A Visit from Harvard Business School Club’s Bob Neiman

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A few days ago, Bob Neiman from the Harvard Business School Club came to interview Total Learning teachers, paraprofessionals, family workers, students and administrators – those involved with Total Learning every day.  Even though Bob has been helping us on the administrative side for 7 years, he said he learned a lot!  Among the revelations:

  • Kindergarten and first grade kids are hard to interview!  It was a challenge to keep them focused.  Now he can see why K and 1st grade teachers should probably be paid more!
  • The students and teachers were able to articulate why they valued Total Learning in very specific ways.  Among the surprises was that several older students said that they had been painfully shy, and that through Total Learning they had learned to have a voice.  Nice.
  • The breadth and depth of Total Learning takes time to understand.  One component that Bob had not fully realized was that the students write in their journals each day to synthesize their ideas and reflect on their learning.  This begins early, and there are prompts in every studio, at each tier.  The teachers and students valued this process, and Bob felt that this was really an essential component to solidify learning.
  • The paraprofessionals, now with Total Learning for 5-7 years, add value in unique and concrete ways, and have learned to be facilitators and guides through Total Learning professional development opportunities.
  • ‘Learning’ and ‘fun’ were often mentioned in the same sentence.  It isn’t an either-or proposition – in fact, the fun may facilitate the learning!

We look forward to hearing what Bob does with the information he collected, and really appreciate his help in the past and going forward!


Unpacking “Multimodal, . . . . . . .”

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We use an impressive phrase to describe Total Learning:  “Multimodal, multisensory, hands-on, brains-on strategies that pattern the brain for learning.”  We could say this in another related way: Total Learning is arts-integrated teaching and learning.

Let’s unpack those words!

The arts: music, visual art, dance and drama are four separate disciplines that are core curriculum, as of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, known also as No Child Left Behind.  The term ‘core’ is interesting, because one unintentional consequence of NCLB was to squeeze the arts out of the curriculum simply due to lack of time and testing pressure to focus on literacy (reading) at the expense of everything else.

Multimodal:  utilizing the learning modalities through which all humans learn: auditory, kinesthetic, visual and linguistic.  Compare these with music, dance, visual art and drama – teaching in and through the arts is multimodal.

Multisensory:  engaging the senses through which all humans receive information: sound, touch and movement, sight, and spoken/written language.  These four modalities are interdependent with music, dance, visual art and drama.

Hands-on:  discovery learning through direct interaction with and manipulation of the concepts and skills to be learned.  This type of learning is research-based and best practice, and also a hallmark of arts education, whether creating, performing, responding to, or connecting ideas in and through music, movement, visual art and/or drama.

Brains-on:  learning through engaging in higher order thinking skills – analyzing, applying, synthesizing and creating.  These are 21st Century skills that are a hallmark of the Common Core State Standards – developed through creating, performing, responding and connecting.  The arts were Common Core before there were Common Core State Standards.

Patterning the brain for learning: brain researchers tell us that the brain seeks pattern to learn, and this makes sense.  We look for familiar patterns in everything we encounter, comparing it to past experiences.  We are comforted when something fits a pattern, and stimulated to grow when we encounter something new that requires a new category of information, skill or behavior.

For many teachers, arts-integrated teaching is a new approach, and therefore requires us to stretch ourselves.  It is not an idle exercise, but rather using core human knowledge and skills as tools to reach every child.  Aptitude for the arts is wired in to every human being, and when we teach with this understanding of human learning, we truly meet our own potential.

Total Learning provides teachers, children, parents and the community with multimodal, multisensory, hands-on, brains-on strategies that pattern the brain for learning.  Arts-integration – it makes perfect sense!