Encountering Children’s Literature through the Arts

Mandy Rogers presenting her 3rd Graders' Biography Project

Do You have a Quality Library in your Classroom?


Megan Skilling Presents Readers' Theater in the First Grade!

Elementary teachers, librarians and music teacher create art to teach literacy!

In Their Own Words: Teachers Describe our Recent Class

Teachers Learn about Assessment Practices in the Visual Arts

Visual Art Teachers: Christine Del Rossi, Brian McPherson, and Kathleen Hartley


Visual Art Teachers from Medomak Middle School, Mt. Ararat Middle School, Bangor High, Sumner Memorial High, Woodside Elementary, and Falmouth High School convened for an intensive weekend course on Assessment last weekend.  We had rich discussions about why high quality assessment practices improve teaching and learning.  Looking at student art work, sharing resources, and eating together were all important parts of the course.  Did I say “eating” together?  Yes – we had a communal dinner on Friday night and lunch on Saturday.  What do you think this eclectic group of educators did during their time to relax?  They talked.  Non-stop.  About Art, Education, Kids and the best ways to teach them.  Oh.  And we ate great food, too!

Samantha Davis, Libbie Winslow and Nancy Durst

You might think this is an unusual bunch of passionate teachers.  And they are definitely passionate!  But unusual?  Not really.  We’ve found that most educators who take our courses are passionate about what they do, and that carries over into their extended lives.  Hence, the collaboration that ensues in between course sessions (there are only two weekends that we meet in person) happens on a regular basis.  Technology can be wonderful for helping teachers in geographically distant places in Maine connect with each other.  Interactive wikis make it easy to communicate and to share resources with each other!  Sharing best practices, strategies, ideas and resources is easier than ever, and teachers are very generous in doing so, and in encouraging each other.  Now those ingredients make a great recipe for superb teaching and learning.  So how do you assess that?  You don’t.  It’s priceless.


We Did It!

Rob Westerberg and Catherine Ring

Yesterday we met with 16 art, music, dance and theater teacher leaders throughout Maine to plan Phase II of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.  Lots of creative ideas for ways to improve teaching and learning in the arts filled the day.  This is critical work, because the arts teach vital 21st century skills and quality assessment helps both teachers and students to improve learning.  You can read more about this exciting project on the Maine DOE’s blog, written by Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Argy Nestor.

Maine Arts Education Post



Here are some other photos of the day!

Music Educator Jake Sturtevant and Art Educator Jeff Orth

Dr. Jeff Beaudry, USM

Art Educators Leah Olson and Jeff Orth

Catherine Ring and Dance Educator, Mary Ellen Schaper

Art Educators Lisa Marin and Charlie Johnson

Children’s Literature and Art Assessment Courses A Hit!


Maggie Soule, Linda McVety, Barbara Stalnaker, Megan Skilling, Glenna Kimball and Mandy Rogers

A group of teachers from the Portland area met recently in the first session of Teaching Children’s Literature through the Arts course.  What a wonderful group!  This diverse group included two librarians, three elementary classroom teachers, and a music teacher, so there was plenty of  interest in both the arts and children’s literature.  This course gives an in depth overview of genre, multicultural books for children, and best of all, includes hands-on ways to encounter children’s literature through multiple art forms.  Music, art, movement, drama, pantomime, poetry and storytelling are just some of the ways to engage children and improve learning.  Teachers came from York, Otisfield, Windham, Auburn, Portland and Sanford to participate.  We discussed so many ways of integrating the arts to boost student engagement in literacy and shared some fabulous resources and ideas.


Art educators, Sue Beaulier and Jacqualine McTigue, from Ashland and Glenburn, Maine

In Bangor, a group of visual art educators met to begin a course in Refining Arts Assessment in the Visual Art Classroom.  This course was designed to bring together professionals who really do not have a lot of time to collaborate with each other; often they are the only arts educators in their building.  So, looking at student art work, sharing how to assess student work according to standards, and some very lively discussions were the name of the game.  Many wonderful initiatives and ideas were shared.  We’re looking forward to more rich dialogue, and exciting discoveries of things we can do to improve student learning in Visual Art classrooms around Maine!



