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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

 

Slice of Life Challenge

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

In my teaching, reflection is important to me.  Not on purpose, really, but as part of my nature. I mull over things.  I wonder out loud and silently.  I talk with colleagues.  I also participate in a Good2Great Voxer chat.

Good2Great teachers are continuously reflecting.  We are always engaging in conversations about our teaching practice. One evening last week, Trevor Bryan and I got into a conversation about the writing process.  He made me think when he said, “The writing process is a creative process, and in the creative process, artists and writers are always making bad work.  Something that doesn’t work is part of the creative process.”

My burning question was born from this conversation.  “How do we honor the process of writing?”

Blogging is a huge part of the writing process in my classroom.  I’ve contended that by writing every day on a blog, my students’ writing grows and improves.  I still believe that, but I’m not sure I honor the mulling, the brainstorming, the idea gathering.  I have stressed to my students that they are writing for an audience.

Jacob decided to write about the movie Moana for his Slice.  When I read his post, he was telling the story of the movie…the whole movie.  He said, “This is only one third of the movie.  I can make more posts.”

Of course he could, but would anyone want to read multiple long posts retelling the Moana story?  I posed that question to him and immediately felt a pang in my gut.  I wasn’t honoring the process.  I was thinking only of the product.  I realized that maybe by writing this whole story, Jacob would learn about writing dialogue.  He would learn about a story arc.  And he wasn’t writing from a book he read.  He was writing from a movie he watched.  He would have to create the actions with his words.

How often do we stifle our young writers?  I know they need to practice.  They need to write often.  But who am I to tell them they must produce a worthy product every time?  As a writer, do I?  Not at all.

Sometimes students do not need to write for an audience.  I will continue to reflect on this question and watch myself more carefully.  Honoring the process is as important, if not more important, that celebrating the product.

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Some weeks a word will pop into my head for a DigiLit topic. Then I’ll mull over it and wonder why.  This is how it’s been with Innovation. Like Blended Learning last week, I am wondering if innovation is happening in my classroom.

I think of my young students who are writing for the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge every day.  Last year I put together a treasure box of writing prompts.  I decorated it and filled it with little odds and ends I found around my house.  One of these was a wishing rock.  Andrew put his hand into the box and came out with this rock.  I immediately thought of this Harris Burdick image.

“Maybe you could write a story to go with this image?”

“I’ve never written a story before.”

Andrew proceeded to type furiously into his Kidblog post.  The next day when he came in, he said “I can’t stop thinking about my wishing rock story.”

This is creativity working hand in hand with innovation.  You can read Andrew’s story here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My student, Noah, created a list post of “Things I Trust.”  Two of the curators of the Two Writing Teachers blog read his post.  They wanted to publish it to give other students ideas for writing.

Creativity and innovation happen in a classroom that is open to new ideas.  The let-me-try-this-out attitude.  I believe in my students.  They are more capable than I am when it comes to creativity.  Just look at Lynzee’s word cloud she created using the root word color.  She went on to write her post and change each word into a different font color.

 

Sometimes I feel like I just stand by and watch the brilliance of my students shine.  They are gifted kids, but more than that, they are open to the ideas floating around in the universe.  This openness will lead them on to produce wonderful innovations in the future, but for now, they are my little wonders.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

On Thursday, NCTE hosted a Twitter frenzy on #WhyIWrite to celebrate National Day on Writing. I gave myself an assignment spurred on by the many posts I read about Why I Write. I collected quotes and added them to images. I posted a few here. I also tweeted them out throughout the day on Thursday.

I asked my students to write on this topic and tweeted out their responses using Word Swag, an iPhone app.

Jacob's #WhyIWrite quote on Word Swag

Jacob’s #WhyIWrite quote on Word Swag

Any time you use a new application, you have to commit yourself to patience, practice, and persistence. Even my mother is learning about the three Ps as she switches my dad to Mac from PC.

Kids are so much more adept at this than we are as adults. They know right off that anything new will take patience. Two of my 6th grade boys have decided to do a project that uses animation. I was amazed at the concentrated time they spent to get a stick figure to move his arm up and down.

Digital literacies motivate us to put in the practice it takes to learn something new. We all know this, so we seem to have more patience when it comes to learning a new app. Don’t you hate it when your phone updates and something you have become accustomed to changes? I still swipe when I want to access my iPhone, but some genius thought it would be easier to hit the Home button. Persistence. I keep missing it, and by the time it becomes a habit, something else will change.

