Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creativity in the classroom...and my crazy musings

Got a beverage?  Are you in comfy clothes?  Got a snack?  This got a bit long and wordy...in fact, it is the kind of thing that usually happens in my head while I drive to work...or go grocery shopping...or wake up at 2:00 AM.  Bad news.  I'm making you read it this time!
I made a decision yesterday and I can't wait to act on it.  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.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not talking about abandoning the CCSS.  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 be creative 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!

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.
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.  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.
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.  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!

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 to hear something AMAZING from your day!  Comment on my post...how you think I'm nuts...ANYTHING!  Let's see if can "reinspire" each other to get through these last months before we put BOTH feet into our new year's planning!  





9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. It feels good to know that I am not the only one who feels this way. More and more I feel like there is no joy in my classroom. I had to take a hard look at what I was doing and make things more fun. Right now I am trying to add art into everything.
    One of the best parts of my day was when one of my students who speaks limited English raised his hand and participated. The class actually clapped for him!

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    1. That's SO cool! I had a really shy student last year who IN MAY joined a kickball game and made a play...the kids all clapped too! Proud moments...

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  2. Love this post! Yes, this is the time of year I start thinking about what I will do differently next year. We're on vacation this week, but I've been spending time in my room getting some things ready to try for next week, and after our state math tests in a few weeks, I plan to start trying some more things out that I have had in my mind! I can't wait to try some of your Thinking Outside the Box activities. I actually just got Wonder and was debating between it and Holes (personal favorite) for my next/final read aloud book....I think you've swayed me. =) Do you have a Marbles Brain Store near you? They have fantastic activities for creative thinking...they host a monthly Teacher Tuesday and give away a free game or activity with lesson plans. I've been stocking up! =)

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    1. You will NOT regret reading Wonder. Make sure to tell the kids at some point HOW the story cam to be...pretty moving. I do NOT have a Marbles Brain Store...investigating! Thanks, Laura!

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  3. I so needed this! You have put into words the thoughts that have been floating around in my head for some time. I'm keeping this post for my inspiration for next year's planning!

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  4. My amazing moment.... I have a third grade ELL student who was struggling with writing personal narratives. We have daily writing minilessons, but she seemed to be having difficulty "putting the pieces together". Therefore, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to sit with her 1-on-1 and go through the entire process of writing a personal narrative. It took several class periods to do, but she was so proud of her story when she was finished. I was nervous, however, that she would still have difficulty when she had to write a story without me sitting beside her talking her through the process.

    The amazing moment happened this past Thursday. She had been working independently on her new personal narrative for several days. When I checked in with her on Thursday, her story looked amazing!!! She had put to use so many of the pieces that we had talked about (she had obviously internalized the process of writing a PN)!! Her story was organized, focused, and included emotion!! Hooray!!!

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  5. Wonderful post. I'd like my classroom to be full of creative learning all the time too! Going to keep working at it :)

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  6. I LOVE this post! I have been feeling the same way!! The best part of my day was when one of the kids told a struggling learner that they would like to learn how to be creative from her! She just lit right up! Creativity is her strength! Taking time to enjoy the blessing of children...good advice.

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  7. Oh, Meg. I just adore you! I have bookmarked this post so that, after testing, there will be room enough in my brain to read your wonderfulness again. My favorite one was "laughed until she cried..." YAY, Meg!

    Kim
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

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