The standards also do not address how the content should be taught, or how students might use it. The Standards list the basic processes students are to use (“Describe” “Explain” “Write” “Compare”) but do not, generally, say what students should do in order to demonstrate those processes. For example, if high school students are to
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
there are many possible ways that understanding could be expressed. They could write a traditional paper, perhaps focusing on the standards for writing informative text. Alternatively, they could analyze several texts—perhaps several mysteries—and then write their own mini-mystery using the mystery strategies identified. The mini-mysteries could take the form of a mystery e-mail story-starter, a traditional short story, or an oral story to be told at a “scary story” event—perhaps around Halloween. All of these activities support standards either in narrative writing or speech, as well as the initial analysis.
Or students could support the Standards on using technology in writing by contributing to an online bulletin board or poster defining “What Makes a Mystery?” or “Time Travel in Text,” sharing their observations about author’s techniques across multiple texts. The important thing is, in any of those tasks, students are analyzing authors’ choices concerning how to structure text, and doing something meaningful with the information. The activities also support one of the keys to developing creativity, by helping students understand the tools and methods of professional writers.
The Common Core State Standards set a high bar for student learning and critical thinking, but they are not a cure-all for education, nor will they, alone, support creativity. But if we are wise, it is possible to address Common Core Standards and creativity simultaneously—and with better understanding, as well. Doing so will require both creative teaching and teaching for creativity. We need teachers who can look at key content and say things like, “I don’t need to have students demonstrate their understanding of the systems of the human body by writing a report. We did that for our last unit. This time, they could build Rube Goldberg-type models to demonstrate the systems and explain them—incorporating oral communication standards and creativity at once.” By examining ways to use content in flexible ways, both content learning and creativity benefit.