So, this week was an interesting start to a new chapter at Mark Twain. There were challenges, but these situations ended up being as successful as they were challenging.
Day one started off with a burst of energy and confusion. The kids ran in and immediately started to take things out of cubbyholes and off the counters. Before we volunteers knew what was going on, there was a doll house on the floor being torn apart and paints being splattered onto papers as well as tables. For the size of the class they got a lot accomplished in the five minutes it took to get them all together.
One thing I noticed was that all of the kids came in saying, whether verbally or physically, that they didn’t want to write. Luckily we started off with some fun energy sapping activities like Shake it Out and Action Names. Once the figured out what kind of actions went with their names (this included having a cartwheel contest) we played a slightly altered version of All My Friends.
A great thing about kids, especially younger ones, is that if you forget the rules of a game or if they simply don’t like the rules, they will change them. Thalia, a self appointed leader in her class, took the initiative of showing us all how the game works. After one example she was already volunteering to be the first person to say what all her friends do and continued to help us pick people as the game went on.
While all of this was going on two of the boys from the class had decided to sit down in the back of the room. A couple of the other volunteers had gone back to try to work with them. They both seemed uninterested in what we were doing. One of them had been the one who, directly after coming into the room, started to pour paint onto paper. Whenever anyone asked him what he wanted to do he would say paint, but we weren’t supposed to use the paints from the art room. When we all regrouped to start on our writing assignment I told him we had some markers he could use.
Later on everyone was having a blast writing about their crazy, scary, and funny dreams like we had asked them to do. Everyone except Jakkari, who still refused to do anything. Evan and one of the NCJC supervisors ended up at Jakkari’s table. One of them mentioned something about his home because Jakkari had said he just wanted to go home, and suddenly Jakkari was alive with stories and drawings about his house and his fat cat (I think his name is Mr. Jones.) By the end of the class we were all telling cat stories and laughing.
As hectic as we started out the first class was a big success. I think the kids learned a lot about the different forms writing can take – most importantly that it can be fun. And I know I learned a lot about them.
I tend to approach building these lesson plans thinking that every kid will enjoy the fun games and writing prompts we design for them. I often forget that one version of fun does not fit everyone’s definition. And even more common, when given the opportunity to put pencil, marker, or paints in hand kids will do whatever they want to. I don’t think we should stop this. In fact, letting go of your own rules and expectations and just listening to what your students are telling you can be one of the best ways to encourage creativity and inspire learning.
Given this first class and the way it turned out with Thalia and Jakkari making the class their own, I would have to agree with Kent Robinson from this week’s assignment when he says schools are killing creativity. I know when I went through school I always felt wrung dry at the end of the day instead of excited to go back. Part of this feeling of dread was that we never covered what I wanted to do, which was creative writing.
Not giving kids the opportunity to speak up about what they want from their education is a big mistake. Not only does it limit their creativity, but it limits their opportunity to learn things in a new way. Art doesn’t have to be just art. In a lesson plan for practically any subject you can incorporate interdisciplinary assignments; for example, in physics a teacher could assign a creative writing assignment on the effects gravity has on the Earth or what we would do without it. For kids whose brains are formatted more creatively this type of assignment would be a great way for them to put something more logical into a context they understand and enjoy.
The Kent Robinson talk was something that I’ve seen before and really engaged with, so I can see this being a regular topic of my blog posts. I look forward to what’s in store for the next one!
Until next time,