September 19, 2011

I'm A Reading Teacher!?!?!

I am a big believer in art being cross curricular in the art room.  In my mind, it would be ridiculous to try to teach art isolated from the other subjects...where would we get our inspiration!  I read to my kindergarten students every time they come to me.  I read to other classes when I can.  I have a large library of reference books for students on animals, geography, art...etc. 

HOWEVER....I am not a reading teacher.  I am not trained how to be a reading teacher.  As much as I love to read, I was placed in slow readers when I was in elementary school & I have a learning disability (more with my spelling/writing  than reading...but I think it is all connected when it comes to such disabilities). 

Why do I bring this up?!?  Well, the special area teachers at my school are now part of "Learning Labs" in the morning which are reading focused. They have taken away our morning duty so that are planning time starts at 7:45.  That allows us to have from 8:45-9:15 for these "Learning Labs".   I have 16 students in my group.  I'm not looking forward to this.  In the art room I am confident in my ablity.  I know my subject matter & never fear trying new things because I have enough background knowledge in the arts to make any project "work".  Reading however...I am not confident.  I love to read.  Before I had children I read all the time(I still read...but now kids books...not really anything for me).  This does not make me qualified for being a reading teacher.  They have a "program" for us to use...and we don't even have to plan.  Yet I still fear being asked questions I am unable to answer....or doing something that isn't proper reading etiquette. I fear screwing these kids up!!!   I feel like a legless man being asked to teach people how to run. 

Do any of you have to teach outside of your subject area????


  1. Yes! And I share your concerns.
    I'd like to offer a little encouragement though:) These students could really benefit from you! Your own experience with a learning disability gives you a unique perspective. I often find that my best artists often struggle in the academic classes... I bet you are going to be a sight for sore eyes for some of these kids.
    Good luck!

  2. When I taught elementary art, I too had to tutor students. The classroom teachers came up with the lessons and taught me how to re-teach. You need to know the vocabulary the teachers are using on each concept because everything is a bit different from when we learned. Now that I am teaching high school art we are being told we need to support ACT scores. I'm at a loss at how to incorporate ACT skills into my curriculum. Art teachers are feeling your pain everywhere. Good luck!

  3. I feel for you! I am not an art teacher yet (still in college) but my first job was as a reading and writing tutor to children from ESL backgrounds. I do think one of the best things a student can EVER hear from his/her teacher is "I don't know." Especially if the teacher then shows the student how to find the answer.

    I think the problem with these programs is that there are so many rules and regulations, it puts too much pressure on everyone involved. I am a firm believer that a child needs to feel safe in order to read, even if it means not correcting every mistake.

    I think the bottom line is that your approach means everything, and hopefully the program will be rewarding both for you and the students!

  4. We have 2 art teachers at our school, myself and one other woman who travels between 4 schools to pick up overloads. She has to tutor kindergartners every morning during her planning time. I am thankful I do not have to share this task (yet)- but she shared your same concerns. I just have to remind her that she is doing it for the KIDS! (This does not usually make her feel better haha)

  5. It seems I've lucked out every year I've taught and had to incorporate ELA (English, Language Arts) into my curriculum. I felt incredibly nervous at first. . .But, you know, it really fits in seamlessly with what I do. . .AND, I realized that I was okay at it.

    To be able to teach Art, especially to elementary students, we have to highly skilled at breaking down information for "chunking" etc. for students. This skill is highly valued when teaching reading skills etc.

    I also agree, like many other folks, that because you have experience with reading difficulty you will be a better teacher for it. You know what it is like to struggle and what helped you.

    Aside from everything else, we already use reading skills in the classroom: visual literacy. You can take the same strategies you use for reading a picture when aiding students with comprehension skills.

    You are going to rock this. I know it.

    Oh, and one final thought: When my students are performing a tedious part of a project (like coloring for a batik) I will read aloud to them. It keeps them quiet and working hard. . .And, boy, do they love it. They get so into it. If you feel you need to be more available than "reading aloud" to students permits, there are several sites that have free, downloadable stories. My kiddos last year (elementary) loved listening to Riki Tiki Tavi.

  6. I am required to teach literacy through art. Now I like bringing books into my art room but I don't like being told HOW to incorporate literacy into my lessons. For some art lessons, it just doesn't work!

  7. Ted,

    You are an amazing art teacher and you will AMAZE your group with your role as leader in a reading group. Not knowing the answers to all of their questions will teach YOU! You will see these children in a new light and you will be inspired by their journey with you toward stronger literacy skills. Remember, the only thing we fear is the unknown and after a few mornings with these kids, the fear will be replaced with fun. I'm never wrong......LOL!


  8. I think all of us have stories of being pulled from what we are CERTIFIED to do.....thanks to state and national standardized tests. I think reading is important....but to teach a child the BEST way to learn how to read.....I am not confident that I can be the woman for that job.But I guess we could look at it that we just may be that inspiration to motivate that one child to go for it and develop that love of reading. Good luck!!!

  9. I am expected to tutor twice during the day. Once for first grade iii and second grade iii. Our low readers, by law, must receive an extra 30 minutes of reading instruction. This is where I am put into place. I was orginally certifited k-6 teacher and I then switched to art. So I have the ability to tutor but since I have been the art teacher I have lost certain skills and don't keep up with what is new. A benefit to teaching art is not having to deal with parents and academics of reading and math. But now I find myself answering parents questions and having to teach reading. They did finally listen and arrange my tutor groups in my bigger planning times but before they expected me to teach art and in my 30 prep time go get kids and tutor then and still be ready for the next class to walk in and do art. I do enjoy it certain days but other days I feel like banging my head against the wall. Again we all feel your pain but I know classroom teachers do a lot that they don't want to do so I just smile and do my best.

  10. I've done it too, both reading and math- I didn't much like it because I didn't feel like the classroom teachers valued my contributions, or prepared for my help, in fact, it seemed they resented it. However, when given the chance to help in reading rather than math, I found that I could be of help, and that the kids enjoyed seeing that I was smart about more than art. Math- not so much. But, in that case, we were in it together, and that helped. Good Luck.

  11. yes, I do "interventions", again, teaching reading or, yeah, probably not a good idea. Also, I was a classroom teacher and left that profession for a reason! I want to teach art. Just art. This whole "writing in art" is just wrong. At least for elementary. My premise is we are there to introduce and give experiences in art to encourage children to seek out doing art to better their brains, and souls. NOT to teach math, reading or writing.
    Don't even get me started on the new evaluation rubric.