Developing Creativity: Give Them Agency

What if a classroom looked more like an artist’s studio?

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about student agency related to creativity in the classroom. Too often art supplies get shut away in a cupboard, or worse yet, rolled down to the storage room, only to be dragged out for art lessons.

This year, I’m trying something new to me: I moved art supplies out of the cupboard and onto the counter where they are accessible to kids as they need them. In our classroom set up we talked in depth about how to use materials responsibly and, in turn, they are given freedom to use them as they see fit. This means not only are they encouraged to create during art period, but they are also encouraged to use art to express understanding in other curricular areas.

Our classroom art cart includes:

  • A variety of paint brushes
  • Water colour paint
  • Tempra paint
  • Glue
  • Tape (masking tape, painter’s tape, clear tape)
  • Pencil crayons
  • Water colour pencils
  • Art pencils of variable softness
  • Mark makers (including bamboo skewers, straws, pipe cleaners, used-up ballpoint pens, q-tips)
  • Markers (Sharpies, Crayolas, Mr. Sketch)
  • Pastels
  • Pre-cut artist trading cards in a variety of paper textures (water colour paper, bristol board, construction paper)
  • Print making supplies (foam blocks, ink)
  • Texture plates and stencils
  • Our “maker space” includes a variety of materials (bits of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.)
  • Table supplies include scissors, pencils, glue and erasers

I collected supplies over the years, holding on to bits and bobs forever (teachers are the worst hoarders, aren’t we?)

In preparation for art making, we spend time analyzing art work, being clear that it’s good to critique artist, style, and piece of work. In analyzing work, we have discussed line and colour theory and students picked out shade and tint as being something they wanted to work with.

Inevitably, almost, some students don’t use supplies properly, not out of malicious intent, but because of inexperience with the supplies (there is a technique to using a paint brush…) Students have been good about giving each other constructive feedback about art work how to use and care for supplies. I have been stunned by their willingness to make multiple drafts of work and take risks with technique and colour. We watched Austin’s butterfly, a video about using feedback in building excellence in student and the Class Dojo videos about Growth Mindset. Students have been thrilled to look at the results of their drafts.

We spent a lot of time setting up students to use their visual journals as their own. I often demonstrate something and ask that they try it but then they are free to make creative decisions about their own work.

All feedback is made in pencil or on sticky notes so that students are free to move or erase as needed. I have noticed that many students want a “perfect” draft without teacher marks on it and I respect that.

The sign for me that they take ownership is the number of them that ask to take their work home to work on it or share with parents.

If it matters that there is colour then it matters that there is artistic decision making.

 

 

Making Time for Creativity: One Second Each Day

How do we encourage creativity in the classroom?

 

Creativity in the classroom… why does it matter and how do we support students in developing creativity?

Creativity in Education-one second each day.band

Script: 1 sec every day

Links from the podcast

1 second every day

Campus Calgary Open Minds

Canada in a Day

Resources

Craig, C., Deretchin, L. (2011). Cultivating Curious and Creative Minds: The Role of Teachers and Teacher Educators, Part 2. R&L Education.

Cropley, A. (2001). Creativity in Education and Learning. Sterling, VA: Psychology Press

Egan, K. (1997). The educated mind: How cognitive tools shape our understanding. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Halliday, A. (2017). Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom.

http://www.openculture.com/2017/09/lynda-barry-on-how-the-smartphone-is-endangering-three-ingredients-of-creativity.html

Robinson. K. Aronica, L. (2009) The element : how finding your passion changes everything. New York : Penguin Books.

Zomorodi, M. (2017). How Boredom Can Lead to your Most Brilliant Ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=37&v=c73Q8oQmwzo

A Good Fit Book

“How do you know if a book is a good fit for you?” I honestly asked the question to my class and quickly lead a conversation about how a good-fit book was a lot like finding a good fit shoe. The “five finger” rule was discussed. Then off to the library we went.

