I'm not good at writing poetry, so it was a struggle when I had to teach it. We were talking about shape poems one day. As we wrote one together about rain, I became aesthetically involved because I could see the picture in my mind as we formed the poem. I encouraged the children to use adjectives to describe the rain. As they brainstormed, I did as well, and was able to form a poem in my head as we formed one together. I was fully engaged. I felt the rain on my head. I saw it dripping from the sky, etc. Then, I had my students write their own shape poems. From my modeled experience and their natural curiosity, they wrote poems about all sorts of topics and illustrated them. It turned out to be an aesthetic experience for all of us as we felt the subject we were writing about. These experiences are important for our students because they learn how to integrate their emotions into what they read. They are able to relate to the text and feel what the characters are feeling in the story.
Since I'm not teaching right now, I will have to think about how I want to apply the ideas I learned to my future classroom. I want my students to allow themselves to get lost in a book they chose or on a topic they are writing about. I want them to feel emotion as they read or have new experiences. I want to create my classroom as a place where children feel safe and comfortable as they learn. Engaging displays and walls full of student work will fill my room. I've learned to allow space for group, whole class, and independent work so they have the opportunity to talk and relate to one another. Overall, this book has opened my mind to ways of teaching my children to be engaged in learning by wanting to implement the four pillars of engagement.
What a great aesthetic experience for both you and your students. I'm sure after you had that experience you probably enjoyed teaching poetry. The students probably enjoyed learning about experience poetry as well!
I love the idea of creating shape poems. Sometimes teaching something that we are not good at is the best kind of teaching because we know where the students struggle and can arrive to the experience and mastery together.
What a great experience you had with poetry! Thanks for sharing that. You have described well how poetry can seem kind of intimidating, yet it can be freeing, too, because in some ways the writer has more freedom with poetry than with prose.
More imagery and sound techniques are expected in poetry, but as poetry teaches us to use these, we can apply them to prose. I'm thinking of the numerous metaphors in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, "I Have a Dream." Thanks for reinforcing the value of poetry!
Amazing! As soon as I began reading this chapter I thought of several poetry assignments I've had as a student and one particularly that my daughter is working on now. This is a great venue to elicit thoughts and feelings of beauty.
Aesthetic experiences are so important for all of us. They let us really dive into our emotions of what we are feeling during the experience. As I read books to my students, I always tell them to create those images in their mind that the author is writing about. I recently read the book "Thank you, Mr. Falker" by Patricia Polacco to my class. As I read the book, you could hear a pin drop in my room. The students were so engaged and really diving into the emotions that the character was going through in the book. Some students may have felt this way at one time or another and could really make a connection with her. I really do believe that this book grabbed my class and they will always have a connection with it.
I enjoyed reading this book and will definitely incorporate some of the strategies I have read about in my classroom. I liked many of the ideas mentioned in the book and look forward to trying them in my classroom to see how my students react and attend. I also appreciate everyone's responses and ideas on the blog. It's always great to talk with a community of educators!
Melissa, isn't the power of reading aloud awesome?! I had gotten away from reading aloud on a regular basis as I felt the pressure to use every minute for instructional purposes to address the standards. This year I have made a conscious effort to put the ten minutes of read aloud back in the schedule, and just as you said, you can hear a pin drop (most days!) as my students lose themselves in the emotion of the story being shared.
Melissa and Linda, your comments show how important literature is in children's lives. It's so real. That's what drew me to teaching English. I enjoyed many school subjects, but literature just seemed so real to me--even when it was fiction. In so many ways, fiction is about real life. In a way, it can address things in a way that nonfiction cannot, so both are essential.
What a beautiful book! I am always looking for great books for my children and the classroom. It inspires such deep thoughts and emotions that most kids can relate to and at the same time creates excitement for the reader. The illustrations are fantastic.
While I do appreciate beauty found in the arts, I was interested that Keene mentioned that aesthetic experiences can be found in all sorts of subject areas such as math and sports. I was reminded of the awesomely satisfying feeling I get today when I struggle through entering all my transactions on the computer, and am rewarded by a balanced checking account. I thought back to my math experiences in high school, and remembered how unlike many of my classmates, I thoroughly enjoyed tackling proofs in my geometry class. Each one seemed like a puzzle waiting to be unlocked, and I lost myself in the process until the light bulb went on in my head, and the solution was clear. There was something beautiful in those experiences for me. It makes sense that I should try to offer aesthetic experiences to my students if I want them to be engaged in their learning. The trick is to offer a variety of learning activities and experiences, though, since everyone has a different opinion on what is aesthetically pleasing in the classroom.
