- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
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Monkey, my three-year-old, "wrote" a dinosaur song a couple of weeks ago. He drew shapes and letters and has it sitting on the piano. He will play and sing his song, very proud of himself. Princess, my seven-year-old, is constantly creating. She writes stores and draws pictures. I am forever finding creations around the house and her room is full of papers. Why do we, as educators, let this slip away?
Too many classrooms are overwhelmed with anchor charts and following directions. Creativity is often stifled and individual thinking is not celebrated. I have an art center in my fourth grade classroom. I don't have "art center" as a designated time, but I have an area with stencils, fancy scissors, crayons, markers, papers, envelopes, yarn and other craft type items. This area is open for students anytime we are working. Students use these items throughout the day and it allows them to be creative. Creativity is celebrated in my classroom and it is easy to do.
So, what do YOU need to do in your classroom? Think about three things: focus, tools and management. These three areas will allow you to provide opportunities for students to think creatively and use their creativity in classroom assignment and projects. Think about how your classroom is set up, what your expectations are and allow students to explore.
1. Focus--classrooms today are moving to student focused learning. Teachers have the responsibility to set the stage and provide the materials, but students and their learning should be the focus of instruction. No longer is the teacher the great and powerful in the classroom. There is a balance of giving students information and direct instruction to being a coach for students. Practice and hands on learning should be taking place while you float and give meaningful feedback. For some of us this is an easy transition while for others it is a scary leap. Student focused learning is about allowing students to explore and use their creativity to learn. Your role is more important now as your provide what students needs and allow them to go.
2. Tools--students today have the world at their fingertips. Technology is a wonderful tool and we need to provide students with meaningful apps, website and resources. It is also important to provide them with "stuff". Preschool teachers know and understand the importance of allowing students to practice using tools. We should not lose that in elementary or even secondary classrooms. Make sure your classroom has the supplies students will need in their learning. I have rulers, cards, dice, base-10 blocks, shapes, multiplication tables, scales, graduated cylinders and other tools in our math area. Dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, library books, maps, atlas, sticky notes, highlighters, pencils and other print resources relevant to our subjects are in the research/reading area. Glue, scissors, markers, paper, crayons and craft supplies are organized in our art area. Students needs tools to learn. Providing them with these tools gives them opportunities for creativity and thinking in new ways. It makes their learning personal, meaningful and therefore impactful. Tools for learning today are the things our students need to create.
3. Management--setting up clear expectations for procedures, learning and behavior is the key to watching creativity be explored in your classroom. In the beginning of the year it is important to be clear in how learning looks. You can't just throw kids into a student centered classroom. But, if you model and work through projects in the beginning of the year you will be able to slowly turn that control over to students. I keep students who need more guidance and coaching at the table. They still make many decisions, but they need more checking in with me. We also have expectations for behavior that are clearly stated. Be purposeful in your procedures, clear in your learning objectives and explicitly teach behavior to allow students to unleash their creativity in your classroom.
Having an area with tools students need for creativity is important. We need to continue to help students develop their creativity and individual personalities. I want the citizens and leaders of tomorrow to be able to look at problems from different angles and think creatively to problems solve. Maybe if our leaders had these capabilities our nation would look different. We need to practice and develop these skills in our classrooms today.