And some students still had a hard time picking a book. So I thought some more about how to pick a book. After all, finding a good-fit book is a lot like finding a good fit shoe, but you don’t wear the same shoe to run a 5k as you wear to your best friend’s wedding.

Students loved this book by Oliver Jeffers!


Browse

For many of us there is a visceral pleasure in walking book stacks and browsing titles. Being the first to discover a new book with the still uncracked spine or stumbling accross a well-worn tome with someone else’s annotations in the margins. But for many kids, the library or book store is too full of books and overwhelming or a place where magic simply doesn’t live. So we need to support them as a community of readers.

 

Book sell

In my classroom, when students read something good they are encouraged to share. We save a few minutes each week for students to read aloud to one another and tell why the LOVED a book. Not for marks. Just because books are awesome and need to be shared. I also stock the classroom library with books from the school library, carefully curating for my students so that there is a little of everything. My goal in the coming months is for my students to take over the job of curating. How should we organize the library? What kinds of books should we include? What do the children in the stories look like? Where are the writers of the stories from? Why should we care?

img_3408
This project involves students by having them create an “art card” book review for a book they loved. They create a small work of art to represent the book they read and then an audio clip where they review the book. The art card becomes a trigger for the audio file by using the Aurasma app.
Ask a friend

In addition to creating formal time for sharing books (we do a breakfast book chat 4 times a year where students eat breakfast together and talk books), I think there needs to be a network of readers built into our classrooms. We come to know one another’s tastes in books and know that Kevin enjoys funny books while Jane loves sweet stories about animals. If you’re looking for your next great read ask a friend.

Keep a list

My students keep a book box and I’m asking them to keep a TBR (to be read) list at the back of their Daily 5 journals. It’s a nice way for them to keep track of what they are reading and what to read next.

Find a topic, character, or author you love

When students are looking for something to read I often send them of in the direction of an author they already know and love or to check out a section of books on a related topic.

Try a new genre

Take a risk! You might find something you love! I always knew I loved wordless books but never considered reading graphic novels. Until I did. I’ll never look back.

Read to learn

Some kids really just don’t get into fiction. And that’s ok. If a made up story isn’t turning their crank how about a good non-fiction or a historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. So what are you wondering right now?

Read for fun

We have to let students read because it’s fun and interesting and not because they will be required to report on their reading.

Use technology and social bookmarking

Social platforms allow for interaction about reading. This is to be used carefully with young readers but they can easily use a classroom “tweet” wall where they share a thought through a sticky note or a quick book talk on a closed website.

Story many ways
I have had more than one student come to me in tears because their ability to decode text did not match their ability to understand story. Wanting to read a novel but unable to access the text they felt helpless. So we tried many ways, finally settling on reading the book with the support of the audio book. This can be an especially powerful tool for our immersion students who benefit from hearing words at the same time as they see them.

Book shop

Pick a book off the shelf. Turn it over in your hands. Read the back cover and the about the author. Read a sample chapter. Give it a chance, but know that…

It’s ok to quit a book
Please don’t plod through a book you hate. If the book jumps the shark or just plain peters out it’s ok to walk away.

A word about the five finger rule

I respect this general guideline, but that’s all it is. In the end students need to understand that the goal of reading is to understand the text and I’m not sure many of them understand that, haltingly decoding their way through a book that exceeds their reading ability and confidently declaring their level but unable to talk about their book! It’s not about the number! Please let kids love books. When they stumble through it they enjoy it in a different way than when they read it for the fourth time fluently and with expression. I am living proof that I can read a book with fluency and expression and have no idea what the book says… hello bedtime stories. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes I have no idea what I just read… take chances. Read way above your level. But also take chances and read below your level and find a book that speaks to you in another way.

Happy reading everyone! I’d love to hear your ideas on how to hook kids on books!

Give them words

The further I dig into Regie Routman’s Read, Write, Leadthe more I feel that The 2 Sister’s (also hereDaily 5 and Café literacy structures help teachers meet the criteria of an effective literacy classroom. My own interest is technology-supported second-language literacy, lately with a focus on disciplinary literacy.

