Creativity, Inspiration

16 Rules for Sharing Your Story

Yesterday, I posted about Sharing Your Story.

Today, I turned the “16 Rules” into a graphic that I will share with my students tomorrow at school – and with you tonight!

Click on the image to enlarge. Click here to download a PDF file.

16 Rules

Creativity, PYP, Writing

Sharing Your Story

Recently, a friend sent me a link to Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.  I loved them – for a number of reasons, primarily that Pixar is clearly a company that knows how to tell a story, so when they share, I listen!

My first thought upon reading through them however, was not the application to ‘storytelling’ in the traditional sense of the word (telling a fairy story) but in the application of these rules to the journey my students are about to take as part of the PYP Exhibition. 

The highlight of our exhibition evening last year was sitting and listening to student after student get up and tell their story. They shared their journey through the process: where they started, where they went, where they currently were at and where they were heading.  Their stories were compelling, engaging, entertaining, interesting and a true reflection of their growth and development over the course of the Exhibition.

As I read Pixar’s rules, I can’t help but convert to advice for my current fifth grade students as they embark on their journey with the idea of telling their story.

Here are my 16 rules for my kids to guide them as they tell their learning stories:

  1. We admire you for trying more than for your successes. 
  2. Once you reach the end of your story, look back and share the theme that has driven your learning.
  3. Simplify
  4. Focus
  5. Tell us how you dealt with challenges.
  6. Write your ending now, before we begin.  Speak into existence what you want to be your reality!
  7. Be ready to not be perfect.
  8. When you get stuck, make a list of what you are NOT going to do next and hope the material to get you unstuck shows up.
  9. Put your ideas in writing, all the time, even in the middle of the night.
  10. Discount the obvious ideas.  Keep thinking.  Surprise yourself.
  11. Share your opinions – be bold!
  12. Ask yourself: “Why this passion?”  Why MUST this be the thing for you.  Build off this burning belief within you.
  13. Be honest!  We admire you for it!
  14. No work is ever wasted.  If it is not working, let it go and move on – it will come back around to be useful later.
  15. Do your best.
  16. What is the essence – the guts – of your story?  Start there and go!

Planning for these stories can be done digitally.  Digital storytelling simply means using computer based tools to tell stories. Click on the image below to check out five digital storytelling tools for kids.  Three of them (Voicethread, Show Me, and Toontastic) are familiar to me.  The other two, Sock Puppets and Puppet Pals are new to me.  All look like great tools for encouraging students to get their ideas down.

Which have you used? Which are you willing to try?

Digital Storytelling

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

Brain Research, Creativity

Are You Creative?

Duck-Rabbit_illusion

I just read a really interesting article on creativity.

The well-known known illusion above can be seen in two ways: as both a duck and a rabbit. Which do you see first? And if you see one, can you also see the other?

Most people see the duck first and can flip between the two representations, but the question is: how easy is it for you to flip between them? Does it require real mental strain, or can you do it at will?

The article suggests that the ability to see both the rabbit and the duck and to flip easily between the two is an indicator that you are more likely to be creative in your thinking. To test this idea, researchers gave participants a limited time period to come up with novel uses for everyday objects: a chair, a brick, a paperclip. Those who could see both animals in the illustration could come up with five novel uses for an object.  Those who couldn’t, could come up with two.

While I am now incredibly curious to try this with my kids, I am also left thinking:

  • would kids have an easier time of thinking with greater flexibility than adults?
  • how do we grow our ability to look at problems from creative perspectives?
  • is this inherent or learned behavior?

As I was thinking about this, I was also thinking about a creative solution to a real world problem that my friend’s fifth grade class encountered. Some may say that picketing and boycotting and protesting are not creative solutions, but when you are in fifth grade and the people you are standing up to are tenth graders from your school, I would say it was not only a creative way to express their point of view, but a very brave one too. Check out their story – it is a fascinating read.

As teachers, we need to be prepared to flip the duck (or rabbit) and challenge ourselves to see things differently: our kids, our curriculum, the assignments we give out, the expectations we have of our kids.

