Creativity, Design, Learning

#cultivate your learning spaces

My feed is full of great stories from fellow teachers beginning a new school year. Many are inspiring me with the depth of thought that goes into starting a new school year. I especially liked this post from my new 2nd grade colleague, Nora, who reminded me in her post to take a minute to appreciate the special, clean start of a new year before everything levels up.

Today I read a post I have been waiting a year for. My friend Jocelyn in Singapore did amazing things with her learning space this time last year. She is not the type of person to sit with the status quo so I was super intrigued to see where she would head this year. She did not disappoint. Jocelyn has refined her thinking and continued her research all in the name of best supporting her students. She herself even says of her new learning spaces:

I also know that removing the 1 desk & chair per child will encourage me to adapt and broaden my teaching practice to move beyond ‘desk work’ activities.

Jocelyn Sutherland

I really respect the way she is leaning in on the third teacher to help her kids learn best. Jocelyn’s entire post which includes links to last year’s learning environment post, is definitely worth reading in its entirety. My biggest takeaway was the need for a variety of spaces in your classroom. Spaces known as: the cave, the watering hole, and the campfire:

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As per Jocelyn’s post, these spaces are described as:

CAVES: This is a space where students can reflect independently, journal or read. It allows students to process what they’ve learned and allows students private quiet time.

WATERING HOLES: This is the social space where students collaborate, share thinking and can work in small groups. Watering holes foster relationships in the classroom and encourage students to expand their friendship circles through mixed grouping opportunities.

CAMPFIRES: This space is used for whole class gatherings for morning meetings, storytelling, celebrations and presentations by experts. It stands as a ritual for bringing the entire classroom community together in one friendly space.

 

It’s never too late to change. Take a look at your room. Do you have these types of spaces in your learning environment? Could you? How might you #cultivate your learning spaces?

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Creativity, Inspiration, Kindness, Organization

Start With Kindness…And Then LEGOs

We just had our first elementary school faculty meeting to kick off the new school year. We did the usual housekeeping, updates, and messages but that came second. To begin, we started with a message rooted in kindness.

We were reminded by our Head of Primary, Marina Gijzen, that first and foremost:

  • You are an advocate for students.
  • People are the first priority.
  • Assume the best in everyone.
  • Be willing to generously dole out grace and be gracious.
  • Take care of each other and yourself
  • Be willing to ask for and accept help

Finally, we were reminded to Be KIND. To “throw kindness around like confetti.” And we were challenged to remember that we will never regret choosing kindness.

Our job is to treat our students with love, with hope, with empathy and compassion, to challenge them, and to inspire and be inspired by them.

This message this morning was powerful. It could have started with a joke or a cartoon or a game about holidays but instead it started with a genuine message of kindness. It was authentic – I have been on the receiving end of so much kindness here already – and it really set the tone for what I hope will be an amazing year ahead. I am grateful.

As I begin preparing for the year ahead and for our students to arrive on Thursday, I want to ensure they leave their first class with me with that same feeling I had when I left the faculty meeting: that they are an important part of something special. To that end, I have designed the following Lego Challenge for all my students. I know they are going to want to touch and look and explore on day one (two students have just walked in while I am writing this and they are touching EVERYTHING) but I don’t want the first class to be about everything they can’t do. I also want to get across the ideas of iteration, collaboration, and communication.  Here is the challenge:

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Photo by Philippe_Charpentier on Flickr
  1. Take legos from the tables and build something that represents you. It could be a model of something or something abstract. It could be in your favorite color or many colors. It is a symbol of you.
  2. Put finished models on the table. Gallery walk and talk. What do you see? What do you think?  What are you wondering?
  3. Partner up with another student. Using ONLY the lego pieces from your two models, create a new model that represents the two of you.
  4. Put finished models on the table. Gallery walk and talk. What do you see? What do you think?  What are you wondering?
  5. Repeat in groups of 4, 8, 16 until we have one model that represents us as a group. All of the models from all of the classes will be on display in the Pit Window as they are created.

 

My friend and former colleague tried this out with her new leadership team. She tweaked the idea to suit the leadership scenario but reported back that by all accounts it was really successful. She didn’t do as many iterations as I will have to do (although we have small classes of around 16 so it shouldn’t be too bad). If you have done this kind of challenge before and can offer any suggestions, I would love to hear them! If you would like to do this challenge with your kids, please do! I would love to see your creations. Stay tuned for pictures of our models!

