San Francisco, CATeachers at Lafayette Elementary school in San Francisco were excited and a little nervous the day they were being evaluated for the distinction of being a California Distinguished School.
Every teacher demonstrated VTS that day in their classrooms, which had been adopted school wide two years before. VTS is the only arts learning strategy common to all students and teachers. A few months later, Lafayette received word that they “passed.”
Lafayette teachers see VTS within a larger arts context, partnering with VTS as well as local visual art, poetry, music, opera, dance, and theater providers to collaborate on a vibrant arts program.
They also have been applying VTS across content since about the second year, working in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences to explore VTS in science learning.
Now after three years of VTS, teachers are using it in areas as both formative assessment and to boost engagement at the lead-off of a unit or lesson.
This year, 5th grade teacher Richard Walker is excited at how smoothly and quickly students are accessing images in other content areas with confidence and an inquiring mind.
Walker has noticed changes and new capacities for focusing and elaborating in his students. Not only are students reflecting on each other’s ideas, they are elaborating further on their stance without prompting. “There’s always something else. They’ll agree with someone, or disagree, and then have another observation or comment. And now, it’s happening so much more naturally….it just kind of unfolds.”
Walker shares that the alignment with Common Core speaking and listening standards could not be more complete. He is excited to see how VTS engages his inclusion students this year in this particular area of the Common Core.
“I like the uncertainty aspect,” he says, adding that he’s seeing more speculating in his students this year than ever before. In his view, exploring uncertainty helps everybody – English language learners as well as the students who are focused on right answers.
Sandra Berger, the school’s arts coordinator, sees VTS as an integral part of the greater curriculum, while at the same time seamlessly augmenting all of the other diverse arts programming. She shared that it’s particularly helpful to have a shared language across grades, and has seen time and time again that as students go the next grade, it’s “just natural for them to use VTS” to dig deeper.