Face it, we are stuck with a constantly evolving universe of technology. But thanks to Word Swag, my iPhone, and a beautiful sunrise on the bayou today, I can create this quote from Mary Oliver.

mary-oliver-quote-word-swag

Link your digital literacy posts below. Click to read more posts.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

The Queen of Dot Day!

The Queen of Dot Day!

 

Thursday, September 15th was Dot Day.  My students love Dot Day.  Since I teach them year after year, they look forward to it from the first day of school.  International Dot Day was inspired by teacher Terry Shay in 2009.  The day is designed around The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  In The Dot, Vashti doesn’t feel like she can do art in art class.  She turns away from her paper.  But through the gentle guidance of her teacher, she discovers within herself a budding dot artist.  In the end, she passes on this confidence to another child who says he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.  The Dot shows students in a very accessible way that they can be creative.

This summer I was privileged to join a Google Hangout with Trevor Bryan.  Trevor is writing a book around the Art of Comprehension.  He uses The Dot to show how students can access text and images through different lenses.  My students responded well to the Art of Comprehension, sharing eagerly about what they saw and read about Vashti’s changing mood.  One of my students, a 2nd grader, said Vashti had an aura.  She was referring to the changing color of the dot that surrounds Vashti on each page.

After we read and discussed the book, I invited my students to make a dot using this plan I found in Scholastic Teacher Magazine.  The art teacher let us use her oil pastels.  First we decorated the plate.  Then we made 19 evenly spaced slits around the rim of the plate. (I used the bumps on the edges to help the kids know where to make the cuts, every third bump.) Then we threaded yarn around the plate to create a base for weaving.  Most of my students had never weaved yarn before.  They loved this new activity.

 

Weaving is a new activity for my students.

Weaving is a new activity for my students.

I wore my Dot Day skirt made especially for me by my friend Cathy and the official Dot Day t-shirt.  One student dubbed me the Queen of Dot Day.  And another said, “Mrs. Simon, thank you for giving us Dot Day!”

A joyful celebration of creativity, reading, and just being you!

 

Dots!

Dots!

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

 

With the threat of flooding gone and a need to connect with others, I attended a writing workshop led by my friend Sandra Sarr.

Sandy moved to Louisiana two years ago and quickly embedded herself in the arts community.  From her travels here to research her novel, she met interesting people like Dennis Paul Williams.  She once took me on a visit to his studio.  In 2013, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published a large coffee table book of Dennis’s artwork.  I bought the book, but hate to admit that it just sat on the coffee table.

But Sandy’s ekphrastic exercise brought me closer to the images housed in Soul Exchange.  She made color copies and handed them out.  This is the one I picked.

DPWilliams painting

 

Before Sandy instructed us to write, I started writing.

Secrets shared
like a kiss
softly touching
a cheek.
Even while
she’s sleeping,
she hears
the sound
of singing,
a lullaby.

Sun glows
through the window.
She traces the line
of her face
in the mirror
only touching
the outline–
That space
where skin
meets sky.

She’s never lonely
within
covers of lace
because she knows
the secrets,
the ones whispered
on the wings
of a prayer.

Even her hair
glows like
rainbow light.

–Margaret Simon

This was just the free write, but I was happy with it.  Then Sandy asked us to circle words from our free write that had some power for us.  She handed out notecards for us to write our words on, tear them apart and put them back together into a new poem.

 

Words taken from my free writing.

Words taken from my free writing.

 

This was the resulting poem.

Enter dark space
a line draws her face
whispers
secrets

Her protector
sleeps
in covers of lace.

Angels kiss
her prayer.

Opening
the path to grace.

–Margaret Simon

What I love about this activity is the abstract way it gets to the soul where you write with authenticity and abandon all at the same time.  I want to try this with my students.  I wonder how they will handle the randomness of it.  Will they get frustrated or enjoy the freedom?  Some days, and especially hard days full of sadness, I find solace in poetry, in the act of creating.  It gets me out of my thinking brain for a minute and allows me to relax into flow. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing Dennis’s art and leading me on a path of discovery.

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up with Violet. Click here to read more posts.

Poetry Friday round-up with Violet. Click here to read more posts.