 

How are you starting the new school year?

 

 

Action, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Creativity

Watch Me!

It is the phrase any parent will know in their sleep. But why isn’t it echoing in our hallways at school? Where is the demand to be seen? To show off what has been created? To share one’s creative endeavours?

The other day I (somewhat) jokingly said to a colleague that we should “Banksy” the heck out of our school walls. Art Activists. Spreading a message. I think I would start with “Watch me!” – the war cry of children who create.

This leads me back to having a Bias Toward Action. Think of your kids. How often are they taking action? And don’t confuse this with “working” or “being busy” but actually making, doing, creating, producing of their own accord? 

One of my Maker heros passed away last week. The phenomenal Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was a maker. She was a creator. She was someone who looked at the same things as everybody else, but through “Amy colored” glasses. She was kind, lovely, generous, smart, and oh so creative. I miss her already. And I wish for more. I have more to say on Amy. But for now, in her honor, please think about having your kids make things. Challenge yourself to do away with worksheets and pre-cut shapes and cookie-cutter “art” projects. Let your kids MAKE things. Stop having them fill in checklists and tick boxes and conform to your timeframe and LET. THEM. MAKE.

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21st Century, Change, Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration

Imagine A Teacher

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Imagine you are a teacher.

The school year is about to begin – it’s the first day for teachers to arrive at school.

You walk into your classroom and there is a letter for you. From your students.

Dear Teacher,

The most important thing you can do for us this year is to teach creativity. Consider yourself no longer our teacher but be our ‘Captain Creative’ and we, your eager cohort of innovators, curators, makers, and thinkers.

To teach creativity is to equip us with the skills to think critically. To examine, debate, discuss, agree, argue, dissent, come to a consensus, and to think.

To teach creativity is to question. To make sure you ask questions you don’t know the answer to and let us ask questions too. Let’s solve them together in short, frantic bursts of excitement and long, drawn-out wondering that go far beyond the lesson plan.

To teach creativity is to teach us that ideas are treasures, to be gathered and cherished with pirate-like pleasure! We need to come to school each day more curious than the day before and should know that our actions have an impact that goes beyond our classroom walls.

To teach creativity, one can start with empathy. When we know that to empathize is to arrive at the starting point for change and possibility, that to try and to trial and to test and to try again are all part of process, and that there is never a ‘one way’ of doing (but always your guiding hand should we get stuck down a wrong way), you will be a teacher of creativity.

To teach creativity, is to allow us to bloom. To nurture each of us through the learning process at a different pace and in a different space, feeding our quest for knowledge so that new ideas can flourish. Teach us to connect rather than simply collect the dots.

To teach creativity one does not need to be creative (but you are). To teach creativity one does need to rethink ‘school’ (and you will). To teach creativity is to respect us as individuals, to seek the ‘so what?’, and to be authentic in all that you do.

What are you waiting for? The creativity revolution begins with you. And with us. And it starts now.

Sincerely,

Your students

What would this inspire you to do? What does it tell you about your school leadership team? And where does this school exist?

Creativity, Inquiry, Thinking

Informed Thinking

In a course I am doing at the moment on Creativity, we were asked to do some Informed Thinking. 

This is the task we were given:

You will inform your thinking about the scholarship of creativity studies through historical and contemporary resources.  Afterwards, you will share on the blackboard some key concepts, definitions, models, theories and information that is particularly important in your eyes.  This should be in the form of bulleted list of at least ten items. Each item should have a 1-2 sentence description to explain it.

We were given a curated list of videos, studies, research projects, Keynotes, visuals, documents to read/watch and then had to create our own ‘top ten’.

About half of the class have done the assignment and it is really interesting to see what others pulled out as ‘important’ or stand-out ideas. It is also really interesting to think about yourself as a reader/viewer when ideas you never heard of appear in someone else’s list. And it is a great way to summarize and inform your thinking in preparation for the follow-up task (which is to apply the new learning).

This would be a great way to guide students through the research phase of a unit that is heavy in names/dates, theories/ideas. One of the group said she is planning on using this during her G5 Governance unit.