Equally, it is probably a good idea to ask the same of our parents.  School as we knew it shouldn’t be the same as school today. At least, not a school I want to be a teacher at.  Many parents are more than receptive to this, if we share our why with them: why we are making changes, why school is different, why we are pushing something new.  One of my blog posts on this subject was recently reposted on the IBO Sharing PYP Practice blog. To me it was reassuring to hear the feedback from parents: once our reasoning was explained to them, they were more than receptive to the change.

Sometimes it is really hard to change our focus from the rabbit (or the duck) but that doesn’t mean we should stop looking or stop challenging ourselves to look at things from a more creative perspective.If you are ready to take the challenge, here are some cool tips to rid yourself of excuses for you lack of creativity (this is going up in my classroom tomorrow!):

 

 

 

I ask you again: Are you creative?

Creativity, Design

Build. Make. Hack. Grow.

DIY

I have posted previously on enabling creativity. One of the resources I mentioned was the DIY Website. It has been going for a while now and really, just keeps getting better.  In short, it is a place to be inspired and inspire others with the things you can build, make, hack, or grow. Which makes it perfect for those of us who have Genius Hour (or a derivative thereof in our classrooms) or are encouraging kids to pursue a passion (and shouldn’t that be all of us?).

Trending

One of the features I haven’t noticed before is the what’s trending ladder on the home page.  This shows the topics that are most popular amongst the DIY community.  Clicking on any of these terms will take you to see what others have been doing.

In addition to showcasing what you have made to an online community, you can earn badges for completing projects. The badges have a number of challenges and upon completion of three of the challenges you will get your badge. Here is a selection of badges most recently added:

Skills Badges

And here is a closer look at the ‘Maker’ badge and the challenges you can choose from.  The ‘tools’ section on the right will take you to web pages of information associated with the skill set you are looking at. The challenges (not in picture) come with information to guide you through the challenge.

Maker Skills

 

You can sign up for weekly emails from DIY.  On Saturday morning, they send out suggestions for three weekend projects and ask if you have any questions to reply to the email and they will get back to you.  I have been subscribing for a while and when we began our Energy unit at the beginning of the year, I was asking about alternative energy skill sets and they do email back! I have always found the DIY people to be really receptive to feedback and I am sure eager to answer questions from kids – again teaching them about seeing out information for themselves.  Here are examples of this week’s weekend projects:

As we begin our Exhibition unit on Monday, this will be another of the resources shared with my kids.  I am interested in seeing where it takes them in learning more about their passions.

Have you used this website with your kids? 

21st Century, Creativity, Internet

Voki – Giving Students a Voice

In our previous unit under the theme How We Express Ourselves my students were asked to create a Voki avatar to persuade people to send their kids kids to our school – essentially answering the question “Why Riverstone?” from their perspective.  We had used Voki in the past, and I wanted to revisit it in a more formal (rather than optional) way to really see if this was something worthwhile to do.

My class has Voki Classroom accounts.  This is different to the regular, free version of Voki.  What it does differently, is that it allows you access to your kids work prior to publishing.  As the teacher, you set the assignment and send this to each child’s account.  They log in (with usernames and passwords that you have access to) and click on the appropriate task, read the instructions and carry out the assignment. When they are finished, they submit it to you for review.  You can ‘approve’ it or send it back to them to work on it some more.

Here are what I consider the key strengths of Voki:

  • you get an oral presentation without the pressure of performing live in front of an audience. Yes, I know performing live is valuable, but so is hearing people applaud your clear, confident, expressive speech that normally may have been muffled and quiet and spoken into your armpit. 
  • some kids will knock your socks off! I was crazy impressed with the majority of the Voki’s that were produced for this assignment and some kids really stood out from the rest – and not necessarily the kids you would expect either.  I love that.
  • it is really intuitive.  We had used it before but even then, all it took was one class lesson on the Smartboard and they were off.  There were a few glitches along the way but that was my doing – not Voki’s or my kids!

