Supporting Creativity Through Interactive Notebooks

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

 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!

 

 

 

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Music to the Rescue! Assignment 3 of Creativity: Music to My Ears

 

I’ve been participating in an online Creativity course hosted by Tina Seelig at Stanford University. Seelig is the author of inGenius, a book I am also reading. Rather than do the assignments online, i’ve decided to do them with my students. However, this week we are on Easter break, so I drafted my four children ages 7- 13 to help brain storm.

Here is the assignment:

Clearly define – a problem that you want to solve. It can be a personal problem or a social problem. Be careful to frame the problem thoughtfully so that it isn’t too narrow or too broad. Make sure to read the paragraph above about picking a brainstorming topic, and watch the Reframing video for guidance on this.

Once your team has framed a problem, together you should brainstorm to generate at least 100 ideas for ways that MUSIC can help solve that problem.

We decided to think about how music can be used at school to develop literacy – especially in middle school students and this is what we came up with…

  1. Listen to Pandora study music when reading.
  2. Compare reading music to reading text.
  3. Have students make book trailers with music in the background.
  4. Study famous song lyrics as poetry.
  5. Get an MP3 song for every book read in a school year.
  6. Read about music history.
  7. Read and watch a musical.
  8. Create a classroom musical based on a book.
  9. Teach students to “read” music.
  10. Create music typewriter game – Maybe a iPad App.
  11. Play book based move themes during reading time (Harry Potter is a favorite).
  12. Create multi-sensory phonics games for struggling readers.
  13. Read about events sited within songs (We Didn’t Start the Fire would be an example).
  14. Teach students how to write their own songs.
  15. Make games where note letters spell words.
  16. Make a song to learn the steps of the writing process.
  17. Use songs to learn vocabulary words.
  18. Make a jingle for a book read.
  19. Create word puzzle using notes to write a paragraph.
  20. Attach a CVC code to classroom books where students find similar theme in books and songs.
  21. Writing prompt – Choose a song and write about what it means.
  22. Choose a book and brainstorm songs that could make it a musical (Mary Poppins is an example)
  23. Write a sentence using only the letters A-G – then play the sentence on the piano.
  24. Read about famous composers.
  25. Learn to play an instrument.
  26. Use rhythm to teach fluency.
  27. Use percussion instruments when reading poetry.
  28. Use percussion instrument to learn phonics – sounding out word parts.
  29. Play author musical chairs.
  30. Keep a journal for music practice.
  31. Learn about music during different eras.
  32. Study musical styles and compare them to parts of the book.
  33. Compare music eras to art and literature written at the same time.
  34. Write a jingle to learn the parts of speech.
  35. Match note names to notes on the staff.
  36. Let students sign for oral assessments.
  37. Make a scavenger hunt based on solving musical riddles.
  38. Make up rhyming songs
  39. Make up alliteration songs
  40. Find vocabulary words in songs.
  41. Songs often have a pattern – like A B A C – Write a story using a music pattern.
  42. Put memoires to music.
  43. Write the refrain to your research paper – Put your thesis statement to music.
  44. Give speeches about composers.
  45. Find songs about the topic you are learning about in a class.
  46. Write lyrics / poetry using new vocabulary.
  47. Play classical music during free writes.
  48. Sing along with recordings of literacy-based songs
  49. Write a poem or reflection about how a piece of music makes you feel.
  50. Study with music to help with recall.
  51. Let students play games on websites like San Francisco Symphony Kids, Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids, or New York Philharmonic Kids
  52. Compare and contract the emotions of a character to popular songs.
  53. Study the brain science behind how music literacy helps reading.
  54. Study how music affects emotions (scary music in a movie for example).
  55. Use music vocabulary and dynamics to improve reading fluency.
  56. Let students listen to music without words when studying or working independently.
  57. Mix music literacy stations in with classroom language arts stations.
  58. Learn about storytellers and how they use music.
  59. Invite a composer as a guest speaker to compare music and literature revision strategies.
  60. Mark a speech with dynamics symbols for how the speaker is to present.
  61. Read and listen to storybooks based on song lyrics (Puff the Magic Dragon).
  62. Research the history behind holiday songs.
  63. Perform music in public as a way to feel confident giving presentations.
  64. Learn about different cultures though global music styles.
  65. Draw to music.
  66. Teach preschool students nursery rhythms
  67. Reflect on visualization from music compared to imagining a character or setting.
  68. Compare book genres to music genres.
  69. Study religion and history through music.
  70. Discuss the influence that a song can have on a culture.
  71. Conduct and report on a survey that studies music preferences.
  72. Analyze the author / composer purpose (To persuade, inform, entertain, explain).
  73. Analyze how a song is organized – Comparison / contrast, chronological, argument / support.
  74. Analyze word choice in songs.
  75. Compare dynamics to punctuation and conventions.
  76. Talk to composers and songwriter about where they get their ideas.
  77. Work on music pitch to build phonological awareness (in first and second languages).
  78. Study historic events through song re-makes (The Too Late to Apologize uTube video with the Founding Fathers)
  79. Compare the 6 traits of writing to the traits of music.
  80. Compare effective repetition in music and literature.
  81. Analyze how variety keeps interest.
  82. Compare and contract two musician’s voices
  83. How to musician improvise? What does this teach us about writing or speaking?
  84. Analyze chord tones compared to word choice.
  85. Why did the composer choose a certain note / chord? (Saving Mr. Banks movie – Spoon Full of Sugar – the unexpected – note goes up).
  86. Compare sentence fluency to melody – how do rhythm and flow add to a text?
  87. Consider transitions between themes and sections of music – compare them to transition words in writing.
  88. Create a KWL chart for a popular song
  89. Give student examples of fluent reading and with expression.
  90. Listen to Disney songs and look for clues about character traits.
  91. Practice unison reading to improve listening and pacing.
  92. Create classroom chants for hard to remember concepts.
  93. Play music between classes that is fun and inspirational.
  94. Compare sight-reading strategies to reading aloud.
  95. Compare song titles and book titles to anticipate what it’s about.
  96. Create a web or mind-map of a song.
  97. Write new words to a well known song (Think Weird Al)
  98. Compare perseverance in learning to play an instrument to learning to read – both take practice!
  99. Teach inference using a new piece of music.
  100. Practice active listening to build listening skills and an ear for pitch and fluency.
  101. Encourage passion for learning using music to make literacy fun!

A Template for Responding to Non-Fiction Articles

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?

Reading Logs Kept and Shared – Inspiration

This s20120702-080559.jpgummer 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.

monkey see, monkey do – great advice!

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