I chose to add pictures to the mix in addition to the one or two sentences. I love icons (shout out to the Noun Project) and it helped me to consolidate my chosen ideas into a visual image.

Can you use this in your classroom?

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Creativity

Creative Problem Solving

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You may have seen examples of using entertainment or gamification for positive social outcomes demonstrated as part of Volkswagen’s Fun Theory campaign. These included a Piano Staircase that encouraged people to take the stairs instead of the escalator and a Bottle Bank Arcade machine that encouraged people to recycle.

As part of SMART’s What Are You For? campaign, the car manufacturer created an experiment to see if it could improve safety at traffic lights by incentivizing pedestrians to wait for the green man:

Smart says that the Dancing Traffic Light caused 81 percent more pedestrians to stop and wait for the green light than previously.

How could you challenge your students to solve problems and create solutions in a creative, game-based way? 

Creativity

The Art of War

I recently came across a stunning photo essay via National Geographic.  Titled Behind the Mask: Revealing the Trauma of War. Soldiers who have returned to the US from Iraq and Afghanistan undertake art therapy classes creating masks to represent their state of mind. Images painted on their masks symbolize themes such as death, physical pain, and patriotism.

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While the idea of creating art to represent How We Express Ourselves is not a new one, especially to those who teach in PYP schools, what is interesting about this exhibition of work is the personal narrative that accompanies each mask.

Images of the soldiers who created the art wearing the mask, quotes from them or their family members and haunting recordings of their own voice, telling their own story, make up the exhibition:

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This could be a beautiful way to showcase student art work. Using an app like Book Creator, photographs of the art and artwork, typed text, and audio recording could be seamlessly added to a book and then exported as an iBook or video. You could even add a soundtrack to your book.

Book Creator has become one of my favorite apps.  It’s functionality, ease of use, multiple features, and intuitive features make it accessible to my Grade One students to use independently. And it would seem I am not alone in my praise of this app.  Book Creator was awarded the Judges Choice Award for Educational Apps in the Bett Awards 2015. The Bett Awards play a key role in identifying and rewarding innovative ICT resources and services for use in education, and awards are considered the highest accolade in the industry.

In my humble opinion, it is totally deserved and I am grateful for the continued innovation and refinement that the Book Creator team put into their app development.

Book Creator is $4.99 for the Education version that does not include in-app purchasing and allows for unlimited books to be created.  If you would like to give Book Creator a trial run, your first book is free with the option for more via in-app purchase:

Click image to visit App Store
Click image to visit App Store
Creativity

Make Your Mark!

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It’s coming soon!  International Dot Day is on September 15, 2014.  It is a day to celebrate “making your mark”. I have posted about Dot Day before:  Dot Day 2012 and Dot Day 2013.  Both posts will give you lots of ideas for Dot Day and some thoughts on how we as educators, can help students connect rather than simply collect the dots on their learning journey.

This year, FableVision Studios have come up with a song for Dot Day.  If you are familiar with “The Dot” you will see the connection between the book and the song and be inspired to make, make, make your mark! How can you encourage your students to use their talents to make their mark?

 

The Dot Song from FableVision on Vimeo.

Here are the lyrics (download the PDF)

Dot Day Lyrics

 

Are you interested in joining the Dot Day celebration? Sign up today! Discover more creative ways to celebrate Dot Day
on the FableVision blog and Pinterest pages.

Creativity

What Do You Make?

I Make A Difference

Last year we had Taylor Mali visit our school and share his poetry with our faculty, staff, and students. I never got the chance to speak with him personally but I wish I had.  If you have seen or heard his poem about teachers, you might have some questions for him – I know I did.

I was told by a great friend to always give the benefit of the doubt to someone – to always believe something good, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.  My friend would tell me that everyone operates from the best of intentions, and I try to believe that this is true.  When working in a school that offers a values laden curriculum, I would hope this to be true.

So, with that said, listen to Taylor’s poem with the benefit of the doubt. Some people say he is too strict, too controlling, too self-centred.  I say that he is trying to make a point and is using poetic license to do so.  Don’t dwell on the fact that he makes kids sit in silence or not use the bathroom, dwell on the good in his poem.

 

“I make a difference” – this is the crux of the poem.  

How will you make a difference in the life of your students this year?