I’m back! Not so much like a movie meme, but more like a hiker slogging in after a long trek through the wilderness. Yes, it has been that kind of spring/summer. Life—personal and professional—just got complicated. But there are seasons like that, and I always learn a lot, some of which I hope I’ll be able to share. For now, I’ll aim for a post a week, with maybe an extra Tweet thrown in for good measure. Who knows? It is time to think about school starting!
Early school days seem a good time for basics, even for teachers. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my “creativity in the classroom” basics, and have decided it is time for a few tweaks. So, in these weeks of preparation for a new school year, let’s think about the core principles that help us create places for creating—those “Schools of Curious Delight” I’ve written about for so long. And let’s start with curriculum.
We all have it. Or most of us anyway. And if we can’t figure out how to help students develop creativity within the regular curriculum—as opposed to the last half hour on Friday afternoon—it isn’t going to happen. We need to creativize our curriculum. Silly word, but appropriate. I’d like to add one to my original three principles for creativizing curriculum. In curriculum supportive of creativity:
- The content is organized around key ideas and questions that can be viewed from multiple perspectives. Where possible, it includes information about the creative methods of the discipline being taught.
- The methods include instructional techniques that require students to ask questions, generate varied options, and consider multiple perspectives.
- The tasks students undertake to apply curriculum are tied to the real world in complex ways, asking genuine questions and solving real world problems.
- Assessment includes multiple formative and summative assessments, including some that offer choices and use content in new ways.
Each of these principles can be considered in more depth, and we’ll do that over the next few weeks. And the best part is, the principles serve double duty. More and more, as we understand how in-depth learning takes place, it becomes clear that the principles that support creativity are also the principles that support learning. One of the most interesting books I read this spring was Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s Emotions, Learning, and the Brain. Dr. Immordino-Young is a teacher-turned neuroscientist whose work helps us understand the way our emotions—our curiosity, interest, excitement, or fear and loathing—impact the way we learn. As we help students become curious, ask questions, take on new perspectives, and tie content to their lives, we not only become interesting teachers (though we certainly do that!) but we work in sync with our students’ growing brains. And what could be better than that?