Which leads me to my recommendations:

  • make sure you set the assignment up first!  I know, this seems simple, but in all the organizing, actually sending out the last assignment to their accounts was missed off my to-do list.  Major bummer.
  • keep a printed list of usernames and passwords – they are easy to remember but we use a lot of sites and so having them handy is a must so those who forget can quickly access them
  • start with some fun, non-assessed assignments – let them play with Voki!  I started with a book review from a character’s perspective and each child introducing themselves.

Prior to beginning the assignment, I shared the following with my class.  Click on the image to enlarge.  Click to download a PDF version.

Voki Rubric Voki Assignment Planner

After you have approved their work, it is very easy to embed the finished Voki in your blog.  I have found in the past that there are many embedding codes that don’t work with WordPress (the blogging platform we use at school) but Voki is not one of them.  At the conclusion of the assignment I was able to easily export the Voki’s to our class website to share with the students and their families.  Here are a couple of examples of our Voki’s:

 

When they were uploaded, each student was tasked with drawing five names from a hat, finding that Voki online, and reviewing their work using the following form.  The grid of persuasive strategies is from the awesome website, ReadWriteThink.

Voki Review

In addition to this personalized, specific feedback, we watched all the Voki’s as a class and rated them ‘live’ using the online student response tool: Socrative.If you have not used Socrative before, please check it out!  It is really cool – and as the byline says, “as easy as raising your hand”.  Once you set up a teacher account, students log on with any device and plug in your ‘room number’.  You control the pace of the questions or allow them to go at their own pace.  As they answer your questions, their responses show up live on screen.  We watched each Voki together and then rated them on persuasive effectiveness on a scale of 1-5.  Check this video out for further information:

Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

In Summary:

I would highly recommend the use of Voki in your classroom.  I like the education version, Voki Classroom, mostly because of it’s editing/reviewing options and because your recordings can be up to 90 seconds (as opposed to 60 seconds in the free version).  It is easy to see where each student is at on the project and feedback can be delivered instantly to them from your account to theirs. I love that you can embed the finished Voki’s and the quality of both the avatar and the voice options are excellent.  In addition to the stock backgrounds, you can also upload your own images = the first Voki featured in this post actually has a photo of the front of our school as the background.  This feature allows you to incorporate aspects of visual language into your curriculum by challenging students to come up with the most appropriate look to their Voki that suits their message.

To compare Voki with Voki Classroom – click here.

To download a user guide to getting started with Voki Classroom – click here.

21st Century, Creativity, Inspiration, PYP

Gearing up for Passion!

In a few weeks, we will kick off our fifth grade Exhibition unit: The Passion Project. It was our first year doing this last year and over the summer, I put a lot of work into the Passion Project – it was (and is) my passion. In addition to pulling out the ‘tried and true’ of last year, I have been looking for ways to connect this project with my new class of students.  They are different to my kids last year and I am different to how I was last year and the world as we know it is different to last year – so it only makes sense that the Passion Project be different too.

We are keeping our Passion Tour – a day trip around our city in which we meet people who love what they do and love how what they do, connects them to their community. Here are some other resources that we will be taking a look at:

The Future Project: Playbook

The Playbook

This became known to me this week (yesterday!) and I love it.  The playbook is designed to be used over a couple of months which is perfect for our project.  Every kid will have one and I will encourage them to take one for their family members as well – the more the merrier! What I like about the Playbook is that it is a way to inspire thinking about yourself, your passions, your possibilities.  It looks at things from a different perspective and gives you multiple ways of tapping into what makes you uniquely you.  Download the 60 page Playbook.   Follow The Future Project on Twitter or check out their website for more information.

Inspirational Videos – Inspire My Kids

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is priceless.  If you are looking for really great videos that show awesome kids doing awesome things, you really can’t go past the amazing website, Inspire My Kids.  I can’t say enough about this site.  Over the years I have seen it expand its content and the teaching materials/ideas/question starters that they offer are great. It is inspiring, well organized, current and uplifting.  I was reminded of this website when a friend sent me the following video which I had first seen through Inspire My Kids.  This website is packed with videos like this one that are perfect for showing kids what kids can do.

