A place for teachers and other providers of special education services to support each other, share information, and discuss topics, including assessment.

Do the Arts have a special role in Special Education?

Deven Black Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

What role do the arts play in your classroom, in your school and in the lives of your students?

Do your students have access to music instruction? Visual arts? Theater? Dance?

As school budgets continue to be cut, arts are often among the first programs to go. What will this mean to your students?

My school lost our orchestra instructor and a visual art teacher this year. Not only did this have ab impact on direct instruction, it also drastically cut the number and types of electives available to all students. Special education students were a significant part of the school orchestra and now they have nowhere to learn and perform.

Is this sort of thing happening in your school, in your community?

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6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

They should have a special role in ALL education!

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I'm such an advocate for arts in the schools. It should be required - not cut! There are countless benefits, not to mention, students enjoy it.

In my school, there was no one doing school plays/musicals so I started doing them. The kids really loved it! And many of those participating were either behavioral problems or students not excelling in academics. With the musical, they had something that they could do well in and that boosted their self-esteem. They were seen in a positive light by the teachers, their friends, and parents.

When I had my own classroom, I tried to bring arts into everything. My "Vocabulary Wall" was done in musical notes: quarter, half, dotted half, and whole. When we first introduced a word, it went under the Quarter Note. As we became more comfortable with it and knew it better, it moved among the note until finally, it could go under the Whole Note!

One writing assignment we did had the students choose an inspirational song and write about a difficult time that they overcame: "Our Voice; Our Song: We Made It Through". It was great to see the kids selecting songs that really touched them. I participated too and chose my own song and difficult time.

I used photos as writing prompts and had students create a story for the picture. It gave them a concrete image to base their story on rather than something intangible. They wrote some of their most touching stories ever.

I even brought the arts into math. I've had students design an outfit for measuring, design a park to show area and perimeter, and create a "dream house" using angles. There's really no limit to how you can infuse the arts into the classroom. Only your imagination!

Grade Eight Teacher, Group Moderator, Facilitator/teacher arts@newman

The Arts and All Education

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Erika,

Great post! I think that the artistic spirit with which you approach your work must make the lives of your students much richer. Not only that, your life as teacher must be much more engaging as well!!!

stephen

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Wish I could do it more

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Erika,

Great post! I think that the artistic spirit with which you approach your work must make the lives of your students much richer. Not only that, your life as teacher must be much more engaging as well!!!

stephen

Thanks Stephen! I only wish I could still do it the way I used to. Our school has gone to an inclusion model and I co-teach with classroom teachers for Literacy and Math. Unfortunately, they haven't really embraced the "co" part of co-teaching: I'm more like a good aid or a strong student teacher. I'm hoping that we continue to grow with this and I can contribute more to the classroom and the students

Here's hoping!

Erika

The Arts and All Education

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The classroom teacher and I play the local classical music station on the radio every day at different intervals during the day. We find that it helps our children to relax and focus better.

The Arts and All Education

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The classroom teacher and I play the local classical music station on the radio every day at different intervals during the day. We find that it helps our children to relax and focus better.

Art Instructor

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I feel that visual art is one of the most important forms of art that not only impacts, stimulates and motivates the minds of children but is the cornerstone of our existence. Almost, everything that we do,see, touch and wear requires some type of visual artistic involvment. Patterns on clothing, the construction of clothing, the design of a car, house, phone, shoe, etc. all of these things requires someone with a creative mind to bring them into existence. However, the powers that be do not seem to understand this. They view the world of art as being something frivolous.

Presently,our school has lost valuable programs such as wood shops and graphic design and we stand to possibly loose our music and art program next school year due to cuts.

These programs provide students with the opportunity to explore their creative abilities and motivate them academically because they find the necessity for academics to execute a creative thought.

Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Manual learning

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Unfortunately, this age of high-stakes pencil & paper exams is leaving the arts and any kind of hands-on and kinesthetic learning behind. It is ironic in that we are told to differentiate teaching but the very things that make differentiation possible, art, music, dance, woodwork, graphic shop, etc. are cut from programs to reduce spending and/or make more time for test prep. Just one more education paradox, I guess.

From the parent's perspective.

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I have a kiddo (an 8 year old) with significant speech/communication challenges, sensory integration issues, and learning disabilities. He's currently in a self-contained classroom where he's working on basic reading skills and early numeracy skills.

About two months ago I was at a school event chatting with the director of the upcoming school production of The Pied Piper, and she mentioned that she was having trouble finding students to play the smaller non-speaking parts--especially the rats and children led off by the Piper. I told her, "My kid can do that." I suspect that the inclusion of a special needs student in the production was something of a new thought, but to her credit my son came home with a rehearsal schedule a couple days later.

It was AMAZING! My son was thrilled to be part of it, the other students in the play rallied around my boy to ensure that he hit his marks on stage, and the other kiddos in my son's self-contained classroom were thrilled to see one of their own on stage at the preview performance given during school.

My son now knows a lot more students at the school, and they know him. And not just at a cursory name-only basis, they actually spent time with him and creatively found ways to include him in their production that enabled him to be successful. In addition, I think there's been a broadening in the minds of the administrators and educators at the school about what's possible with children who have special needs.

It was an extraordinary moment of inclusion for my son. In truth, far more effective than our earlier efforts to include him in the academics of the gen ed classroom. So, the arts provided an opportunity for my son to participate in the larger learning community in a way that had previously eluded him.

Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

SPED & the arts

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It was an extraordinary moment of inclusion for my son. In truth, far more effective than our earlier efforts to include him in the academics of the gen ed classroom. So, the arts provided an opportunity for my son to participate in the larger learning community in a way that had previously eluded him.

As your son has shown once again, disability is solely a matter of context. When the context is adapted to the student, as in the case of your son and the non-speaking role, the disability becomes an asset and success ensues.

The problem is that we keep trying to adapt students to the context of academics and schools when what we should be doing is adapting school to the abilities of the students.

Ability and context.

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As your son has shown once again, disability is solely a matter of context.

Yep. In fact, I'd say we're all pretty much a function of our context. I know that I myself can feel radically more able depending on context. But the qualities that make a context work can be subtle, complex, and difficult to engineer. And for my son, finding workable contexts can be particularly challenging. When my wife and I find one, we feel incredibly fortunate and we do our best to keep the magic going as long as possible.

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