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« What Kind of Thinking Are You Asking For? | Main | Has Your Definition of Learning Changed? »
Thursday
Nov292012

Making Time for Creativity in the Classroom

I feel very fortunate to call Elizabeth Peterson of The Inspired Classroom a friend and extra excited to have her as a Guest Blogger:

It’s so easy to get sucked into the pressures of teaching: testing, curriculum writing, meetings, assessments, keeping up with lessons, tracking data, the list goes on.

I started my school year with a feeling of hope.  We were to work with our new Common Core.  It was a fresh start and although it meant a lot of work, it was the type I was looking forward to.  But then the realities of school life (with lots of change) set in.  There were many meetings and interruptions, numerous assessments and data charting, and then the pressures of time kicked in.  I needed to get this, this and this done NOW to make sure it was all going to fall into place.

And amidst all of that, I decided to ahead and put the brakes on the track my class was taking and have a Studio Day: a day where my students create something original, reflect on it thoughtfully and discover things about themselves as learners.

You see, in all of that frustration, I was also starting to not enjoy my job – a job I have always felt certain I was made for.  I love to teach, but each day brought a new roadblock that got in the way of enjoying what I do. 

So sometimes, I guess you have to make your own enjoyment.  And I did.

That week, my class and I rearranged our room to fit the focus of creativity and on our scheduled Studio Day, we created!  I used one of my favorite lessons for this opening Studio Day: Dots.  It was a time where students were encouraged and expected to create dots of all types using any media they desired.  We worked for nearly two hours on our dots and the students’ work was abundant and amazing!

We had dots made of paint and crayons, paper and clay.  Papers were flying as students showed their prolific, creative sides creating image after image, while other students sat unmoved, focused and intensely working.

Interestingly enough, as with many Studio Days, the students were quiet (with a few reminders) and focused the entire time, their minds and bodies pumping with creative juices!

After a labored clean up, showing, (in some cases for the first time), some of the great teamwork and responsibility my students have, it was time for reflection.  I orally asked questions, my students wrote down their reflective answers in their sketch-reflection journals and finally, we shared things we learned about ourselves as we worked throughout the day.

One student was amazed at how much he could focus and work on creating just one dot.  He never gave up, just stayed with his original concept.

Another marveled at the many ways she could make dots with a variety of materials.  She enjoyed experimenting and trying out new things.  One boy, who was creatively reserved at the beginning of the day, noted how he could do anything if he just tried. 

*teacher smile*

But I learned things too!  I learned that carving time out for creativity is not only important, but a must!  Not only did this Studio Day give us a break from the norm or allow us to express and reflect, it gave me a whole new outlook on my students and the school year. 

It’s kind of funny how I, the teacher who literally wrote the book on Studio Days in the Classroom had to make the time to schedule one and re-realize the benefits of doing just that.

This may seem odd, but ever since that Studio Day, I have felt a little weight lifted from my shoulders.  I’ve been able to see my students in a new way and, in a sense, been freed of some of the tension and pressure I had felt up until then. 

Maybe it’s not so odd after all.  It’s amazing what a little creativity can do… even in the classroom!

Elizabeth Peterson is a fourth grade teacher, arts integration specialist and the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com

She believes all teachers need to get inspired in order to be inspiring to their students.

Earlier this year, Elizabeth let me post a excerpt from the book she mentions in this post: Studio Days in the Classroom

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