I was going through our school library magazines this morning and came across a stack of them that the librarian was putting away. I saw a magazine, Scholastic Instructor the 2011 Holiday edition, and it in there is an article called Challenge your Top Students: 10 ways to meet the needs of your advanced learners-and help the rest of your class, too. by Joan Franklin Smutny. In this article are ten very good ideas to help challenge your gifted students in the regular classroom.
Her list is as follows:
Let Kids Work Together
Determine Prior Knowledge
Encourage Goal Setting
Independent Learning Projects
Follow their Interests
Encourage Self Assessment
Joan does a great job going into details on what regular education teachers can do to help gifted students. I want to focus and expand a little bit on what she discusses on teaching creatively. Joan begins to say that to teach creatively you need to focus on 6 general principles:
Explore: Point out the hidden, less traveled paths and warn against set patterns.
Create: Assign work that requires creative and imaginative thinking.
Envision: Nurture boldness in vision and endeavor.
Support: Support students’ trust in their creative powers
Improve: Give them opportunities to correct errors, refine visions, improve and elaborate.
Exhibit: Find venues for students to show, demonstrate, perform or exhibit.
Creativity has two sides.
One side of the coin is students. Many students look at creativity as something artists, musicians, and writers have. I borrowed her subtitle of this section from her article for my title, because it really goes with what I tell my students. There is no limit to creativity. So you are not an artist. Its alright. You have creativity in the form of creating an app or program on the computer, or your Mindcraft city is so elaborate that you make it look like something off of Google Maps.
On the other side of that coin, is the teacher. We need to look at “outside of the box thinking” when it comes to advanced learners. Teachers, and I include myself, need to stop worrying about how much work it takes to create something that a small group of students would work on and focus on the fact that we are there for the students.
We need to take our own creativity and focus it to challenge students. We need to look at our curriculum differently. We should see the State Standards as the minimum requirements, and work up. The State Standards are the foundation of what we do, and our creativity are the bricks we use to build our fort of fun.
For regular education teachers the easiest thing to do is to create extension projects for advanced learners. The last thing these students need is just more busy work since they get done early. That will kill their creativity, and their love of learning. Give them a project based on your subject, but give them the choice of where to take that project. Don’t do more paper and pencil work. Have them use their imagination. Let them work in small groups to collaborate and create. At that point you move from teacher to facilitator as you support your students creativity.
You may say, as I do, I am not that creative. One aspect of creativity is an attitude. If you think your aren’t creative you are limiting yourself. The other aspect of creativity is to take what is out there, and adjusting it to meet your needs. Use social media in your classroom. Create accounts on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and find ideas that you can incorporate into your classroom. Millions of minds together are always better than one alone. Search the internet to find resources and ideas from websites. There are millions of pages out there to help you no matter what grade or subject you teach.
Remember, when you limit your creativity you are limiting your students as well.
What are you doing to foster creativity in your professional life and in the life of your students?