Guest Post by Judi Holst
We’ve all heard of the 4 Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and that last one is the one that captures my heart: creativity. It’s one thing to tell teachers that creativity should be included in our lessons, but no one really shares ideas of how to actually do it. Here are four strategies for including creativity in lessons that I learned from other creative educators.
If you haven’t read Brian Housand’s blog, I highly recommend it. At a recent training he gave to the teachers in my district, Brian introduced me to DROODLES. These are simple sketches that used to be drawn on napkins.
I turned these “droodles” into a competition for one of my classroom warm-ups. I put an image (pictured above) on the screen and gave the students one minute to write down as many things as they saw in this image. Is it a bear hugging a tree? Is it four heads looking down a well? Is it an arm with chicken pox? Wait until you see what the students come up with for you.
Caution: They aren’t very good at this the very first time. Now, I don’t share my ideas with them until they are done, but once I do, they realize they should look at it from all sides, and your answers don’t have to be serious; they just have to make a little sense.
Teaching Tip: You could see who has the most answers in the class and have them read them aloud to make sure they make sense, or you could have them see who has the most at their table. Always do this activity more than once in order to give kids a chance to try it with a different picture. If you google “droodles” there will be plenty of examples.
Are your students as crazy about memes as mine are in middle school? Showing a lesson on Google Slides? Include a meme. Need some funny posters on your wall? Use a meme there too. Gamifying your lessons and need a new challenge for your students? Have them create a meme for your subject area.
There are plenty of websites out there to create meme, but my favorite one to share with students in BIGHUGELABS.COM. I learned about this website from Lisa Van Gemert, the Gifted Guru. Not only is the website free for students to download their meme, but there are many other choices of how they can show their learning visually and creatively.
The memes can take a little preparation, though. I like this strategy because it can also be a great way to sum up a lesson at the end of class. I learned this one from the great Dr. Bertie Kingore. It doesn’t take any prep time, unless you want to take it a step further. It’s as simple as this: the teacher gives a one-word answer, and the students must come up with the questions.
Teacher: The answer is 3.
Student: How many little pigs were there? How many steps should you take when speaking in front of a classroom? What is 6–3?
Teaching Tip: Once again, you could turn this into a competition to see who can come up with the most questions in three minutes. Or, you could have two people face off and each one has to come up with a question in less than five seconds until the other person can’t come up with any more questions. You could also have them write them on sticky notes and post for others to see on the wall. You could even have them post them to padlet so others could see the questions right away.
This is another strategy that I learned from Brian Housand. Brian made me realize how important it is to give students time to explore a topic on their own, before you started teaching about it through direct instruction.
Brian shared with us a graphic that showed the US had 1.39 billion pounds of surplus cheese last year. Now, I didn’t know I even cared about this surplus cheese until he gave us ten minutes to just research everything we wondered about it for ten minutes. What the heck? I started slowly on my research because really, who cares? I read through some articles on Google that I found and soon found myself becoming more interested.
It wasn’t until Brian told our group that we needed to create a slide for our class “slide show” that it started to fit together. The slide needed to show a comparison to the number 1.39 billion pounds. Now, he had my full attention. Peer pressure set in. Of course, I AM A MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, so I wanted to compare it to…POOP. Yes, I said poop. My group, also made up of middle school teachers, gave in to my request to find out how much this number equaled in the amount of poop excreted in the world. Here is what we found and the slide we created:
We added our slide to the link shared to the whole class, and we presented it with a lot of pride. This also worked in the other three Cs: collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
Teaching Tip: Assign each group a slide number if you are using Google Slides. This helps so that one group doesn’t start writing on another’s group’s slide.
If you’re looking for a way to engage students, that also gives them a chance to be creative, I highly recommend one of these four strategies. You will reach every type of learner, and the students will ask for more. Who doesn’t want that to happen in their classroom? It’s like you invited them to a creativity party where the fun doesn’t end.
Judi Holst is a middle school public speaking teacher, Gifted and Talented Lead for her district, and an Edmodo Certified Trainer in Douglas County, Colorado. You can find her on her blog at judiholst.com or on Twitter @judiholst.