Read. A lot.

I always hesitated to do Daily 5 in French and English in my classroom (Grade 3 is the first time students get English Language Arts in addition to French Language Arts) because it felt like too much time “lost” to reading, but Routman suggests that teachers don’t allow students enough time to engage in uninterrupted reading. That being said, the independent reading students do must be supported by the teacher. This is a fine balance;  careful monitoring and support of student reading but not so micromanaged that it takes the joy out of it. That is the precise reason I am not a fan of home reading logs – tracking number of minutes and number of titles read in exchange for anything takes the innate joy out of reading. Reading is for fun and for information and I want my students to see it that way.

That being said, I conference with students about once a week about the books they are reading to ensure they are a good fit and that students are aware of and working towards their logical next steps.

Talk even more

In immersion, the cognitive load of students is double: not only are they acquiring the ability to interpret text, but they are also working to acquire a second language. Primary school students acquire language the same way any speaker of a language does (listen to small children learn language – every time I do I remember my love for linguistics). Students need to hear language but they also need to USE language. In our language classrooms, teachers need to ensure ours is not the only voice being heard. He who constructs the meaning does the learning; let students do the talking.

Agency and authenticity

How do you pick your next read? Are you aware of the cognitive processes that go into it? We listen to friends. We browse book stores and libraries. We dig into book reviews on Amazon. Sometimes we catch them in the wild. Sometimes we track our reading using social annotation or social reading sites like Goodreads or the local library’s tracking feature. We as teachers need to provide students with these same opportunities. The purpose of tracking reading cannot be accountability to the teacher but accountability to one’s self and working towards one’s goals. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of teaching literacy is to develop students who are able to interact independently with text for multiple purposes.

We must know our learners as readers, but, more importantly, our learners need to know themselves as readers. This is where learning management systems such as the Calgary Board of Education’s IRIS are invaluable. Students need a place to reflect on their learning and they need agency.

Translanguaging is not interlanguaging

Translanguaging involves allowing students to access their full language repertoire. Many bilinguals are not even aware that they speak multiple languages. There are simply the words used with one audience and different words used with another audience. As immersion teachers, we tend to tamp out the use of a student’s maternal language in favor of the immersion language. Immersion tends to ignore the fact that students speak other languages but if we intentionally teach them metacognitive comprehension strategies that draw upon their first language student’s literacy skills will be enhanced. We do it in our first language, amassing vocabulary throughout our lives and building upon our understanding of linguistic structures as we learn. We need to leverage this for our second-language students.

A well-stocked library and accessibility options

Learners need access to high-quality, high-interest texts that will engage them in reading. While there is a time and a place for leveled readers, I am not a fan of them personally outside of teaching specific skills. I personally distinctly remember two events in my “learning to read” life:

  1. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I dug up a copy of W.O. Mitchel‘s Who Has Seen the Wind at my local book mobile (remember the old days when library books came to rural areas on a bus?) because I remember my mom talking about how it was an important book in Saskatchewan. The librarian made me put it back because she didn’t think it was a good fit for me. Crushed, I put it back. I hadn’t actually intended on reading it but on having my mom read it to me. To this day, I have not read that book.
  2. When I must have been about 10 or 11 my mom went back to university and read Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. I found the book on the bottom shelf of the living room book shelf and settled in with it, reading the book and enjoying my mom’s annotations in the margins. Did I understand it the same way she did? Surely not. But I loved that book.

Just because a book looks like it might not be a good fit doesn’t mean that readers can’t access the story. As an adult, roughly 50% of my reading is audio books. I participate in endurance sports (and for many years participated in endurance commutes) which means that if I want to read, I have to do it while I do something else. One of my family’s favorite things to do on long road trips is to plug in an audio book. While we may not engage in close reading while doing so, we do engage in shared story. If we as teachers know that approximately 10% of our learners have difficulty accessing text, then we need to find accessibility options for our students to engage.