Reading this book has helped me create some new goals to strive for in my classroom. Each of the four pillars of engagement that Keene described (intellectual urgency, emotional resonance, perspective bending, and the aesthetic world) deserve my attention if I wish for my students to be engaged in their learning. I intend to refer back to the notes I took after reading each chapter as I design my path of instruction for next year’s students. I do not want to be satisfied with students who are compliant or simply participating in my lessons.
I also want to take a closer look at individual students in my classes who do not seem engaged in my classroom. Perhaps I can steer their learning toward a topic of intellectual urgency for them, or can figure out what aesthetic experience might catch their attention. More engagement may mean less behavioral challenges:)
Linda, I also had the uncommon experience of being able to get the proofs. Algebra, though amazing in itself, seemed to get more and more complex with each lesson, but proofs just seemed more "wordy" than "mathy."
Also, I agree that engagement seems to take care of discipline issues. I think of how young kids start off excited about school. They are looking forward to learning. We have such a challenge to keep alive that anticipation and wonder.
One of my college profs urged us to include something each day that would give kids something to look forward to, so they would always come to school with anticipation of what they would find in our classroom each day--whether that was a physical thing, like a unique artifact, or an activity.
Talk about serendipity - the perfect week for this chapter; April is national poetry month and April 18th is Poem in Your Pocket Day. It’s the perfect week to share a poem. I’ve been reading several, looking to put them up in hallways.
My favorite aesthetic experiences: as a kid, I loved wandering through art museums (I still do) and I loved my art classes. One of our high school students recently created a postcard with leaves among the stars. Leaves as the earth’s stars…I loved that idea! My favorite artwork is the Caves of Lascaux circa 17,000 BC. It tells me that humans have an intrinsic desire to create and a desire to communicate one to another, and one generation to successive generations; that we collaborate in the moment and across centuries. That said, I don’t think I’ve seen a cathedral more beautiful than those created by trees. Is there stained-glass more beautiful than the flowers we see, smell, and share with one another?
I wish I could remember who said it, but he or she was talking about kids who commit violence and speculated that had those kids had the opportunity to engage with and appreciate our natural world, that their engaged sense of awe and appreciation might have kept them from doing what they did.
A thought that went through my mind as I was reading this chapter, is that Keene, like our ancient educating predecessors, is saying that the arts and aesthetic engagement are not only a necessary part of an education, they are who we are. That nature, Notre Dame, literature, and a Mustang are examples of the art that can engage us and our students.
Carol, I like your emphasis on arts being not only necessary, but expressing who we are. Creativity is one of the defining distinctives of humanity. Growing up I loved the arts, but I felt they were extra icing on the cake. Since I have operated a home music studio for the past 16 years and collaborated with many local musicians on various projects and professional development, I have learned that the arts are not the first thing to be cut in a budget crisis, but arts are something that must never be cut.
My aesthetic experiences mostly involve nature and literature. One thing that the chapter doesn't talk about is the pain that I think most teachers have felt when they present a particular piece of art, or literature or unit of study and the reaction of students is flat or apathetic. This might happen more as a high school teacher though. I am reminded of the warning, "Don't cast your pearls before swine." Many times, what is precious to us will not be appreciated by our students. I have a favorite short story that I like to read around Christmas time, "A Christmas Memory," by Truman Capote. The story makes me cry every single time and maybe once or twice have the students really understand the story and had that aesthetic moment. Still though that is the risk that we all take. I met an employee at a pet store that bred cockroaches. He was so passionate about the cockroaches and showed me pictures on his phone and they were some pretty cool cockroaches. He talked for quite some time and although I was polite, I didn't really have an aesthetic experience and I think he sensed that. If that employee can still be that passionate about cockroaches with people, I can risk throwing my pearls down as well, because I doubt he encounters very many people that share his enthusiasm. Students deserve teachers that are willing to take that risk, and they also deserve teachers that are willing to listen and partake in their own aesthetic experiences. We read a novel recently and the students all clapped at the end of the novel. I was shocked by their reaction to the story. I could not believe that they were so moved by it.
