Fostering Creativity

Last year I showed my students Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk about schools killing creativity and we had a discussion about whether they agreed or disagreed with his argument. Every student felt that during their school day, creativity was definitely NOT a skill that their teachers were trying to foster. Sadly, many felt that even their own parents killed their creativity, as they were told not to pursue their love of music or art, as it would not provide a stable income for them in the future. Right about this time, we were finalizing our study of the allegory, Animal Farm. I figured the best way for students to understand the purpose of the genre was to write their own allegories and I made it a goal to encourage both written and artistic creativity. It was a huge success, so this is now a unit I implement every year.

During the process, I encourage students to either develop a movie or book plot that symbolizes a historical event of their choosing. The steps include researching the historical event, diagramming plot, writing a scene or chapter passage, designing a book cover or movie trailer and presenting to the class.

Unnamed image (39)

Outline for Project HERE.

Student Outline Sample #1

Student Outline Sample #2

Sample Book Covers:

Allegory Book Cover
Mixture of both hand drawn illustration and electronic text
Unnamed image (31)
Made with Canva
Unnamed image (32)
Mixture of both hand drawn illustration and electronic text

Sample Presentations:


A¬†huge part of fostering student creativity is offering students choice. This year, I had students ask if they could use certain tech tools and or create book trailers instead of book covers, and my response was always “go for it!” Sir Ken Robinson says “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it;” our job as teachers in the 21st century is to reverse this trend and the only way to do so is to make a conscious effort to design learning environments that “educate [our students]” into “their ¬†creative capacities.”

Robinson, Ken Sir. “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Conference. CA, Monterey. 2 Feb. 2009. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.

Advertisements

Let’s Take a Walk Down My Writing Lane

During my unit, Power, Leadership and Change, my students write a literary response essay about the novel, Animal Farm. My goals are to improve their thesis and topic sentence development, along with their quote integration. Here are the steps we have taken during the writing process. Now that I am looking at the final products, I realize I still have work to do; therefore, I am adding a new step and continuing the revision process.

1. Thesis Throwdown

I have six prompts to choose from and students work in Lit Circles to develop thesis statements for each prompt. See my post about this step here. The idea was inspired by Catlin Tucker’s blog post. Check it out!

2. Rough Draft Document w/ Model Essay

I use Doctopus to share a document that breaks down each step of the essay (this can be done w/ Google Classroom). On the document, I have a model RTL essay about another piece of literature written by a previous anonymous student. After Thesis Throwdown, students work on their RTL introductions on this document.

Sample RTL Intro

3. Introduction Gallery Walk

The next morning, I get to school early and print six anonymous introductions written the night before by the students (I have access because I sent out the Docs via Doctopus; you can do this w/ Google Classroom). I attach these to what I call my “parking lots” and Lit Circles walk around critiquing the introductions. I then randomly ask one to two students per Lit circle to share our “areas of growth” as  introduction writers. I then require students to open up their Google Documents and revise, paying attention to  these “areas of growth.”

4. Topic Sentence Class Give and Get

Once students have revised introductions, they write their body paragraphs one at a time. After writing their first body paragraph, I print out anonymous topic sentences written by my students the night before (a class set- 35 different topic sentences). As a student enters the class, I hand them a topic sentence. During the Give and Get, students try to meet up with as many students as possible to get feedback on how best to revise the topic sentence assigned to them. After about five minutes, students report to their Lit Circle parking lot and decide whose topic sentence has the most room for growth (this may or may not be a topic sentence written by a group member). They then attach it to their parking lot and revise it as a group. Representatives from each Lit Circle then share the original sentence and revised version. After this process, students then sit down, open their Google Documents and revise their own topic sentences that were written the night before. Finally, I assign the writing of their next body paragraphs with time to write in class.

5. Quote Clash

This activity is much like Thesis Throwdown. The goal is to help students write clear quote sandwiches as evidence to prove their thesis statements. I share a Google Document with the Lit Circles that has room for six quote sandwiches. I then one at a time display a quote on the screen and Lit Circles have six minutes to write a quote sandwich (context, smoothly integrated quote, and analysis). When the timer goes off, a secretary then posts the quote sandwich on the class Padlet wall. Groups then must vote for the quote sandwich that is the strongest. If their vote matches mine, they earn a bonus point. Throughout the process, I stop to discuss strengths and areas of growth of the quote sandwiches posted to the Padlet wall. This activity occurs before a revision day, where students then must review and revise their quote sandwiches, paying close to attention to pointers discussed during Quote Clash.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

6. GoFormative Assessment and Revision

I love using GoFormative to have students score class writing and make revisions. I will add screenshots of student writing and ask students to score with a rubric (4 point scale) to see if  they have the ability to recognize what makes strong writing. I  screenshot samples of low, middle and high writing and ask students to explain their scores and/or revise the sample writing to make it stronger.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

7. Score w/ Student Goobric

On the day the RTL was due, students used the Student Goobric extension to self-assess their writing with our school Literary Response rubric. This was my first time trying it out and we did have some hiccups, but for those students that had no technical issues, it was beneficial to give time for reflection. The students that had technical issues used a printed version of the rubric, which is not as convenient for me, since I have to have these with me while I am grading. With the Student Goobric extension, wherever I am with my technology, I have the ability to see their self-assessment.

