The Stanford Creativity: Music to my Ears online class has me thinking a lot about creativity. One big take-away is that creativity is something that takes practice. When someone says, “I’m just not creative” it means that they have not practiced being creative enough to feel confident about it.
When this describes whole organization it’s truly a problem. In an article titled Working Creativity, by Mark Batey a case is made for creativity at the heart of the skill sets needed for the future.
As a teacher creativity is a skill that I try to bring out in my students. One strategy that has really made a difference for me is the use of interactive notebooks. Right now students are using them to write research papers and I am really excited about how well they keep everyone focused and moving along. I’ve designated each page of the notebook to be one baby step in the process and tried to encourage students to both be creative and to follow directions.
I’ll be posting photos from our unit, but first I thought I would share a few resources that I’ve been stalking for inspiration…
Dawn Miller at IBTEACHINU Language Arts
Randy Seldomridge at The Middle School Mouth
Katie at Following my Heart to First Grade
Brandon Elizabeth Hebert at New Teacher Resources
If you have others website to suggest or ideas for how to develop creativity through interactive notebooks I’d love to hear about them – please pass them on!
I’m preparing to teach a mini class on study skills this year. There’s lots of great things to cover. I’m having a blast reading and learning and being the student so that I can model great things in the fall. I know this makes me especially nerdy – but that’s okay.
As I define the topics I want to cover, I realize that many of the articles I’ve been reading would be perfectly appropriate for my middle school students to read. Doing so would provide an opportunity:
- to respond to non-fiction in their journals and blogs,
- do their own investigating, and
- provide an authentic opportunity to teach web site evaluation.
This all seems so obvious, but I am enjoying my “ahhh moment” so much that I thought I’d share the template I just created:
Reading Response Journals – Responding to Non-fiction Articles
After reading the article, use the following template to respond in your journal:
- URL: _________________________________________________________________
- Is the author’s contact information included? YES_____ NO_____
- Author’s Name ____________________________________________
- Are the author’s credentials given? (education, position) YES_____ NO_____
- Is there a known organization or institution associated with or sponsoring the site? YES_____ NO_____
- Name of organization or institution:________________________________
- Is the Web site designed to teach you something? YES_____ NO_____
- Is the website an .edu, .org, .gov, or .com? _________
- What is the purpose of the Web site? (Is it to entertain, persuade, educate, or sell?)
- Does the author try to persuade you in any way? How?
- Quickly try to identify the facts from the opinions. Make a list.
- What new information did you learn?
- Were there any photographs, charts, graphs, or diagrams that were important?
- After reading, what unanswered questions do you have? What are you curious about?
- What connections did you make with the information provided?
- What is your opinion of the author’s (or interviewee’s thesis)? Do agree or disagree with the point of the article?
Okay – feedback, ideas, advise?
This summer I began keeping a reading log. Inspired by a pretty notebook, I began writing all the thoughts that come up as I read. It’s not formal. There are doodles and notes, quotes and questions. In addition to books, when checking out a blog or in a discussion that seems relevant to my reading life I’ve found myself pulling out my notebook to record that too.
So today when I happened upon Jessica Johnson’s Sharing my Reading Life blog I just had to smile. In her blog she shares a batch of ideas on how her reading log has inspired her students and teachers to read.
Isn’t it cool when you happen upon the next stepping-stone in a journey? It’s like stopping at the gas station and receiving directions to your next destination before you even get a chance to ask.
Similar to Johnson, when I talk about books other readers and soon-to-be readers share what they are reading or what they want to read. I do talk a lot about books. My fellow teachers pass books around, I’m in a book club with my girlfriends, and I love seeking out books that my husband and I will both enjoy reading. I also know that the more I get my students reading the better they do in all their classes.
Johnson has taken my inspiration to the next level. In addition to a notebook of reading inspired thoughts – I think it’s a great ideas to keep a record of what I am reading, when, and what kind of book it is. Like Johnson I believe this will help me see and understand my own reading habits and be better able to share and model them with my kids and my students.
In fact, the kids and their cousins just spent a weekend together. Between swimming and firefly catching, there was lots of reading. My sister and I are both teachers, but we didn’t have to do anything to inspire them except load them up with books and time. The questions and ideas they shared sounded just like the book group discussion I enjoy with my friends. Now I wonder what would happen if I handed them each a journal for writing and doodling and remembering…?
I think I’ll do that right after I finish Forged by Laurie Halse Anderson as I promised it to a student who saw me reading and writing about it at the pool last week. Happy reading!
If you want to visit Jessica Johnson you’ll find her @PrincipalJ on Twitter and at Reflections from an Elementary School Principal on blogger.
Sunday’s Teacherswrite! featured a reflection from Jenn at Fountain Reflection. She wrote about her three epiphanies related to teaching writing in the classroom. They stem from her experience writing at an institute where she realized how intimidating it is to share writing and just how difficult the writing process can be. Her third revelation really struck a chord for me.
I’ve been struggling to get my students to turn in solid writing. Sometimes completed work is so far from what I was looking for that I struggle to grade it. “Answer the following question in a well-developed paragraph…” especially coming from the social studies teacher, can baffle students.
“Does she know about capital letters?” I imagine them asking. They are always shocked and alarmed when it turns out I do.
“Wait, you’re not the English teacher. That’s English not geography. Why do we have to spell right in here?”
I actually feel apologetic when I tell them my original degree was in English. The group moan echoes down the hallway, but the writing still does not get better.
So it’s within this context that I am inspired by Jenn’s experience. She explained that teaching writing was her weakness because she wasn’t truly teaching writing; “I was telling students what to do, then correcting them when it wasn’t done correctly. I wasn’t modeling that writing is a difficult process. I wasn’t modeling what good writing should look like from beginning to end.”
Understanding how important it is for students to see the teacher doing and modeling the target task is clearly a better way to teach. Just telling them what to do inevitably leaves questions and anxiety in the minds of even the most intuitive students. Frequently, I’ve had them come in to show me work they are nervous to turn into another teacher, wondering, “Do you think this is good enough? I’m not really sure what she wants.” A clear model would give them the framework for success and cut down on the hours of correcting work that does not meet expectations.
My idea journal is filling with ideas… if you want to read more visit: Teach Mentor Texts