The book overall has influenced me in the way that I observe the students. I am much more aware that many of students are so distracted by everything else. At the high school level, I notice that my students purposefully disengage to get themselves through the day whether that is trying to put their hoods up, always trying to have music it their ears, or playing on cell phones and other devices. As a result, I have to counter that by purposefully finding ways to engage the students.
I, too, find it difficult to listen to subjects I'm not interested in, especially when it comes to newspaper or magazine articles. My husband loves to tell me about how cars work, and I just listen patiently as he prattles on about them. I agree that we need to take a risk and allow our students to share their aesthetic experience with us. I remember reading "Charlotte's Web" to my second graders. One year, the class was very emotional when I read the end of the story. They were asking why did she die? or what will Wilber do now? They had an aesthetic experience with the story. It is difficult to engage students, but like you said, we need to "purposely find ways to engage the students."
Ansley, you are so right. If we don't take the risk, kids can miss out on so much. If we don't take the risk, we know they won't have an aesthetic experience with that content, but if we do, that can have a powerful impact on one or more students.
A few years ago, I was teaching in a summer camp for English learners. They were beginners, and we had so much to work on. We spent time on "practical" skills, but I also wanted them to experience magnificent literature. As we studied the first page of A TALE OF TWO CITIES as a shared reading activity, one student responded, "That sounds like poetry!" This student had a aesthetic experience, and we enjoyed a really meaningful and memorable discussion.
I can identify with Keene's husband finding an aesthetic experience in sports. I can see the application in many, possibly all, sports, but the one that amazes me the most is ice hockey.
I also share Keene's appreciation of beautiful language. The author I have enjoyed the most in the area of beautiful language is Lucy Maud Montgomery The imagery and flow of language in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is delightful. One of the most memorable phrases from the book is Montgomery's description of Anne as an "outspoken morsel of neglected humanity."
As we close out our book study, I want to say how grateful I am to have found the KSLA and our local chapter. I actually seem to have run into the association accidentally while attending a faculty meeting at a school where I was a long-term sub last spring. One of the teachers was receiving the new teacher award. I was curious about the organization and quickly joined after reading about KSLA online.
My favorite part of this book is that it affirms beauty and aesthetic value as a primary objective of education. We all want students to do something with what they learn, and the aesthetic experience can bring about that action. Beauty is not a frivolous "extra" or "add-on" that must give way to more pragmatic objectives. It is worthy of our time. This is what is needed for the seemingly more practical goals to be realized.
It is hard sometimes to help students have an aesthetic expereince. I like how you mentioned the sports topic Keene talked about in her book. At times, the only way to reach boys is to talk about their sports experences. We need to remember to accept all students' appreciation for what matters for them. I admire you for taking on "A Tale of Two Cities" with beginning ELs. It sounds like they enjoyed it, and what a great way to introduce vocabulary also.
Thanks, Shelly. I have some boys that just beg for sports stories and I try to keep it coming for them. I have found some good material on ReadWords.com, and it's free :-)
A TALE OF TWO CITIES is one of my favorite novels, and I love to share it with kids at all stages of proficiency. We only studied a few sections since the camp was just 10 days long, and we had other material to cover, too. I actually brought it into the curriculum after camp had started because of the tragic attack in France on Bastille Day, which occurred at the time of our summer session for high school. The book led to a lot of thoughtful discussion about history and responses to issues. I'm hopeful that perspectives were bent and the kids found a reason to pay attention to literature and how it's relevant to every day life.
Reflecting on Ansley's and Christine's comments - Ansley, I think sometimes it may seem like pearls before...but I find so much right about your sharing what's important to you: 1) students get to see your passion, which in and of itself is valuable, 2) they get introduced to something they hadn't heard before. It might not register that day...but it's a seed lovingly planted that may sprout one day and in the most unexpected of ways, 3) listening to stories - it's a win in so many ways, from increasing language experiences to, at the very least, a community (classroom) experience. So many of the books I've read with my granddaughter become shorthand for us, one mention and we speak an entire book between us. I once took my daughter to "Gone With the Wind," because one has to know where, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" comes from. Or "So help me, God, I'll never go hungry again." Of course, the book was better, but it wasn't her kind of read. None-the-less, as her Mom, cultural literacy is part of my job.
