Video: Grade 4 CMM Linguistic Lesson

Maritsa Madias-Kalasz teaches in Dearborn, Michigan.  She is a music teacher who specializes in special needs students, including the population of her school who are low achieving and English Language Learners.  Maritsa is a master teacher who believes in teaching IN and THROUGH music at the same time.  She really understands that good music learning patterns the brain for all learning.  That teaching in one language builds neural pathways with other languages if the connection is made intentionally.

Maritsa send an e-mail that said, “CMM 4 linguistic lesson – great work!”  The students have created their own versions of body percussion patterns to go with a song.  They read and followed specific directions, working together and solving a specific problem.  Take a look by clicking the underlined words below.

Question:  Where on the website can you share this type of video?  Make sure its an mp4, and post it with a short description in Share What Works!


Edutopia, The George Lucas Foundation

Edutopia, The George Lucas Foundation



The George Lucas Foundation has a website called Edutopia that often has articles or blogs that resonate with Total Learning, and can help you get good ideas, learn more about the research behind Total learning and arts integration, and provide additional resources and links. Here are a few URLs to explore:

Post other interesting “finds” here to share with others!

Masterful Content and Masterful Teachers

This topic has been sitting in my file for a week. What was I thinking???

Masterful content is determined by a group of teachers who ponder what the core of their curriculum will be – what do we want our students to know and be able to do by the end of the [lesson][day][unit][marking period][year]? This content includes concepts and skills from the core curriculum, which includes language arts (speaking, listening, reading, writing), mathematics, science, social studies/history, music, visual art, physical education/movement, and drama. Yes, these are ALL core curriculum. The content also includes overarching sets of skills, such as social-emotional, 21st century (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity/innovation).

Masterful teachers manage to blend and deliver these content components through

  • planning of meaningful instruction and tasks that build understanding by taking students from the known to the new by connecting the new content to students interests and lives;
  • creating circumstances for frequent, positive, engaging, and challenging interactions with students and between students so the child’s voice is heard; and
  • using authentic, performance assessments that indicate whether students understand and what they don’t understand.

Is the content you are teaching masterfully designed to provide your students with the understandings and skills they will need as a foundation for future school and life? Is your teaching of that content masterfully crafted to develop independent learners who not only learn, but can demonstrate and apply that learning? As you read the Total Learning lessons (lesson, videos, studio and additional resources), notice and explore the way they are constructed, and how many disciplines, concepts, and skills are interwoven in each lesson. Let the lessons and their structure be models for you as you become a masterful teacher. Then think about what happens when this ideal concept is applied in real classrooms. Share your story by commenting here.

The arts or the “core curriculum?”

First students learn IN the arts, then they can learn THROUGH the arts!

First students learn IN the arts, then they can learn THROUGH the arts!

First, this title contains a flawed question, because the arts ARE core curriculum as of ESEA. Music, art, dance and drama are ways of knowing, and are essential for our students to grow as whole human beings. For some of them, the arts will be a career. For many more, the arts will enrich their living, working, and participation in their community and society.

For those of us still working in a traditional school paradigm (most public schools and many charter, magnet and private schools), the answer is “both!” Most smart educators know that the arts are important to enrich the curriculum, and each of the arts provides a different delivery modality for content and skills. However, children can’t learn THROUGH a modality until they have skills IN that modality.

So start by teaching students the arts skills, then use them as a delivery system for other curricular content. The benefits are measured in happier students, deeper learning retained longer, and an engaging and motivating learning environment. Where do you start? Total Learning lessons and studios!

Doing the Arts Builds Brains for Learning

NPR Blog: This is Your Brain on Music

Music and brains:  perfect together

Music and brains: perfect together

I’m always excited and nervous to see an article that cites new research supporting any of the arts as ways to increase cognitive ability or achievement. Often when teachers create arts activities to increase learning, we target a specific reading, math, science or social studies concept or skill. These activities don’t hurt, and usually enrich the learning and make it stick. However, this article again points out the foundational purpose for arts education. Arts involvement builds better brains! Early, often, and unapologetically. It’s not about how good the music or art is, it’s the process of doing the art that results in aptitude for learning.

Bulletin Boards: Evidence of Learning

Bulletin boards remind us of our goals.

Bulletin boards remind us of our goals.

Bulletin boards tell a story!

Bulletin boards tell a story!

Bulletin boards serve many purposes in the classroom: providing information, sparking imagination, and demonstrating success. They are a great place to navigate shared ownership of the classroom, and engage in democratic decision making. Visual lessons are a terrific time to share student work, because they are so obviously visual! Auditory, kinesthetic and linguistic displays require a bit more imagination. For viewers who are not in the classroom, such as administrators or parents, give them some description of the objectives or purpose of the visual activity, so they can learn along with you and your students, and see snapshot evidence of the learning process in your classroom. Share your bulletin boards here, on the discussion board, or in Sharing What Works! A picture is worth a thousand words!

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Bulletin boards share our students' success.

Bulletin boards share our students’ success.

Tim Leyshon letter

For those who met with Mr. Tim Leyshon, our Winston Churchill Travelling Fellow guest last year, I have received a letter of thanks from the organization saying how much Tim ‘enjoyed his time’ with us, and that he had ‘learnt a great deal from the visit.’ So thanks to everyone who helped to make Tim’s visit productive and instructive! Let’s hope he takes Total Learning back to his work in the UK, and enriches the lives of students and teachers!

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust letter

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust letter


A Pat on the Back: Recognizing good work and giving feedback

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Total Learning is active learning. When you are leading echo patterns with speaking, singing, body percussion or movement, do you notice when you create an especially good pattern? When you do good work, recognize it and give yourself a pat on the back! First, you have analyzed your work and used judgment to discriminate between the OK and the exceptional. Next, you have given yourself positive feedback that will increase the chances of you striving for more exceptional work. And finally, you have provided a model of how to give positive feedback to students when they are actively involved in creative, hands-on, brains-on work. They need to have high standards, just like us!

Notice exceptional work in yourself and your students

Notice exceptional work in yourself and your students

Choosing a Leader: Primary style

Diane and first graders working in the STUDIO.

Diane and first graders working in the STUDIO.

Diane Bolarinho, paraprofessional in Ms. King’s 1st grade classroom, says she give the students 4 strategies to choose a leader for their studio (small group) work:

  • Pick a journal
  • To the right
  • To the left
  • Take a vote

The first is teacher directed, the second is teacher directed with student choice, and the third is democratic. That’s enough for Grade 1! Thanks, Diane!

Brain Zones

I have always admired Dee Joy Coulter, and seek out opportunities to hear her speak, or to read her writing.  In “Brain Zones,” she outlines some of the ways that students (and adults) can understand how their brain works, and thereby find the right brain zone for specific tasks and roles.

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