Saturday, August 21, 2010

Working Together

My brother artist and author James Gurney shared an interesting thought with me last week during our vacation together in Ireland.

He told me that when he visits the animation departments in movie studios he asks the art directors what skills they wish their employees had learned in art school. He said that a common observation is that art schools fail to teach their graduates how to work together.

Working together is something all of us need to learn to do. These skills need to be taught and practiced from the very beginning of school. Kindergarten is not too early.

I teach these skills directly with mini-lessons that include role playing.

But my lessons must not stop there. For these lessons in teamwork to have any real impact, children must have many opportunities to practice the skills I've taught. Children need time at school to play and practice teamwork on their own terms.

They need, in other words, free time.

I lament the "No Child Left Behind" reforms that have so dramatically reduced play time and recess time in kindergartens across America. Can we not see beyond test scores? Oh, I hope we can.

Here at Dunham our school year is only three days old.  I can already see progress in the ability of the class to work together. Here's just one example.

Look at the buildings the class put together on the first day of school. Notice that the children built three different buildings. They worked together, but in several small groups.

Compare the building they put together at play time on Friday. You can see that they built one larger building that everyone worked together on.

They are also working together much more effectively when clean up time arrives.

It's very satisfying to me to see progress in collaboration so immediately.

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