On this day, I also had them highlight their thesis statement and topic sentences and leave me a feedback question with a comment explaining which activity helped their writing the most. I will use this feedback to guide my lesson planning during our next writing process.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

8. Offering Feedback with Kaizena

Because my students left me specific questions about their essays, I wanted to be sure I spent time giving adequate feedback. However, I realized as I started the process that this was going to be quite time consuming (130+ students). I tried opening the documents and offering feedback with the Google Voice Typing, but I found that it often misspelled my words, which was even more time consuming to fix. My Digital Learning Coach mentioned Kaizena, so I played with it this weekend. I sent out a Remind 101, offering students a few bonus points if they joined my Kaizena classes. I also added the shortcut addon to my Google Document app (this allows me to add student papers to Kaizena even if a student hasn’t added himself/herself to my class yet). Yesterday, I offered feedback to at least 40 students from home. I LOVED the voice comments capability and the ability to add lessons. There are curated lessons, but you can also add your own. I have links to my favorite videos/pdfs/web resources for skills such as quote integration, analysis, thesis statement writing, etc. With my added lessons, I can highlight the students’ text in their essay and quickly provide them with a link to the resource.

Kaizena

Because what’s most important to me is my students’ writing growth, I am going to extend the due date after I have provided feedback to ALL my students in Kaizena…this is a long Writer’s Lane, but I am sure the walk will be well worth it!

 

 

Fall in Love with Reading

Our English Department requires students to read at least one ORB (outside reading book) a semester, along with reading the grade level novels on our curriculum guides. Last year I noticed because the ORB reading ended in one culminating project, my students either “fake read” or rushed to finish a book at the last minute. I was fortunate enough to attend the UCI December Conference for Teachers and the keynote speakers were Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle…I know, awesome, right? Both Gallagher and Kittle make reading in class  a priority because as Kittle suggests “engagement leads to volume leads to rigor.” The more time and encouragement we offer students to fall in love with books, the more likely they will read more and then in turn try more challenging texts. Following the conference, I made outside reading a priority. Here’s what I did:

1. In Class Time for Reading

I tried my best to offer 15 minutes each day solely to the reading of their ORBs. This was my opening activity and as soon as the bell rang, I stared my One Click Timer and everyone read quietly until the timer went off.

2. Reading Conferences

Taking the idea from Gallagher, I created a Student Reading Conference journal and called up about 3-4 students each period to talk about their reading. During this time, I learned what types of books my students loved, their favorite genres, and discussed the plots of their current books. Not surprisingly, many students said they enjoyed reading, but with all their homework and extracurricular activities they had stopped reading for enjoyment. Several of my  Honors freshmen explained that the last time they had read a book out of their own volition and not because it was a class assignment was in upper elementary or sixth grade. The conferences were extremely valuable as I felt it also helped me establish stronger relationships with each student in my class.

3. Book Clubs

Also inspired by Kittle and Gallagher, this past month, I assigned students to Book Clubs. I selected six books for the students to choose from and asked students to complete a Google form ranking their top choices; to help, I supplied a brief synopsis of each book and links to book reviews to make ranking easier. I used the results to assign students to Book Clubs in each period. Most students were assigned to their  first or second choice.

Students met once a week in Book Clubs to discuss their reactions. Each week, I provided guided questions to help support their conversations, along with assigning one task. These questions and tasks were shared on Google Slides during each Book Club meeting.

Meeting Foci (we had 4 meetings total):

  1. First Impressions
  2. Character Analysis
  3. Passage Annotation
  4. Theme/ Character Analysis (Final Meeting)
    Sample Book Talk Slides (1)
    These are samples of tasks completed during Book Club meetings via Google Slides.
    Today was our final Book Club meeting and I tried for the first time a Fictional Twitter Account activity I discovered on Twitter (ironic?). Tony Vincent tweeted this blog post. Check it out! The students made a copy of the Google Drawing template and then once they were done, downloaded the file as a JPEG and uploaded it to our Google Slides. Their creativity was astounding! As I circulated the room, I heard giggles and conversations such as “that character would say that!” How awesome to observe students having fun while they critically thought about the characters in their Book Club books.

Unnamed image (29)
Book: Out of Reach

Unnamed image (25)
Book: Unwind
 

Unnamed image (26)
Book: Shattering Glass

Unnamed image (30)
Book: 13 Reasons Why
Unnamed image (27)

Unnamed image (28)
Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Next week, my students who read Out of Reach will get to Skype with the author, Carrie Arcos during lunch. This will be my first time Skyping in the classroom, so I am super excited!

I don’t yet know how I plan to follow up Book Clubs, but I do know that I care about making the love of reading in my class a priority and I hope when students leave my class this year they will be able to say that they fell in love with at least one book!