Liberating the arts from the prison of the timetable…

The arts are not mere diversions from the important business of education; they are essential resources.

Elliot W Eisner, “The Role of the Arts in Cognition and Curriculum” (2001)

If this is what we believe, why do we allow the tyranny of timetable to dictate the constraints of our arts programs?

Why are Art and Music often viewed as ‘lessons’ rather than effective modes of communication, ‘through which students explore and construct a sense of self and develop an understanding of the world around them’? (IB Primary Years Program, 2018).

Why are the arts not always valued as ‘fundamental to the development of the whole child, promoting creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving skills and social interactions.'(IB Primary Years Program, 2018).

With these beliefs and wonderings in mind, we are wondering…

What if our Art and, perhaps, our Music teachers worked on a more flexible timetable, allowing them to step in and out of the learning when the time was right and the learning could be enriched through the experience?

What if, instead of always planning whole class lessons, our specialist teachers worked with individuals, small groups or larger groups, depending on the needs, interests and opportunities that grew organically within the learning?

What if some or all grade levels had ongoing, interwoven inquiries that allowed children to deepen their learning through a hundred languages, and explore questions such as ‘how might I communicate my ideas?’ ‘and ‘how is my thinking changing through engagement with a different material, experience or ‘language’?

What if the arts shifted from being a lesson on the timetable to being viewed as integral to learning and as a powerful means for inquiry?

If it already looks like this in your school, we’d love to hear from you!

9 thoughts on “Liberating the arts from the prison of the timetable…

  1. In my teaching experience it exist like that. I worked as an teacher for a short span but the curriculums need to be revised almost in most of our schools in Pakistan. Art is the integral element of teaching which is taken as a break and no purposeful cross curriculum links. Such a wonderful pieces art students are creating, what if we relate it with other subjects science lesson of light consist of a portion where we talk about colors and reflection and refraction can be presented through art.
    This will definitely leads to steam based learning

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Edna,

    This speaks volumes to us here in Vientiane. We are making significant moves toward this philosophy. Maybe someday we can share the positive vibes. It is so wonderful to connect with likeminded humans when you feel something bubbling up that changes the mold. Graham and I share all of our students under the arts umbrella while using push-in and scheduled sessions. It is innovative and sustainable.

    Glad to know the evolution of thought is occurring around the world!

    With kind regards, Angie at VIS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Edna,
    Thanks for raising this important topic. As you know we have had several discussions about this over the past few years. I wait with interest to see others’ responses and the way in which other schools approach flexible timetabling (or if they are able to do so at all).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, in our Early Childhood department we are striving to make this a reality. Over the last year or so we have largely moved away from stand alone Art, Music, ICT., Italian and PE lessons, instead having those teachers work flexibly with small groups, either within the class or in the atelier. We wanted our children and single subject teachers to be able to work in a similar way to our homeroom teachers-with small groups, over a longer period of time. We found that 1 hour of Music or Art didnt allow for meaningful experiences for children or teachers, as they were forced to share their attention across all, so not having deeper conversations or following a project through. The new way of working definitely suuts students better, they are having a much more interesting time when working with single subject teachers, and it has created longer periods of time to engage in play, which before was broken up with transistions to and from lessons. Having said that there are significant challenges. Mostly around contact time for teachers. Having small groups working with single subjects has raised the amount of time homeroom teachers are with children, and indeed the time single subject teachers are with children. For this reason our children still have a stand a lone PE lesson (45 mins) and Library lesson (30/45 mins). We have extended our lunch times to include time for eating and garden time to allow teachers a longer lunch (although they are still on duty once per week). In addition we have a 1 hour planning meeting which we cover with other teachers from other classes.
      With Single Subject teachers working on average of about 2 hours per class per week (for fairness on children and teachers) they also overlap with each other, and take advantage of this. For example the music teacher has a small group from one class and the art teacher another group from another class and there is the opportunity to collaborate on projects. As we start the school year we are still ironing out the clashes but are happy with how it looks for now. Another aspect that you mentioned, was the idea of a project weaving throughout the year, which our single subject teachers have thought about too. Their thinking on this is to give a context for collaborations throughout the EC department. They have decided on the theme of trees, and want to explore the idea in itself, but also linking to different units of inquiry-its amazing to see how it would connect.
      Having seen how this different way works with EC, Id love to see how it could in Primary. We have been fortunate to be able to have flexibility within the schedule because we do have mostly teachers who work only in EC however further up the school the complexities of timetabling staff and spaces woukd make this way extrememly difficult. Id love to hear from people who gave managed it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thankyou for your detailed response Kathryn. It sounds like you are on the right track with making the arts more accessible to learners within the home room environment. I agree that the main issue with flexible timetabling is the limited hours that many specialists are employed for. One solution that i tried many years ago at another school was to timetable a block for specialists to work with a class at the same time in small groups and then rotate within that block. Obviously it would be more ideal if these sessions were more incidental according to the needs of the learners in relation to units of inquiry, but that would mean extending specialists loading which may not be cost effective for schools.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We are attempting something like this at our school this year. We hope to ingrate Drama as push-in for kindergarten rather than pull out (as it has been done in the past). The idea is that the Drama teacher comes into our class and works on needs based on the children’s inquiry/interests and the unit being worked on. The Drama teacher would have her conceptual understandings to work with for the trimester but these would be achieved through the children’s and homeroom teacher’s inquiries…


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