Above all else, our classrooms need to make space for joy in reading! If we take pleasure in books and help our students find the happiness in shared story everybody wins!

 

Digital Literacy, Multiliteracies, and Classroom Accommodations

Forgive my cross-posting. This was originally written for a class and I’m reposting here to share with those educators I frequently interact with. Thoughts welcome.

apples

When reference is made to classroom accommodations, there is often expressions of distress — concern that if the student just can’t cut it in the classroom with the “normal” expectations then there will be adjustment in the tools available or to the curricular expectations. But, if, as Cazden posits, the fundamental purpose of education is “to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community and economic life”, then providing tools for students to do the job is not an accommodation to meet their learning needs — it is part of the job of teaching. Digital tools for teaching and learning are simply the latest iteration in a long line of technological advances. When discussing a return to the “good old days of teaching and learning” the reference is not to a return to wax tablets nor to a return to one-room school houses with ink-wells and chalk and slate. To what, then, is the return to basics advocating?

Adult learners have the experience with tools to decide which tools are necessary for which jobs. While occasionally handwritten work may trump digital tools (when the writer experiences difficulty wrangling a sentence into the desired form, when the learner feels like the task is not engaging or that they are falling asleep during reading, when the learner desires a bodily-kinesthetic connection between concepts), adult learners, workers, citizens, rely heavily on digital tools for work and play. Lists are made on a phone. Reading is done from digital textbooks where the reader can highlight, annotate, and export notes, which are then turned into written responses in longer form using digital mind mapping tools to plan and google docs to write, wordpress to publish, share and interact.

Digital voice assistant-controlled software, including Siri and Google, are frequently used to interact with devices. Of iPhone users, 98% have used Siri to interact with their phones, although a smaller percentage use a digital assistant regularly. “Hey Siri!” or “Ok, Google” have already become common vernacular among young learners. Blog posts, essays, letters, and emails can be dictated via talk-to-text tools that are fast approaching the accuracy of humans, although there remains reluctance to engage in voice engagement with digital tools while in public. Yet classroom educators continue to insist that if a child cannot write with pencil and paper with flawless spelling and grammar with only the support of a photocopied graphic organizer as an outline tool and a ten-pound-brick of a dictionary that they cannot write and the hand wringing begins.

As stakeholders in education, let’s  let go of the double standard and denying tools to learners until after they have mastered “the basics”. Luke and Luke assert that competence with one domain is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies and “that the crises of print literacy and their preferred ameliorative social strategies are being used as a nodal point in public discourse both to delay and sublimate the emergence of new educational paradigms around multiliteracies, around new blended forms of textual and symbolic practice and affiliated modes of identity and social relations” (Luke and Luke p. 96). The paradigm shift will happen with us or without us.

As in the 70s with the introduction of calculators into calculus classrooms there was considerable concern that the new technology would suppress learners’ abilities to master the basics. Calculators are now standard tools in the classroom and there is an app that can easily read and solve handwritten complex equations. The work of classrooms is not to deny learners access to tools that facilitate learning and working with information but to teach them “to be information literate, […] to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, p18)

References:

American Library Association (ALA) (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Cazden, C. Cope, B. Fairclough, N. Gee, J. et. al. (1996) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. http://newarcproject.pbworks.com/f/Pedagogy%2Bof%2BMultiliteracies_New%2BLondon%2BGroup.pdf

Clark, B. (2016). Microsoft’s Speech Recognition is now just as accurate as humans. The Next Web. http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2016/10/18/microsofts-speech-recognition-is-now-just-as-accurate-as-humans/

Dobson, T. & WIlinsky, J. Digital Literacy.

Leswig, K. (2016) Here’s why people don’t use Siri regularly, even though 98% of iPhone users have tried it. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/98-of-iphone-users-have-tried-siri-but-most-dont-use-it-regularly-2016-6

Luke, A., & Luke, C. (2001). Journal of early childhood literacy: Adolescence Lost/Childhood regained: On early intervention and the emergence of the techno-subject. Sage Publications.