Katy Helman, of Deer Isle-Stoningon and other art teachers partake in an animated discussion of student work

Is this a 2, a 3, or a 4?  How do we know our students are learning concepts and skills?  Are we doing standards-based instruction?  How do you measure creativity?  How does an art teacher balance the need to teach art skills and techniques and still encourage student ownership and creativity?   These are just some of the questions we tackled in the recent class in Bangor.  If you missed that opportunity, another course at Falmouth High School is happening on March 9, 10 and May 4 and 5.  There are still some openings in that class, though they are filling up fast!  Be sure to save a spot by Registering for the course:  Refining Arts Education in the Visual Art Classroom K-12 at Falmouth High School.



Exciting Courses Underway

I am pleased to say that the Arts Assessment in the Music Classroom course has taken off at York High School.  Reports are that participants dove right in with some profound discussions about how we, as educators, tackle the not so easily defined task of assessing students performance in music.  How does one assess individuals in an ensemble?  How does one assess whether a piece has “spirit”?  How do we involve students in self-assessment?  How do we create a safe culture in our classroom so that formative assessment is a part of the every day work of teaching and learning?  There is a real hunger out there in the teaching world for an opportunity to get together with colleagues to discuss these and other essential questions, and to share resources with each other.  This is exactly what happened at York High School last Friday and Saturday and opportunities are being offered elsewhere in Maine through the New England Institute for Teacher Education.

Ashley Smith and Drew Albert listen in during Rob's presentation


Rob Westerberg, music educator at York High School, and planning team member of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, had participants thinking deeply and reflecting on the best strategies for engaging students and improving their teaching and learning.  Shared assessment practices and resources were part of the fare.  Each teacher will develop their own action plan, fitting in with their own and their individual school’s needs.  They will go back to their classrooms, try new ideas, journal, read, share, and come back for a second session and report out what they’ve learned.  How exciting!

If you are a music teacher, and you missed this opportunity, there is another class being held in Augusta on February 10 , 11 and May 11, 12. The course meets in two sessions of Friday nights (4-8pm) and Saturdays (8-4pm).  Intersession work is done online via email with the instructor, and a final presentation and summative paper is expected. It is not too late to sign up for this course.  Jake Sturtevant, music educator at Bonny Eagle High School, and Teacher Leader in the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, will be teaching this course.

And for Visual Art Educators interested in Assessment courses, there are several opportunities right around the corner:

Bangor – Jan. 27, 28 and April 27, 28

Falmouth – March 9, 10 and May 4, 5

Courses are offered at a specially reduced cost of $750 for three graduate credits through our partnership with Endicott College.  So don’t pass up this opportunity – Register now, and be a part of what’s happening in the arts and education in Maine!


It’s Elementary, My Dear

You are invited to join Rob Westerberg (Choral Director at York High School) and me and our Guests on our webinar on Wednesday, January 4 at 3:30 pm.  The topic promises to inspire a lively exchange:  “An Elementary Discussion: How in the World Can I Possibly Do This?
 Addressing the Unique Needs of Elementary Arts Educators”.  This will be the fourth of five webinars on arts assessment, as part of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

The discussion will survey participants about the challenges of doing arts assessments at the elementary level.  After all, how can anyone expect that teachers will be able to teach and assess student work when they see 400 students for 40 minutes per week? Amazingly, arts educators are doing it and finding ways that make a difference for kids. Rob and I will facilitate a discussion with our guests, Alice Sullivan (music educator), Shannon Campbell (visual art educator) and Barb Packales (music educator), on the unique challenges to teaching and assessing student work in elementary school, the advantages of assessing the work, and ways to implement quick, do-able and proven strategies that help improve student learning in the arts.

Argy Nestor, Visual and Performing Arts Specialist at the Maine DOE, will also participate and provide her perspective on arts assessment and how to move forward. Lots of resources will be shared.  There will also be information on graduate level courses (provided by the New England Institute for Teacher Education) where participants can take their knowledge and practice of arts assessment to a new level.

To join the meeting, go online to http://stateofmaine.adobeconnect.com/pk201012/ (sign in as “guest”). Conference Number: 1-866-910-4857, Passcode: 140893  Hope to see you there!!

—   Catherine

New Course: Teaching Children’s Literature through the Arts!!


