Art, activity, and literacy

In the 1990s, the definition of literacy began to shift and grow. Instead of simply referring to reading and writing with words, theorists realized that people make meaning of their experiences and communicate them to others in non-verbal ways as well. The term “multiple literacies” was coined, pointing out that the visual, performing, and digital arts could also be considered literate practices, together with words, or on their own.

The only problem with this theory was that, for many classroom teachers, it remained a theory. They had difficulty shifting their mindsets from the traditional literacy definition, saw few examples of how to implement a multiple literacies approach, and did not have enough opportunities to attend professional development sessions to give them ideas. As a result, except among the most innovative and energetic teachers, you won’t see too many examples of multiple literacies theory being enacted in classrooms.

So, I was delighted to find out that the museum educators at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City have begun to offer free, online courses that combine art, traditional literacy, and active learning. As massive, open, online courses (MOOCs), they’re available anytime you are, with no official start and end date.

There were several that called my name: Art and Ideas: Teaching with Themes ; Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom; and Art and Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art . I registered for the last one because its summary intrigued me:

Art can be a powerful catalyst for building skills and understanding across a wide range of subjects….You will learn about the theory behind our museum teaching strategies and gain tools and techniques for integrating activity-based teaching and works of art into your classroom. You will develop activities based on drawing, sound, movement, writing, and games that help students build skills in creativity and reflection. The course also offers strategies for assessing student work and self-assessment for you as the educator.

If you’re a classroom or online teacher of any subject; a home schooling parent; or a learning pod educator, you might want to check out these courses. They’re not a big time commitment – about 10 hours each – and you’ll get some really great ideas for using art with your students, and working on their word-based literacy and thinking skills, no matter what your subject area.

If you don’t have time to take the courses yourself, you can stop by my site over the coming weeks. I’m going to blog about each one, summarizing what I learn, how I would implement what I’m learning, and giving you other insights that occur to me as I progress through the courses.

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