I’ve been doing this teaching thing for a long time…23 years to be exact. The world and the world of teaching have changed a great deal. When I started teaching we didn’t have email. I had no computer in my room. I taught whole class for almost everything–and that was the expectation. We didn’t meet as grade level teams. We gave letter grades at all age levels and those grades were based on percentages obtained from work done as homework and on tests. My, how my educational world has changed.
ORIGINALLY POSTED BY ME ON “Upper Elementary Snapshots”…
That being said, there are certain things that remain constant. Students come to school with a variety of needs and strengths. We have certain content we are expected to cover. There is never enough time to do it all.
As I have tried to figure out how to maximize my time with my students, I can’t help but feel like we might be missing the boat as we try to pound in content.
I’ve decided to try to deliberately slow down and work on some things with my students…things that aren’t listed explicitly in my curriculum documents. We talk about kindness. We talk about empathy. We talk about using our “reasoning” to make sense of things. We talk about risk taking. We talk about working together. We talk about creative thinking. I want my students to understand that there is MORE to education than filling in the blank.
To help with this, I try to build in some opportunities for my students to use their creativity in different ways…and for them to know that I value it just as much as the score they get on a math test!
Here are a few ways we celebrate uniqueness and creativity in my class!
1. Enrichment projects: During different content units I invite students who are really interested in a topic to do an enrichment project of their choosing to share with the class. They can work alone, with a friend, or with their family–and I encourage them to only do this if they really feel passionately about the topic. It isn’t meant to be MORE work it’s meant to be exciting and enriching. I’ve had powerpoints about lightning. Models of the digestive system that really work. Chemistry experiments. A life sized model of a vampire bat. Some of my favorite projects have come from students who have never before seen themselves as “smart”. Choice is a powerful tool.
2. Free choice writing: Although we are highly scripted in terms of our writing units, I do try to build in time where students have opportunities to write about their choice of topics. “Can we write made up stories?” is a common question–and the answer is yes…you can write about whatever you want. I try to work this in on the days we do Words Their Way groups so they have free writing when they are not with me…and then they know that “Free Writing” is always a smart choice if they finish other work early.
3. Creativity exercises: As the video game world seeps into our students’ brains, I feel a need to “counter” it by giving my students opportunities to “play” in different ways. I actually ended up making two different resources to help with this because SO many people felt the need to have some quick, easy to prepare activities to get their students thinking “outside the box”. There is a link to these at the bottom if you are interested.
4. Lots of opportunities for connecting art and content. We illustrate electrical circuits on the computer. We make a watercolor illustrated timeline of our state history. We design new book covers for our favorite books. We make learning posters that “Show what we know”. We make symmetry patterns. I teach them how to cut 6 pointed snowflakes and we learn about how snowflakes form. Art is a vehicle that makes connections for many students who may not learn by “sitting and getting”. Art is also the perfect vehicle to stress creativity, work quality, and how to show appreciation of the great work that other students do.
5. We laugh. A lot. Take the time to savor the small moments and enjoy each other’s company. It goes a long way. Students will work harder and longer and more effectively when they are happy–and their teacher is happy as well.
Want to check out the creativity resource illustrated above? Here is the bundled set…each is also available separately. It has become one of my best sellers!