Teaching Children’s Literature through the Arts is coming to Portland

Dates:  January 20, 21 and March 23, 24, 2012  (Fridays 4-8pm, Saturdays 8-4pm)
Location:  Portland, Maine                                                               Instructor:  Catherine Ring


This course is designed for pre-service and in-service teachers of kindergarten through grade 8.   Practical strategies for using visual art, poetry, drama, story telling and music to enhance children’s experience and understanding of literature will be a major part of the course.  Discussions in class will include a review of genres in children’s literature.  Combined with an emphasis on multi-cultural and international literature, the focus on the aesthetic and artistic aspects of literature, music, the visual arts and drama promotes culturally responsive and researched-based teaching, making reading more inviting to diverse groups with varied learning styles.  The class is informative, hands-on, and fun!

This study can be taken for 3 semester hours of graduate or undergraduate credit through Endicott College (Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies, Beverly, MA).  The course has also been approved  by the Maine Department of Education for re-certification.
Materials Required:
Encountering Children’s Literature:  An Arts Approach.  Jane M. Gangi., Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2003.
A laptop is required.  Please bring to the first session.  Internet access is a requirement during the course.

Arts Assessment Courses Coming to Augusta, Bangor and York!

Join arts educators Catherine Ring, Rob Westerberg, and Jake Sturtevant for some great opportunities to meet and work with colleagues while improving teaching and student learning in the arts!

The New England Institute for Teacher Education is providing a unique opportunity for arts educators throughout Maine to take a three-credit, graduate level course on on Arts Assessment. Visual art and music educators who are interested in deepening their learning in arts assessment are invited to participate in a cohort of peers to collaborate, and to learn about and apply best assessment practices in their classrooms. Course credit is given through Endicott Collegeʼs Van Loan School of Graduate and Professional Studies.  (The course is being offered at a reduced tuition of $750 for three graduate credits for a limited time.)

These courses have been specially-designed as an outgrowth of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. Teachers can expect to work at growing their level of understanding and enhancing their schoolʼs practices in an individually-tailored, inquiry- based class. Classes meet on a teacher-friendly schedule, over two weekends, with inter-session and post-session work done online.

Rob Westerberg and Catherine Ring are the instructors for the Music and Visual Art courses being offered at York High School in York, Maine.  Catherine will also teach the visual art courses in Bangor and Augusta.  Both Rob and Catherine are experienced arts educators and teacher leaders and bring a wealth of knowledge in their disciplines and in assessment practices.

The Music Assessment course will also be offered in Augusta on Feb. 10, 11 and May 11, 12, 2012 and will be taught by Jake Sturtevant, music educator at Bonny Eagle High School.  Jake has been a Teacher Leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative and brings his skills as an educator and composer to this course.

Dates and Locations:

January 13, 14 and March 16, 17, 2012 York High School, York (Visual Art K-12 and Music 7-12)

January 27, 28 and April 27, 28, 2012 Bangor (Visual Art K-12 only)

February 10, 11 and May 11, 12, 2012 Augusta (Visual Art K-12 and Music 7-12)

For Registration and Information, click HERE or call the New England Institute for Teacher Education at 207-367-5807.


Managing Classroom Behavior

A wonderful group of Educational Technicians from the Augusta area just completed a course on Behavior Management in the Classroom. Lots of learning, analyzing case studies, and practical application of strategies made this class immediately helpful to students and their teachers. Well done! 

This course is being offered in Portland (January 20, 21 and March 23, 24). Contact us to register! www.newenglandinstitute.org.

Arts Assessment Courses



We are offering courses in Arts Assessment, to help arts educators take Assessment to a new level.  Check out the information below.


This offer applies ONLY to these course locations which start on the following dates:
York (Jan. 13, 2012), Bangor (Jan. 27, 2012) and Augusta (Feb. 10, 2012)


Rob Westerberg (Music Educator from York HS), Argy Nestor (Visual/Performing Art Specialist with the Maine Dept. of Education) and Catherine Ring (Executive Director, New England Institute for Teacher Education) stop to enjoy the view while enroute to Aroostook County where they presented professional development workshops to arts educators.

And don’t forget, Catherine and Rob’s Webinar Series on the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative are free and open to everyone.  Please join us!

Our next webinar on December 7 (3:30-4:30 pm) will cover the topic: 

Standards-Based Assessment in the Arts

To join the meeting, go online to http://stateofmaine.adobeconnect.com/pk201011/ (sign in as “guest”). Conference Number: 1-866-910-4857, Passcode: 140893