Aligning Arts Standards

Verbs Drive Rigor

In the previous blog last week I ended with the idea that verbs drive rigor. And indeed I submitted an example of the use of verbs when writing lesson objectives for the use of Bloom’s taxonomy and “creativity” with children:

One of the more helpful parts of this taxonomy is the use of verbs to help you write more clearly about what is expected of students. Some of the verbs that are useful in designing objectives for learning are:


“design, formulate, build, invent, create, compose, generate, derive, modify, develop.”

University of Arkansas tips…

Example of Lesson Objective for CREATIVITY OBJECTIVES

By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to design an original homework problem dealing with the principle of conservation of energy.

University of Arkansas tips…

Can you feel the rigor in the example cited above? The student is expected to come up with an original homework problem. So much is expected in this one cleverly crafted lesson objective. If we really want to improve the current education system we might consider writing our lesson objectives with better verbs and more rigor. And giving the students the time to memorize is very important as it will help them to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and finally create.

Aligning The Arts

Aligning arts standards is a complex business. I am currently working with a state standards team to re-write their arts standards and we look closely at the use of verbs:

HS Advanced
a. Justify the creative choices made in a devised or scripted drama/theatre work, based on a critical interpretation of specific data from theatre research.

In the example above drawn from high school level standards, creativity is further defined as student choices. Also defined is the way in which students must interpret, “critical interpretation of specific data.” The use of these refined verbs, the expectations that have been further defined from a more general idea of interpretation, speak again to rigor. The standards use of specific verbs have also been aligned with the top performances expected out of High School seniors in the arts and in common core subjects. Most importantly, the standard uses the word, “justify,” to indicate to the teachers and students that a proper attainment of this standard would include a clear understanding of why the student had made creative choices.

Vertical and Horizontal Alignment

The example above is how theater is aligned horizontally with the common core subjects. Additionally, standards alignment is also expected in a vertical way, as for example the quality of arts standards can be seen vertically in one of the standards written for Pre-Kindergarten:

With prompting and support, identify stories that are similar to one another in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).
With prompting and support, tell a short story in dramatic play or a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

With Prompting and Support

Two things to notice about this standard….for Pre-K…are the use of “identify” and “tell a story” as the verbs indicating how to attain these standards. The vertical alignment again shows us the high expectations for our students. These standards also indicate teacher actions…”with prompting and support.” I think this holds for all standards, that if we write all standards with “prompting and support,” we may just be able to indicate to teachers, students and parents, the kind of important work we are undertaking and the kinds of excellent work we are expecting out of students when they attain our standards.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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