The end of the school year is coming to a close. One fun day that our gifted students look forward to every year is Gifted by Nature Day. We hold it in City Park and all the elementary gifted students in our parish attend. The day is full of games, art, and writing.

This year middle school gifted students (who fondly remember their own Gifted by Nature Days) led this year’s art activity. They presented a skit about endangered animals. Then our kids were encouraged to freely create their own favorite animal, real or imaginary.

I led a poetry writing activity as a response to the mask activity. And what better poetic form to use than a mask poem? The directions were simple: Write a poem from the point of view of your mask. Use your creature’s name as the title. Use I statements. We read a few mentor poems from Irene Latham”s Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Patricia MacLachlan’s Cat Talk.

The students were primed for creative thinking after making their masks. I am sharing some of the masks and poems here.

This is Erin as a narwhal, of course.

This is Erin as a narwhal, of course.

Call me watercat. I am guard. I am smart and curious. I run very quickly through prickly vines. I am big. I am blue. I am sneaky. I am fluffy. I am strong. I am a watercat. by Madison, 2nd grade

Call me watercat.
I am guard.
I am smart and curious.
I run very quickly through
prickly vines.
I am big.
I am blue.
I am sneaky.
I am fluffy.
I am strong.
I am a watercat.
by Madison, 2nd grade

How adorable is this puppy mask with a bow on its chin!

How adorable is this puppy mask with a bow on its chin!

Dis-Grace I am a disgrace. I am a mess of an animal. I am rainbow. I have three sets of ears. My mouth stays open. My nose is green. People come around me and say "uhoo." They must hate me. Then I hear people say, "That's cool." Maybe I'm not a Dis-Grace after all. by Emily, 5th grade

Dis-Grace
I am a disgrace.
I am a mess of an animal.
I am rainbow.
I have three sets of ears.
My mouth stays open.
My nose is green.
People come around me and say “whoo.”
They must hate me.
Then I hear people say, “That’s cool.”
Maybe I’m not a Dis-Grace after all.
by Emily, 5th grade

 

Shadow, by Jacob, 2nd grade

Shadow, by Jacob, 2nd grade

I was born in a magic cloud. Then I flew all day. I made a lot of friends and we played in the Milky Way. Then we found a top hat, black and a very light gray. I put it on and then I had the power to always save the day.

I was born in a magic cloud.
Then I flew all day.
I made a lot of friends
and we played in the Milky Way.
Then we found a top hat,
black and a very light gray.
I put it on and then I had the power
to always save the day. Jaci, 5th grade

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Spiritual Journey framed

I thought I might give blogging a rest.  But in this wild world of social media, I have made connections.  Irene Latham is a poet/blogger and the kind of person I will do almost anything for.  She tweeted yesterday.

Here I am again because this is a subject I live with every day.
Be creative.
Be vulnerable.
These two walk together with me as I wander this writing terrain.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert speaks to me.  She writes for 272 pages about “Creative Living Beyond Fear.”  The reason this book has taken on such popularity is we are all battling this dualistic problem: creativity and fear.  On Goodreads, there are 333 quotes from Big Magic.  I could pick any one of them to make my point here.  That creativity and fear (or vulnerability) walk hand in hand.

With my students this week, I have been creating an altered book.  We have taken books that were discarded from the library for repurposing as a collection of writing from this school year.  For the most part, we’ve been making a mess.  But in the midst of the mess, creativity is evolving.

A favorite page using gel printed paper, collage, and a poem.

A favorite page using gel printed paper, collage, and a poem.

This is the freest I have felt about painting and creating in a long time.  I’m just doing it.  I don’t expect anyone but me to ever care about this book, so there is no fear.  And since I feel absolutely safe creating alongside my students, I am not vulnerable either.

When I write for others to read, the stakes become higher.  And yet, in this blog space, I have found a safety net.  I have a group of people I belong to.  I’ve gotten to know you by reading your blogs.  You know me, and you leave encouraging comments.  I may not know your face, dear reader, but I trust you.

Vulnerability is lessened by safety, community, and camaraderie.

Creativity breeds creativity.  Endeavoring to express yourself artistically whether with a paintbrush, a musical instrument, or a pen exposes you to failure.  Yet creating makes us human,  and creativity is meant to be shared.

flowing stream with quote

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