Christine, I'm so glad you found KSLA. I love this group, and especially our Capital Area group - productive, constructive, educational, and always a pleasure to be with!!! I love the line you chose from "Anne of Green Gables," an "outspoken morsel of neglected humanity." What an important line for young people to hear! One of my all-time favorite people is a librarian I met when I was in my teens. She was keen to learn everything. She'd often ask me what I thought of various issues. I knew she was sincere as she could tell me what each of her 3 kids thought. She's in her 90s now and hasn't changed, still curious. Which brings me back to Ansley's enthusiasm, I don't think your students will forget. They might forget the details, but they'll remember your enthusiasm. (As for cultural literacy - yeah, they need to have heard of Truman Capote! Good job!)
An aesthetic experience I can remember having as a child was actually outside of school. I can remember being at my great grandfather's cabin and sitting in the woods by the creek. I can remember the quiet. All I could hear were the birds and the running water. What stands out most to me was the beauty of the trees and how completely relaxed I felt in that moment. It is something I still experience today and it has helped me to develop an appreciation of nature.
I think these experiences are important for kids because it is what they remember. We learn from things that make us feel and impact us in some way.
This book study has helped me to understand the difference between participation and actual engagement. It has also helped me reflect on moments in my life where I have learned best. This can help me create the same kinds of learning experiences for my own students.
I have also had aesthetic experiences while being surrounded by nature. Your description captures what I have felt perfectly. The example I gave was about a science lesson on sea animals that made me feel connected to nature.
Finishing up the last couple of pages of Chapter 8, I could't help but reflect on a thought I often have - that life has moments of sheer perfection. I can't help but think that Keene is asking us to reflect on the moments that grab us because similar moments are apt to grab and engage our students: Antonio reading alone and having a conversation with his authors, the father guiding his children to choose "their" art works during a museum visit, or students sharing a text and laughing at shared embarrassing moments. I once had a professor comment on a study he read that said laughter helps students learn. He was excellent at incorporating humor into his lectures. I leave this textbook feeling that subject matters - so too, our colleagues, our passion, our aesthetic experiences, and our curiousity in modeling engagement for our students.
In 7th grade I studied Earth Science. In one lesson we learned about sea animals. I remember having an aesthetic experience during that lesson. I could not get enough of the facts we were learning about and wanted to know more. I enjoyed reading the textbook and looking at the pictures of the animals. The lesson helped me to spark an interest and helped me to feel connected to nature. These experiences are important for students because aesthetic experiences can spark more than just a memory. They can spark a career, hobby, or dream.
I enjoyed reading this book and will take away valuable information that I can incorporate into my future classroom. Participating in the book blog was helpful and I liked reading everyone's responses.
You make a great point about these experiences sparking hobbies, careers, etc. Your sea animal experience reminds me of my own experience with dinosaurs. In elementary school, I became addicted to learning everything about dinosaurs after a few fossil lessons in school.
My most memorable aesthetic experiences have occurred in the theater. There have been certain shows that have grabbed my attention so much that I absolutely got lost in the story. Some people have told me that they think it is odd that I revisit the same shows countless times. However, it makes sense to me. I want to have that aesthetic experience again and again. It is no different than rereading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite movie (except it is much more expensive. LOL.)
In the classroom, I have had aesthetic experiences through my students sharing their own writing. I can recall a few students that had an advanced vocabulary and just a way with words. Their phrases and style blew me away and left me utterly impressed.
By reading this book, I hope I can find ways to reach more students, particularly those that are disengaged from the learning experience. First, I want to find what motivates them. Then, I want to find ways to incorporate that motivation into the content areas so that they ultimately become more engaged. It is easier said than done, but it has given me a lot of food for thought. I would like to include the perspective bending suggestions from the text as well. It is not something that I have embraced enough, even though we go over opinions and supporting opinions every year. I think I could take it a step further by having students debate their opinions (through discourse or writing) on various topics throughout the year, not just when we are studying opinion writing.
I am seeing a passion and enthusiasm in my daughter at the present moment with a poetry assignment she is working on. She is a very driven student and always wants to de well, however this assignment has unlocked her artistic and creative side as well. I am happy to see her taking this assignment to the next level. The class is creating poems on various subjects using multiple poetry styles, she is printing each poem out and creating a scrapbook page filled with all things inspired in her poem. She has over 15 pages completed and is still going strong. She is eager to share with me and is very proud of her work!
I enjoyed reading this book. It provided some eye opening moments for me that I may have otherwise overlooked. It gave me reason to pause and reflect. Thank you for providing this forum!