Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Putting the "Art" into "Communication Arts"

Last week, we had an inservice presentation from Carol Jago, the president of NCTE. Ms. Jago spoke with us about the Common Core Standards that will soon be implemented. One of the fears of standardized testing and the budget crunch is that the arts will be pushed to the side in favor of more reading, writing and math. Ms. Jago demonstrated a way we can bring art into Communication Arts classes, and tie it in with deeper reading.

Ms. Jago asked us study a painting. For two minutes. Without speaking. This is the painting she used:

After studying the painting, we were asked to discuss it in our groups. This led to a fantastic discussion in our small groups about what we saw, and our own interpretations of the artwork. It was a great exercise that forced us to make interpretations, guesses, and look at the small details of the painting.

I decided to try this out with my sophomores to see what would happen. I chose a piece of art from Salvador Dali:

I went through the same procedures with my students. They came up to the screen and studied the painting for two minutes, and returned to their groups to discuss what they saw. What happened next blew me away.

Almost with exception, every student was actively discussing, interpreting and debating the painting. Several students were pointing things out to their group, and some even came up to the screen to show their group what they saw. Students who rarely take chances in book discussions were making interpretations. I let the discussion go on for literally 10 minutes, and it did not die down.

After letting students work it out on their own, I asked individual students to share their interpretations of the painting. Virtually every student saw something different. It was fascinating to watch them go beyond the painting to think about what the author meant or intended.

This led to a discussion about what they had to do in order to interpret the painting. It required them to:
  • Look at the painting several times
  • Study the small details
  • Think about symbolism
  • Question why the author made the choices he made
  • Interpret what they saw
  • Reinterpret what they saw
Ultimately, we discussed that these are all the qualities of a good reader. Good readers are constantly:
  • Going back to re-read something two, three or more times.
  • Studying the small details
  • Questioning why the author made specific choices
  • Making interpretations of what they read
  • Changing or modify their interpretations
This was a great activity to work on getting students to take chances and think deeper about something. I am going to continue doing this activity to help build this skill, and hopefully it carries over to their reading.

Do you have suggestions for other pieces of art for this activity? What are other qualities of a good reader that this activity works to build?

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Speed up your quick game

    For years I struggled with how to make our quick passing game... quicker. I constantly harped on my QBs to get rid of the ball faster. We talked about making pre-snap reads on the quick game, but I really didn't know how to coach them up on it other than to say, "Get rid of it faster!"

    Two years ago, we took several QBs to Darrin Slack's Quarterback Academy Camp at Jenks High School in Tulsa, OK. In my opinion, Coach Slack is the premiere QB coach in the country, and his camps and products are all top-notch. From this camp I took away one small tip about the quick game that finally gave me a coaching point to make our quick game quicker:

    The inside of his right foot sets the hallway
    "Set the hallway"

    Look down at the shoe on the dominant side of your body (righties look at your right shoe, lefties look at your left shoe). Most athletic shoes have a logo on the inside of it. Imagine that logo is a laser sight. To get rid of the ball faster and to be more accurate, you must "aim" that logo (and thus the laser) at your target. This is what Coach Slack refers to as "Setting the Hallway."

    I have heard QB coaches talk about imagining you have cameras all over your body that you want to aim at the target, or simply telling QBs to "step at the target." I found that this simple coaching point of setting your hallway with the inside of your shoe is the best tip in order for the QB to get the ball out quickly and accurately.

    The ball is going to go where that logo is pointed. 

    This tip applies to the 5-step dropback game, as well as the quick 3-step game. The ball is going to go where that logo is pointed.

    For the quick game, we want to immediately set the hallway by pointing that logo at the target. We should already have a presnap read based on cushion and alignment of the defense.

    Throwing to the right

    When throwing to the right, we immediately open our right foot and point the logo at the target. As we are throwing, we should push off of our right foot so that our momentum is going straight at the receiver. There shouldn't be any wasted motion stepping back, hitching up, or shuffling our feet. This is something we work on daily, even without throwing the ball.

    Here are examples of throwing quick to the right. Notice the QB's footwork. There is little wasted movement, and his momentum is going straight at the target.

    Oh Snap!

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    Throwing to the left

    When throwing to the left, our footwork changes slightly. We are still setting our hallway and "aiming" at the target with the logo on our shoe. However, we must first take a crossover step with our throwing side leg. This crossover step will allow us to set the hallway, and carry our momentum at the target. Before I used this coaching point, our QBs struggled to accurately throw to the left. Again, it takes muscle memory of doing this every day in practice, even without throwing the football. Drill the crossover footwork so that it becomes second nature to them.

    Here are some examples of throwing the quick game to the left:

    Oh Snap!

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    Once your QBs begin to think about setting the hallway by pointing that logo on their shoe at the target, they will become more accurate and begin to deliver the ball on time.

    What other coaching points have you used to coach up the quick game?