Short and Powerful

Another great resource is the Zen Habits Short but Powerful Guide to Finding Your Passion.  It is great.  Last year, I found it about two weeks after we started and I wished I had found it sooner.  This guide won’t be comprehensive, and it won’t find your passion for you. But it will help you in your journey to find it. It does so by asking 10 questions. Read the full post to have these ten points explained:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What excites you?
  3. What do you read about?
  4. What have you secretly dreamed of?
  5. Learn, Ask, Take Notes.
  6. Experiment, Try.
  7. Narrow things down.
  8. Banish your fears.
  9. Find the time.
  10. How to make a living doing it.

Oflow – App

Oflow is a combination Playbook and Zen Guide – it offers over 120 tips for having more ideas and being more creative. From creating a mind map and drawing in the dark, to re-organizing your thinking and utilizing help from strangers, Oflow has enough creative methods to make sure you’ll be thinking like a creative genius. When you first open the app you’re presented with a random idea – a new random idea every time you open the app. From there you can browse the other creative methods, bookmark your favorites to use again later, email any of the creative methods to yourself or anyone in your address book, and create a note to store ideas or random thoughts. The app is created by Tanner Christensen, a creativity expert, entrepreneur, and author. He currently writes for the  creative inspiration blog, Creative Something, and founded the creative ebook publishing house Aspindle. You can follow him on Twitter @tannerc or learn more about him and his work by visiting TannerChristensen.com

A quick browse of Creative Something, led me to this gem, “What Makes A Genius?”

What Makes a Genius

There is a lot more buzzing inside my head with regard to what is arguably my favorite part of the year.  I will endeavor to keep posting as we move forward! Until then, one final gem:

Rules of a Creator's Life

Creativity, Innovation

Spark an Idea, Follow an Interest, Cultivate a Passion

There was an article on Fast Co. recently that caught my eye. The title of the article? Do Like Steve Jobs Did: Don’t Follow Your Passion.

The article references Job’s now famous Stanford commencement speech and then goes on to detail how he lived and how his passion was not always technology. There was a lot of commentary following this article, including comments from the author of the book from which this article excerpt was taken, Cal Newport.

Newport puts his own twist on the “Passion Hypothesis” : The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion. His take on this:

“Don’t follow your passion, let passion follow you in your quest to do something valuable.” -Cal Newport

One reader suggested the catchphrase “following an interest—finding a passion”. Cal suggested a slight semantic change to “following an interest—cultivating a passion”.

Passion is what drives me to teach, to share about what I learn though teaching, to find out more and better ways to do what I love to do. The more I pursue my interest in teaching, learning and education, the more passionate I become. There are things that could make one despondent with regard to education but for me, I am “intoxicated by the possibility” (thanks, Hugh!).

20121004-094943.jpg

So how to we help our kids “follow an interest, cultivate a passion”?

One way might be to implement “Spark Files”. Coined by author, Stephen Johnson, the Spark File is a process/tool that he uses to collect “half baked ideas” with no regard to organization, hierarchy or taxonomy. For eight years, Johnson has collected ideas, notes, articles, thoughts and documented these in what he calls his “Spark File”.

Once a month, he goes through the file in its entirety. He looks for patterns, connections, revisits old ideas and looks to connect with newer ideas.

As I read this, I thought of my Instapaper account = the quick, simple, “read later” button that I hit on a regular basis whilst rolling through my Twitter feed or perusing the internet. I am always intrigued by what happens when I review this file. This post is a culmination of two “read later” posts. Some things get deleted, some get me thinking of past experiences, some get to feature in blog posts having gotten me thinking.

The same could work for our kids, using free Instapaper accounts or using the web-clipper tool in Evernote. As I look toward the end of the year, where my kids will be undertaking “The Passion Project” as their fifth grade PYP Exhibition unit, this could be another way for them to collect ideas to inspire them.

For more ideas, take a look at this less than five minute animation of Johnson’s TED talk on “Where Good Ideas Come From”

Creativity, Design, Innovation, PYP

It’s All In Your Attitude

Last week, I flew to the Netherlands for a meeting.  I travelled with United.  Somewhat notoriously known for poor or lack of service, I had very low expectations for my flights.  Both there and back, my expectations were wildly exceeded.  I wasn’t upgraded, the food was no better, the seats no wider or delivering more legroom – everything was ‘standard’ for the class of service I was flying.  The thing that was different, was the attitude of the flight attendants. Friendly, chatty, attentive, thoughtful, humorous, kind, inquisitive, helpful.  They were all fantastic.  So much so that I told them personally and sent a little shout-out to the group via the United contact page – I hope they were recognized by their supervisors!

