Let Creativity Shine

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In our study of life in Europe during the Middle Ages, we explored the power of the Catholic Church. Students were given the task to choose a generalization from the Universal Theme of Power. From there, they were expected to sketchnote their understanding of the power the Catholic Church exerted over people living in feudal society.

I’m highlighting two of the exceptional sketchnotes from my talented GATE/PreAP World History class. Giving students the option to demonstrate their learning in a creative fashion allows students to showcase their talents. Not all students can draw, but some can…and these two students are among them. I am not only impressed with their work, but I can see that they are able to demonstrate their learning about the influence the Catholic Church exerted during that era.

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I am firm believer in student choice in the areas of content, process, and product. Differentiation is the means to support the individual needs of my middle schoolers. Not all of my students take me up on my offer of free choice, but I think that’s the by-product of the focus on test scores to measure learning. Would a quiz on the power of the Catholic Church show how much these students could recall? Would it have been faster to administer a quiz instead of allot multiple days to complete the sketchnotes? Of course, but would a quiz have allowed students the opportunity to engage in a bit of creativity? Rhetorical I know.

As this semester comes to a close and I get ready to say goodbye to these kiddoes, I’m glad that I have their work to remember them by. They not only inspire me, but they remind me of why I chose this profession in the first place.

I am truly blessed.

 

“You Should Probably Write This Down”

These were the words from one of my 7th graders as we worked through the steps for how to use Aurasma…

I was hoping that at least one of my students would have experience with Aurasma since they use VR at home but no…we’re all collectively newbies. Noobs. I muddled my way through explaining how to use Aurasma to my morning classes…but it wasn’t until after school when I got the chance to work one on one with a student that it clicked…for the two us. And that’s when she told me, “You should probably write this down…”

She knows me so well.

That was two days ago…and today as I write this blog, I’m watching my students create their first Aurasma project. Students were given the option to use Tellagami, iMovie, or Snapchat for the overlay. They were also given the option to work with a partner. I’m a firm believer in student choice…and in this project there is an abundance of it. But what there’s another abundance of is student engagement. I mean every student has their nose to the grindstone. They are communicating, collaborating, troubleshooting…all on their own. It’s a proud moment for me because when it comes down to it…it’s really all about them. Not me. Not teacher-directed, but student-centered…student-created.

I can’t wait to see their final projects! #soexcited

Make it Work Moment #30daysofblogging

I am not sure where the time went…but it flew by this week. My students have been crazy busy working towards finishing our unit before the end of the semester. Currently, my students are working on creating an Instagram post from the perspective of a historical figure who lived on a manor during the Middle Ages in Europe. But because our district firewall is like Fort Knox, I have to constantly find workarounds…

But because our district firewall is like Fort Knox, I have to constantly find workarounds…

To get students to practice analysis and writing skills, I created a Life on a Manor Big Idea assignment. This series of tasks has students analyzing documents, using the CER writing formula to put together evidence, and then creating an Instagram post from the historical figure’s perspective. Students used a variety of technology tools: Padlet, GoogleDocs, GoogleSlides, and Flipboard. I created an Instagram template in Google Slides for students to use. Then when they are finished with choosing the perfect picture, developing two hashtags about the thoughts and feelings of that historical figure, and writing their post, they will take a screenshot and upload it our class Flipboard magazine.

The Flipboard magazine will act as our collective “Instagram” feed about life on the manor for the lords, ladies, knights, peasants, and serfs. I’ll share the links to the magazines tomorrow after students have commented on their peers’ work.

The district firewall is not a means to give up on finding creative ways to engage students. I know my students are on Instagram…they know how this site works…so why not figure out a workaround that will give them the sense of using a tool they already know?

I can’t wait to see their final projects tomorrow…

 

Jumping Right In #booksnaps

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 12.48.31 PM.pngEarlier this week, I decided that this would be the week to figure out how Snapchat worked. I started off by clicking around (it’s a tried and true method for exploration, trust me), but alas, it wasn’t as intuitive as other apps I’ve used. In fact, I watched two tutorials on Snapchat (thank you YouTube) to get the gist of how Snapchat worked. My hesitation with Snapchat has always been…where are my pictures and videos going?!?! I’m still not quite sure…right now I have a couple in My Story section, but I don’t think I’ve actually sent anything out. Of course, it could be because I only have four connections on Snapchat at this time.

But I persevered because I really wanted to try creating a #booksnaps. As an avid reader, I’m always coming across things that I highlight, mark-up, or make note of…so I thought, “Why not do this digitally?” This past summer, I was lucky enough to vacation on a lake for five weeks…plenty of time to read and sketchnote. It was pure bliss. But now I’m back to reality…and the craziness I call my life. Sketchnoting will always be my preferred method for a creative outlet, but now that I’ve tried creating a #booksnaps, I’m hooked.

Having seen the awesomeness of #booksnaps, I decided to try it with my GATE/PreAP kiddoes. This activity was perfect because I wanted students to examine primary and secondary sources about the Crusades…and I thought, “Booksnaps? Why not? Why NOT?!?!”

On to Thursday Period 6.

I introduced #booksnaps to my students. I showed them an example from @TaraMartinEDU. They joined our Seesaw class so they could use the emojis, text, and the drawing tool. And then they were off…highlighters, documents, and iPad in hand. My students aren’t new to document analysis, annotating, or the use of emojis to demonstrate understanding…at this point in the semester, they are old hands at this type of task.

My students have been posting their #booksnaps in our class Flipboard  magazine and I have to admit that I’m super stoked! If you get a chance, check out their first attempt at #booksnaps and feel free to leave a comment. They will be so tickled!

Typorama Rocks!

So today my students had a chance to explore Typorama (@typoramaapp). Before Winter Break, they read, watched, and analyzed various primary and secondary sources about the samurai, their traditions, and the impact of the Bushido Code. Their task was to demonstrate their understanding of a samurai’s life through the use of poetry.

Seeing that this was a unit about Japan, students were given the task of composing both a Haiku and a Tanka. Using their annotated readings and various graphic organizers, students pulled phrases that they could mix and match to create these particular formatted poems.

One might think that this was an easy task…but not for second language learners. Breaking down words into syllables was hard. I gave them the tried and true methods for counting out syllables, such as clapping (but let’s face it, not all kids can clap) and putting their hand under their chin as they pronounced the word. But some of my kiddoes went straight to the Internet. As I walked around the room, I saw students on several sites that counted out the syllables for them. I didn’t tell them to do that, nor did I prohibit it. I mean, after all…if they can find tools to make their work more efficient, I’m not going to stop them.

I loved the looks on their faces when the syllables matched up just right.

Once they had their rough drafts, students opened Typorama…which offered them more options than they knew what to do with. I told the students to not bother to upload their own images but to find something that resonated with them and added to the mood or theme of their poem.

Let me tell you…their projects are turning out really nice!

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The five-lined Tanka is throwing some of them for a loop because some of them want to use a particular font that won’t allow five lines. It was back to the drawing board…because there aren’t enough font styles from which to choose (totally being sarcastic here as there are quite a few really cool freebies). But other than that…this app is great for a quick #funformativeassessment. I would totally use this app again with my students…in fact, I’m thinking that this might come in handy with our next school-wide Character Lesson. Hmmmm (and the wheels are turning)…

If you give students the opportunity to be creative…if you give them choices…if you let them work through the kinks…if you just let them take the lead in learning…they will be all the better for it. Trust me, I know. I see it in my kiddoes…both past and present.

If you want to see more of their work, check out our class Instagram account: @jiishawksrock