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How does the content relate to your students’ world?

Drama (in an urban Pasifika school)

The classroom in terms of the content and context for learning is very much derived from the students that I have in front of me, so it can vary from year to year even through the structure is reasonably static. For example, next year in year 13 I may change theatre form to performance poetry because the year 12s this year have some great rappers and students that love to write poetry. Trying to fit the course to the students I have is important.

I look for plays that are meaningful and deal with social issues as well that connect to our students' lives beyond the classroom. I take note and I listen to what students talk about and stay in touch with popular culture so I know what’s happening amongst our youth culture, which is distinctive to locality and demographics. The learning intention is to use drama to address social situations in life that are relevant to these students in addition to learning the discipline of drama.

For one topic at level 7 I use plays called ‘ensemble’ plays, and they’re really like snapshots of a topic like ‘drugs’. They are snapshots of different characters providing different experiences within that theme; there’s no real main character or minor but everyone has a turn where they’re the main character. 

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Music – sound arts (in a large co-ed urban school)

To connect students to the music programme I use songs that were relevant to the students' world - such as from the top 40. I would use these as triggers for them to learn some basic guitar chords and then relate these back to theory - so they saw the relevance of the theory and not the theory driving the learning (and teaching).

We bring in artists to perform or work with students. We have brought in people such as Naina from Adeaze, Tama Waipara, Marcus Powell from Blindspott and Blacklist. We also use our connections to the music industry and the NZ Music Commission. We have also provided lunchtime concerts where our network of friends has brought an international artist to perform, such as J Boog, a reggae artist from Hawaii.

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How flexible is the content selection?

Integrated (in a large co-ed urban school)

The magazine that is produced is the result of student input. It is theirs. They know their audience. They choose their own artists to research and the content that goes into the magazine.

“Over the holidays I looked after the Facebook page and I felt pretty good getting 40 or 50 views per posting. But once we handed it over to our student social media editor it started getting 300-400 views per posting, and her best ever is well over 1000". That’s a reflection of the students knowing their audience and taking ownership of connecting with them.

The students also maintain the magazine blog and control what content goes in there.

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Music – Sound arts (in a large co-ed urban school)

We offer options within courses. For example in the level 7 programme in 2012 we offered three options in composition standard. Students could create music based on the following contexts for their compulsory composition option:

  • Olympic theme song that would be played to advertise NZ athletes on TV
  • NZ poetry, for example, Waitakere Rain
  • Cartoon theme

As the year 13 programme is a personalised programme the students have considerable input into content selection. For example, for the music history external standard, because there were a high percentage of Māori students in the class, I taught Music of the Tangata Whenua as one of the topics.

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Visual arts (in a rural year 7–13 co-ed school)

As the visual arts programme is developed with students at the centre, the content choices are broad. As students move through the senior programme they make their own choices about context and content. However, there are some guidelines.

  • At level 6 of the curriculum I have a theme from which the subject matter is based. We will use common artists’ models at the start of the year but I will choose those by thinking about what artists this group of students might connect with. There are a range of models for the students to access. Examples include Taratoa and McGregor, who are our Māori artistic models. Taratoa has a very urban, youth oriented, identity based element to his work that students easily relate to. McGregor’s work uses recognisable symbolism like iPods and rifles, but also deals with metaphysical concepts from a Māori world view, and political concerns. Doze Green is an American ‘street artist’ turned ‘fine artist’, who’s interest in cultural and political motifs depicting referencing graffiti techniques is useful. Franz Ackerman, a European artist, works with bold colours and experimental spatial organisation.
  • At level 7 students can choose their own subject matter, after an initial offering of looking at artists' models that demonstrate elements of art making that they will need to understand as they develop their own art works during the year. I want them to understand the principles of art making, for example, what principles underpin post modernism or pop art.
  • At level 8 students pick their own models and subject matter, in discussion with me. I find, by this stage, they are highly motivated, and very willing to learn.

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How does the content connect to students’ learning in other subjects?

Dance (in a large co-ed urban school)

The history students are going to collaborate with my level 8 dance students. This year instead of looking at global rituals and ceremonies, we are going to look at historical peace and protest movements, and create dances based on what the catalyst was for that protest movement to occur and on what the outcome was of the historical event.

The dance and history students will work collaboratively around the generation of source material (through research) and the development of a dance performance in response to the source material.

We are exploring options around assessment so that students in both curriculum areas generate credits for the work. Ideally the student will be able to use common assessment across the two. curriculum areas.

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Visual arts (in a rural year 7 – 13 co-ed school)

For some students I connect with their other teachers to find out what they are interested in and how they are going. I try to use this knowledge to draw in students. For example, I discovered from one teacher how one student was becoming interested in political activism. So I used some images from Māori political protests to try to engage him.

In English, the HOD is beginning to explore the use of the SOLO taxonomy with students, so I asked my students to use their learning about using SOLO in evaluating their visual art work and the quality of their writing for their artist research. This transfer from the English context to visual arts was easy for students.

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What student data do you use to inform planning?

Dance (in a large co-ed urban school)

I look at relevant achievement standards from the previous year. So it might be one writing standard from English, to see where the students writing skills are at. I then see if they have done dance before, to see their choreography and performance level. I really like to look at social studies and history because of the common emphasis on social cultural connections.

This information or data informs me about decisions for programme design and student groupings. When it comes to group choreography I can look at the previous standards that they have done and gauge what students are in a really good position to tackle the standard, and group them together. They stand a better chance of getting that higher level of excellence work by bouncing off one another. This frees me up to work with those who I have identified as more high need, to scaffold them more through the tasks.

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Drama (in an urban Pasifika school)

In addition to the analysis of results and talking to students, I get people from the industry, the arts/drama industry, to come and have a look at our work and give me feedback.

Many artists are invited into our school to work with our students and me. Professional directors or actors work with the students and that is valuable learning for me to watch them.

Student voice and other discussion forums are really important ways for me to see how students are responding to my teaching and its relationship to learning outcomes.

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Visual arts (in a rural year 7–13 co-ed school)

Although the numbers can be small, I use data to compare against single year level classes – and plan to make programmes accessible and enabling for the students.

For some students the data becomes part of the conversation, particularly if I think they could be achieving better. The conversation is often around how we can tweak the programme to help them raise achievement (and curb the partying!). What is now happening is the students are not content with achievement – they are now excited about getting higher (merit and excellence). They are building expectations and getting to understand the VALUE of learning. Scholarships are starting to come.

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Last updated September 5, 2013



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