It is amazing what a difference an attitude can make.  I think this is part of the reason why the attitudes are a part of a PYP Curriculum.

 

As teachers, we see a lot of attitude in our classrooms – some great, some less than stellar, but all interesting and pointing us toward a better understanding of our children.  Today, my kids explored Lego Education Simple and Motorized Mechanisms  set. For some, this was like entering the promised land.  It was Christmas, Easter, Birthdays – all rolled into one.  I saw kids bursting with appreciation that they had been given this fabulous opportunity to explore and create.  They were committed to pitching in and challenging themselves to succeed.  There was courage, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empath, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect and tolerance all sandwiched in between a Lego-Palooza!

In addition to the curriculum skills in math, science and technology, I was loving seeing the development of the social skills and attitudes that went along with successful Lego construction.  Some kids struggled.  Some kids flourished.  Some wandered in between the two.  For some kids, this was their moment.  A chance for them to become the expert, the teacher, the go-to-genius, the one who only needed to look at the Lego and have it jump into formation!  For some kids, this was their nemesis.  The pieces wouldn’t fit, the instructions didn’t work, the whole thing was a hot mess.

So what did I do?  I observed.  I guided.  I looked for ways to invite students to help students. And I loved seeing the kids who find their challenges elsewhere, have a chance to shine and showcase their talents. This is what I love about my job.  I spend a lot of time researching the best “this” or the lastest “that” and I know some people might consider it all too much, not worthwhile.  To me, finding a balance in my classroom and opening up avenues of success to all students so that everyone gets a chance to be the superhero, is my job.  I know I haven’t done that for all of my kids yet – but I’m working on it!

 

How do you encourage an attitude of enthusiasm within your classroom?  How do you look for ways to serve the needs of all students?

21st Century, Creativity

A World Class Education in Idaho

Over the last 12 months, I have been fortunate to hear Sir Ken Robinson, Mike Rowe and Sal Khan speak in Boise thanks to the J&KAlbertson Foundation.  The Foundation is passionate about education and has been helping to fund education initiatives in Idaho for quite some time.  They do so to pay homage to the Albertson family values and to help grow the great state of Idaho.

 

One of the ways they are hoping to bring about this change is through the ID21 Awards.

On behalf of my school, Riverstone International, my colleague and I entered our Passion Project ( the Fifth Grade PYP Exhibition Unit) for consideration for the following award:

In addition to the questions asked by the Foundation, we shared our Passion Project website with them. We have moved through to the final round of nominees and are among the top 24 of entries submitted for consideration across the three award categories.

Next week, I will be working on establishing the Passion Project for Adults.  We want to experiment with the idea of pursuing our passions as adults.  For more information on what this might look like, take a look at the Passion Project website.  If you are interested in joining with members of the Riverstone community to pursue your passion in a supportive environment we would love for you to join us.  It would be fabulous to have people from outside our local community join in too = and thanks to the power of technology, this would be entirely possible! If you are interested, leave a comment below or email me.  More information will come next week!

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for The Passion Project!

Creativity, Inspiration

Here’s To A Great First Day of School!

Here’s to taking the time to see the potential and to developing the courage in all our students.

Here’s to being more than “most people” on the first day back and every day thereafter.

Here’s to seeing the art and beauty in the everyday.

Most people

Most people don’t care enough to make a difference.

Most people aren’t going to buy that new thing you’re selling.

Most people are afraid to take action.

Most people are too self-involved to do the generous work you’re hoping for.

Most people think they can’t afford it.

Most people won’t talk about it.

Most people aren’t going to read what you wrote.

Fortunately, you’re not most people. Neither are your best customers.

~Seth Godin

 

 

The pleasure of from Vitùc on Vimeo.