkers can be engaged through art-making lessons that allow them to use their knowledge of themselves, their hopes and dreams, and their strengths and weaknesses to create artworks that are self-reflective and deeply personal.
  • And students with an inclination for naturalist intelligence will have opportunity to explore the world around them through environmental art activities, including: collecting and organizing objects from their own environments, outdoor art-making sessions, and observational activities.  (Armstrong, 1994)

UDL Content Area Resource:

Multiple means of representation – the “what” of learning with varied ways that new information can be presented to students.

*I specifically picked this content area resource because it housed a link to a comic book/strip building resource that upon clicking on I found to be not working.  This was actually true for many of the options on the left side of the screen.  Fortunately to my surprise there was a more exciting/similar resources waiting to be explored!  The option that I followed was called The Art of Storytelling: Bringing Visual Art to Life through Stories by the Delaware Art Museum.  Students are encouraged to view Artwork from the Museum, create a story based on the imagery they’ve selected, and then are given the option to share their writing with family or friends.  This is very similar to a strategy that I currently use in my classroom called Visual Thinking Strategies.  This strategy involves verbal storytelling related to an image that I display.  The drawback of that approach is that it doesn’t allow all students to participate and there is no way to record participation other than giving students a check for participation.  I like that this resource will allow students to record a story based on their interest related to a piece of Artwork.  The Story Telling option allows you to select an Artwork in a variety of time periods/genres, allows you to hear additional stories written by students on the Artwork they’ve selected, and also allows you to choose between physically typing your story or verbally recording.  I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate varied writing opportunities into the Art Room.

Text to Audio Conversion:

I used SpokenText to create a text to audio recording of a biography on the Artist Jackson Pollock from the website Tate Kids.

Screenshot (54)

I can’t wait to utilize this resource in my teaching practice next year.  Although I don’t see much of a difference between using this resource and physically reading a biography/book/set of directions for example to reach my Auditory Learners I can see how it would be helpful for my ESL students.  It could also allow my students to take ownership over the Artists that they study related to specific time periods and movements.  If they were to engage in a self study and they were Auditory Learners or if they encountered text that was to difficult for them to read they could use a resource such as SpokenText to help process the text that was presented.