Tag Archives: Creativity

Ten Things Gifted Teachers Should Consider in Their Classrooms

top-tenI was talking to a few teachers this week, and the conversation of classroom climate and management came up. So from that conversation I came up with ten take-a-ways that gifted teachers should consider.

  1. Teachers set the climate of the classroom. Teachers set up the goals, expectations, and we challenge the students to meet and exceed those challenges.
  2. Form relationships with your students. Make time in your daily routine to have a short class meeting. In that meeting allow students to talk, share, and express themselves with you and others.
  3. Know your students. When pairing students together know who is an extrovert and an introvert. Do some learning inventories and pair students that way.
  4. Let students take ownership of projects. Give your students some leeway to put their personality stamp on projects that you do in your classroom.
  5. Listen to your students. Many students have passions they want to explore. Give time in your weekly schedule to allow students to explore these topics. Give them the opportunity and materials they need to effectively explore their passions.
  6. Create a classroom library. This goes along with number 5, but as you are listening to your students see what interests them in their reading. Get those books for your classroom library. If students like books along the lines of Harry Potter then try to get those books for your classroom. If you see that some students are interested in paleontology then get books on dinosaurs and such. The better stacked your library is the more opportunities you give your students to explore new and exciting topics.
  7. Climate of creativity. Allow your students to be creative. Do projects that multiple answers. Incorporate into your classroom passion projects or project based learning projects. By doing these you are giving your students some real world learning.
  8. Incorporate technology and social media. Just about every student has some experience with technology.Use that as often as it is appropriate. Along with that use social media (age appropriate as well) in your lessons. Allow students to use Twitter or Facebook to post thoughts, videos, and links to assignments.
  9. Co-Teach with regular education teachers. Sometimes it is good to go into the regular classroom to see how your students perform. Work with as many regular education teachers to help deepen the content for your students and for regular education students.
  10. Differentiate your curriculum. Even though all of your students are gifted, you still need to differentiate your instruction.

Did I miss anything that you feel I should add to this list? If you let me know in the comment section below.

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Are we Killing Creativity?

As the new year gets going for teachers so does the anxiety of teachers to get everything they need to teach to students taught for the state exams. The anxiety teachers feel is real. Knowing you have to be on pace to get the required material in before the test can and is overwhelming.

With that being the case, and one that probably won’t change for some time, I began to wonder: are we killing creativity in our students, and in our teachers?

killing-creativity-picTeachers

For many teachers long projects on a few topics isn’t something that will work. Instead they will do some projects that last just a day or two, and most likely don’t have the depth or complexity they would like due to time constraints.

All teachers want their students to succeed, but they also know they have to get the scores of their students up for their school, and their district. They don’t want to be “that teacher” that has the lowest scores in their building or on their team. They don’t want to be seen as not pulling their weight.

When teachers only focus on only struggling students they are missing a lot of students who could use more challenge in the classroom. I am not saying that focusing on struggling students isn’t the wrong thing to do. It is wrong when you don’t focus any of your expertise to the average and above average students. Those students aren’t getting the challenge and complexity to push them to do better on their exams.

I am not saying that I have the answers. I don’t. Each class and teacher are different. Its the idea behind the State mandated testing that is the same for everyone.

Students

As teachers focus on test material, students aren’t getting the complexity or depth they need or deserve. The state tests aren’t about creativity. They are about showing what you know on a given day.

For many students, they aren’t analytical or mathematical. They more of the “Right Brain” type of person than “Left Brain”. We need to give these students and many other students the chance to be creative. We need  allow students to use their imaginations, critical thinking and reasoning skills to be prepared for life beyond the test. We need to challenge our students to use their hands, minds, and each other. Life isn’t all about what is on a standardized test.

Students need to have hands on activities, labs, field trips, project based learning, and passion projects to be challenged. Students need to have freedom to express themselves in writing and orally. They need to be challenged to analyze and evaluate data, writing samples, and opinions from others. Students need to be challenged to use technology, social media, coding, circuitry, and engineering principles to learn new and exciting things.

In summation, I hope teachers don’t get overwhelmed with the idea that Standardized tests scores determines if they are a good teacher or not. In the long run, students will remember the awesome labs, dissections, and field trips not the awesome test questions you prepared for them to help them on their standardized test. Do as many activities as you can that allow students to use their imagination, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Give time for play and creativity in your classroom.

