Monday, June 8, 2015


Today begins two weeks  in a writing workshop at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Created by Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan and Dr. Elsie Olan, the workshop immerses educators in the arts and gives them time and space to create. It's a residency--we will live and write and create on the property during our stay. This evening I'm writing from my room; I am in Lowell Nesbitt's room. He was a master artist in residence here in 1983.
Desk view.
Today we toured the facility and got to know one another and the property.  We are on more than The painting studio space silenced me. Oh to spend a day in that light painting! There are ten painting cubicles with mounted lights, two utility sinks, shelves , a few cupboards and creative splatter here and there.

Even the door knobs tell creation stories.

During lunch time, I wandered back to the library with its spiral stair case to a hidden loft overlooking the woods. I snicked two volumes of poetry (you are allowed to take the books back to your rooms). I am going to consume them for dinner: Here is Where We Disembark by Clea Roberts and The persistence of Memory by Mary Fell. Fell's title got me thinking about the Art of Analysis project I experimented with this spring. The project has some problems I want to work out and the poetry volume got me thinking about them (more on that later).

This is the poetry collection!

The light, the windows, the woods, the clean lines, the crisp corners and smooth, thick glass, cement, wood and steel. The very spaces breathed beauty into me today.

I am going to blog to catalog days' activities and process as best I can as I go through the week.

We did two writing activities after today's tours. The first was a community builder.  We folded a blank piece of paper into quadrants and then drew a writing memory in each quadrant. In the top left quadrant we drew how we learned to write, in the bottom left a memorable writing moment from when we were students, in the top right a memorable moment as a teacher candidate (or I did a teacher learner) and in the bottom right quadrant the most memorable moment you have with writing as a teacher. Here is what I drew:

Once we drew we shared with a partner. We were directed to examine our partner's drawing and to predict what we thought the drawing means. Then we were to discuss it and share the stories. We went back and forth, quadrant by quadrant. I shared stories with Mariel, an English Education graduate student who shared a story about Maclay School in Tallahassee. We went from drawing to writing to speaking and listening fluidly and almost seamlessly: on your own, with a partner, share to group and back again.

For the second thinking and writing activity we were told to think about problems of practice and to think about what we might say to policy makers about such problems. Then we went out into the gallery space and examined art installations: students' desks with altered surfaces, a long net of cut up paper draped down a wall, a black sculpture seemingly imprinted with a giant's finger print, a photograph of a man balancing on three different skateboards. One of the artist's skateboards, sans trucks and wheels balanced against the wall beneath the photograph. Here's a quick sketch of the skater's impossible balancing act:

We gathered ideas and wrote. We went back to the conference table to share and listen to one another's ideas. My writing centered on holes or gaps--gaps in instruction, in curriculum, in skills and how to build bridges between the gaps . A specific gap I've been turning over in my mind since year's end concerns grammar instruction--how to better prepare students to use and analyze syntax--but I don't know that that's what I want to work on while I'm here. Tonight's assignment is to choose a problem of practice on which to focus over the next ten days. I'm toying with two big ones:

1. how to use visual arts to inform close reading and analytical writing (essentially work through the Art of Analysis project--examples here-- and see if I can make connections to art movement and analytical writing clearer).

2. how to improve my integration of the study of grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling (GUMs) into reading and writing workshop. I wonder how I could use art to teach grammatical concepts?

Number one has my heart. I imagine I'll find an answer in one of those poetry volumes I snicked  to read for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. I had to come back and read your post from last week. What an interesting experience! I love the four quadrants exercise. I'm thinking I might adapt it for one of our reading club gatherings during the summer. Very curious about your 2nd possiblility and using art to integrate GUMs.