23 February 2012

Student Choice and Interest

Let’s learn from these projects—non-examples of student choice and interest in the classroom.  At the end of the post, you will be encouraged to deconstruct these class projects and offer suggestions for revamping to promote authentic student interest and choice.
Hatchet Projects—choose one!
Make a poster that lists all the items Brian had with him when the plane crashed.  Circle the item that was most important for Brian.  Then neatly write one complete paragraph explaining why you circled that item.  Color your poster with colors that represent symbols in the book. 
Make a powerpoint that has 5 slides displaying each of the items Brian had with him when the plane crashed.  Highlight in yellow the item that was most important to Brian.  Then write one complete paragraph explaining why you highlighted that item.  Use clip art to represent symbols in the book.

Why are these class projects non-examples of student choice and interest in the classroom?  What does creativity in the classroom look like? 

Creativity in the classroom doesn’t mean schoolwork needs to be colored with a crayon or drawn on construction paper.  When we are creative we move beyond traditional ideas and approaches, and we discover alternative ways of thinking and doing. 

We need to teach students to use knowledge to solve complex real-world problems and to create projects, designs, and other works for use in real-world situations based on their own interests.  We need to allow students to be adaptable and flexible in their learning.  Having the right answer isn’t as important as thinking about the process used to reach the answer.

Practical ideas for teachers with many students
  • Keep a journal electronically or in a notebook where you record any ideas you have.  Model your own journal writing and write with students.  Have students keep an idea book or electronic journal, too.
  • Challenge students to think for themselves.  Compliance is not a friend of creativity.
  • Ask more open ended questions.  Use wrong answers as learning experiences, and encourage students to be curious and ask questions.
  • Make sure students are creating and building on original thoughts and ideas.
It’s possible to teach any class (even an art class) without any creativity, if students don’t do any creating.
  • Even if teaching a prescribed and required scripted program, you could be creative with your approach to teaching it, and you could allow your students to imagine and create.
  • Respect originality and uniqueness in student work and thinking.  Don’t expect every student paper or project to be on the same topic or written with the same ideas in the same format.

Practical ideas for administrators responsible for many teachers and students
  •  Model creativity and thinking for teachers and students when solving problems in the school.
  • Allow teachers to approach curriculum in meaningful ways to engage students in the creative process.
  • Model the importance of asking thoughtful questions which may have more than one right answer.  Learn from wrong answers.
  • Encourage and allow for teacher autonomy.
The best ideas for parents encouraging creativity come from my friend, Gwyn, who blogs about creativity and about how she allows her children to follow their own interests and passions.  Even if you are not a homeschooling family, there is much to be learned from Gwyn.  Remember being creative is about original thoughts and new approaches—that’s what you will see from Gwyn, and I’m sure she would rather we all find our own original thoughts than copy hers.  Check out her blog for some creative inspiration for your home and family.

If you click over to Gwyn’s blog, I hope you will return here to engage in deconstruction of the Hatchet projects.  How could they be revamped?  Please post your suggestions in the comments section below.