 

Building a Culture of Creativity

Creativity is an important element for the Gifted Classroom.

I enjoy is giving students a task or project, and letting them go on to do what they want with it. I feel that it is important to let students be creative.

I feel that gifted students need to have the freedom to use their own ideas, designs, and interests in the projects that I give them. I do a lot of Project Based Learning projects. I like the real world aspect of this type of learning. So, in the spirit of real world learning, I don’t necessarily have a one correct answer. I do use a rubric to grade their work, but I don’t expect every student or groups of students to have the same answer to a project.

It has taken me a while to get students to trust me that there is no one correct answer to a project. I don’t guide them to what I think they should do in a project. Instead, I ask a lot of questions. I guide them by questions, or by challenging their thinking.

Here are a few other ways I have built creativity in my classroom.

  1. Be a facilitator: I try to guide my students when needed. I ask a lot of questions, and only give suggestions when they ask. I get out of the way.
  2. Know when to step in: I try not to rush to help a student too quickly.  I let them struggle a bit. I feel that through the struggle they will gain more than knowlegde. They will gain perserverance.
  3. Value students thinking processes: every student thinks differently. I often times will have my students take the Right Brain Left Brain test to see how they think.  Each student has a mode of thinking they prefer to use. I try to embrace that. It a student thinks better on their feet walking around I try to commodate. If a student thinks better listening to music (with head phones on), or they are verbal thinkers, then I try to embrace it without compromising other students thinking processes. When students pair up for a project, sometimes they want to work with their friends. Sometimes they work with students who think like them.
  4. Be clear / Be upfront: I give my students clear guidelines of what I expect from them. I give them a rubric that everything outlined for them except the answer. I am upfront with them that there is not a singular right answer, but multiple. They need to find the one that works the best meeting the criteria I give them.
  5. Know your students: Try to sit down with each group or individual students and have them walk through their project. Get to know how they learn, think, and what their interests are. When students know you are invested in them, they will begin to trust you. When they begin to trust you also begin to trust. Trust can go along way.

I know there are probably many other ways you may be fostering creativity in your classroom. I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

 

Creativity: The Art Lost to Testing

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a few of my colleagues here at school about the amount this article of testing that goes on that the State is requiring. We received our list of testing dates to give the PARCC test which is from the Common Core. I was amazed at home many more dates and hours teachers have to give up to testing. I read an article from the Columbus Dispatch the several weeks ago that talked about reducing the amount of testing hours. You can see from this article from the Dispatch some of the recommendations for the reduction of testing from nearly 20 hours down to 16 in the 2015-16 school year. As you read it you see most of the reduction happens to the early elementary students, not so much the middle and high school students.

So this year students will be testing nearly 20 hours. That doesn’t include all the practice testing, and sample questions given to students to practice in and outside of the classroom.

With all this testing, where is the creativity? Where is the idea that students should be tought how to think divergently? The PARCC tests don’t enforce this kind of thinking. Teachers know that test scores are what administrators look at, and care about. Don’t get me wrong, I think testing is fine. I just have a problem with the amount of testing.

We test so much students aren’t as creative as they used to be. Teachers don’t do as many units where creativity is a factor. We structure everything we do around the State test. We have to follow the district curricula map to stay on track. When we do some of the larger projects that take days or a week to do that may put you behind in your map. So what do we do? We stop doing the large projects, and focus on small activities instead.

I grew up in the 1980’s, and graduated highschool in 1993. I had some awesome teachers, and some that challenged me through the arts, language, and yes….to be creative. We didn’t have as any tests as we do now. I had a great education, and I had a great foundation when I went off to college.

What kind of foundation are we giving our students? How to take a test? Life isn’t about taking a test. Life isn’t about trying to figure out how much space Mr. Moustache has left after putting 25 watermelons in the backseat of his car.

We need to get back to teaching our students how to figure out real life questions and issues using divergent thinking, creative thinking, and using their imaginations. I honestly believe this is becoming a lost art. This is why I love to use Project Based Learning in my classroom. It is hard to test, because just like life there isn’t always one correct answer. There are a variety of ways to answer an issue or a problem. We have to show our students how to answer the same issue or problem in multiple ways.

Testing has its place. I know that. But we have to be thinking about getting our children ready for college or real life…not just the upcoming State test.

What do you think? Is creativity a lost art?