I made a decision yesterday and I can’t wait to act on it. Sit down for this newsflash–I made the decision that I am going to relax. I am going to do what I have known in my heart for 20+ years of teaching is right–and I am going to do a better job relaxing, “kid watching”, and bringing some more fun and joy into my classroom. I am going to do this by encouraging more creative thinking in my classroom! I’m going to find ways to work more activities that promote creativity. Isn’t that exciting?
Wait–what about our standards?
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not talking about abandoning our standards. I’m not talking about ignoring our district’s mandated curriculum or units. Far from it. What I have decided to do is TRUST myself to take what I know about children and to deliberately and mindfully build more time and activities into my day to nurture creative thought and action. It pays off–I know it does. I’ve seen it for years.
Kids who are encouraged (and taught, really, at times) to use creative thinking are happier at school. They are more productive at school. They approach problems and learning with a sense of enthusiasm. In other words–time invested in teaching creativity pays off tenfold when it comes to the “rigor” of the rest of the curriculum!
Creative thinking and risk taking
I like to think my students know I value this…we talk about risk-taking and “thinking outside the box”. I try to model language such as “Wow–I never thought of it like that!” and “I am so impressed with how you tried a new way to do it!”. But after really, truly, deeply thinking about it–I realize that I am not building in enough opportunities for students to practice what I have been preaching.
So here’s what I’ve decided. Even though it’s a little “artificial”, I am going to budget in at least one, 20 minute creativity time a week that is purely a chance for students to explore their own creativity. I’m going to use some of my own resources for this for now…but I am going to really be keeping my eyes open for games, activities, and other resources that can help me get my students to be more flexible with their thinking. When I do my unit planning, I am going to work to be more deliberate about incorporating higher-level skills that will push my students and get them excited about what we do.
Slow down to go fast
I’ve also started to do some thinking about next year and how I’m going to structure my days, weeks, and months. I dabbled with Genius Hour this year–and next year I am going to dive in headfirst. I know that it was my own disorganization and poor planning that made it less than amazing this year. In addition, I know that I am going to Slow. Down. I’m going to model how to SAVOR learning…how to let myself think–so that when I speak or write or do that it is my personal best and is interesting and worth saying, writing, or doing. I’m going to help my students see that different isn’t bad–different is just….different. And different can be really amazing. I’m going to show them that there is a time for predictable and a time for unique–and they have to learn when each is appropriate.
How do we build in time for creative thinking?
I’m going to build in more time for sharing–sharing personal stories, sharing quality or creative or amazing (for WHATEVER reason!) work. I want students to see that they can notice when amazing work happens–and they can share it with others…whether it’s their own work or the work of others. Also, I want them to feel like we have a real learning community where we can celebrate together and share our successes and disappointments and can LOVE learning together. I need to think about how I am going to make sure this “climate” fills our learning space every single day.
So…I could go on and on. This is probably just the first of many “musing posts” that will happen over the next months. Are you like that? Is mid-April the time when the rest of you do what I do–start to think about what you didn’t do well enough this year and look forward to NEXT year when you can “right the wrongs”? It’s hard to live with one foot in this year and one foot in the next…but I’m going to do what I can this year and then next year–watch out world!
Let me share some examples…
To get me started, I’m going to tell you the top 5 6 moments of my day today–and I would LOVE to hear a few of YOUR top moments. Let’s share some of the highlights…it’s just too easy to focus on the low moments. In no particular order…today’s moments of greatness!
1. I started reading “Wonder”. We are 10 pages in to the book, and 22 people in my room are better people than they were 10 pages ago. Seriously. The book has had an impact in TEN pages.
2. Our informational text research is going SWIMMINGLY. Every child has a topic with an “angle” they feel good about. Every child was engaged for an hour of team research, sharing, and post-it writing. It was energizing.
3. 5 students who have REALLY been struggling with division had an epiphany after I did some work with them on the SmartBoard. By infinitely cloning a star, I was able to drag a big collection and then “pull” groups out of it. They are really “seeing” that division is pulling equal groups out–the foundation for partial quotients.
4. I had a reluctant learner laughing so hard she cried today. Real tears. Victory.
5. My students had done a creativity activity that I had made and one said, “I don’t know where you got these sheets–but I hope you can get more.” Melted me. (If you are interested, I will put the links below under my signature)
6. My principal brought me 2 candy bars and told my students that I really love chocolate…and that I wasn’t allowed to share it. She stayed a few minutes and the students told her about “Wonder”. I felt valued. It doesn’t take much…it really doesn’t.
So…let’s hear it! I know I’ve rambled…haven’t done one of these “soul searching” posts for a while! I want you to think about how you are working creativity activities into YOUR day. Think about how you can get students excited about learning again–even if it’s just a quick exercise in creative thinking!
Want to pin this creativity in the classroom post to use later?