Thoughts on education from the 2017 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Let's build an public education system that ensures every student has a great education and equal opportunity to be happy and successful in life.
Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best. Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section. For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page. If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook. Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others. Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.
When discussing the skills out students will need after graduation, creativity is always near the top of the list. In order to nurture that skill in our students, it's important that we model creative thinking in our teaching. A teacher who rarely takes risks and fears failure is unlikely to inspire students to attempt out-of-the-box thinking and innovative methods to solving problems.
With that in mind, here are five ideas that I've been thinking of trying out with my 5th grade students this year. These endeavors may end up being wildly successful or spectacular failures, but I can guarantee that students will find them more relevant than 40 problems in a textbook. I can also guarantee that any failures, on my part or the students, will be celebrated as learning experiences.
Create public-service commercials - Each afternoon our 5th grade students create a 5 minute news broadcast that is played the following morning. I'd like to have my class get into groups of two or three students, choose a cause that they feel passionate about, and create a 30 second public-service video that will be played at the end of a morning broadcast. In addition to 21st century skills like creativity and collaboration, this will certainly force students to meet several language arts standards in our curriculum.
Create math "how-to" videos for each of the four operations - It's important to me that my math students truly understand math. I expect them to do much more than get the correct answer to calculations. I demand conceptual understanding to the point that they can truly explain not only "what" they are doing as they solve a problem, but also "why" they are doing it. Often, my students tell me that it's the first time they have really understood math. To help others we will create a series of videos explaining the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They will be shared on our class wiki. We've already done a few addition videos. Last year's class set the bar pretty high with their multiplication video, although they didn't make videos for the other 3 operations.
Partner with a local business to have students create an ad campaign - I've just started thinking about this one and whether it could work. I'd like to approach a local business or two and see if they would be interested in sponsoring an activity in which a few teams of students compete to create the best quarter or half page print advertisement. If it works out, the business would pay for the winning group's ad to run in the high school play's playbill or something similar.
FedEx Days - In Daniel Pink's TED talk video, he talks about how companies have sparked amazing productivity from employees by giving them the autonomy to pursue their own passions for a period of time. Google famously allows its employees 20% of their time to do this. Pink mentions how the software company Atlassian has gotten amazing results from what they call "FedEx Days." Basically the company gives it's employees 24 hours to work on whatever they want and develop a presentation of what they have accomplished. The term "FedEx Days" comes from the fact that employees have to deliver overnight. I'd like to give something like this a try and see what happens.
I don't know what to call this last idea, but it's something I want to try. I'd like to give my students a social studies test before we begin a unit. I won't ask them to actually "take" the test. I'm just going to hand it to them. I'm then going to tell them that they have a week or two to create the best wiki page study guide that they can for the test. I'll grade their study guide based on a rubric I create instead of grading the test as usual.
Now it's your turn. What are some creative ideas you want to try this year? What creative ideas have you tried that failed spectacularly? Which ones were brilliant successes? What's holding us back from being more creative as teachers? Let us know your thoughts, and please share your stories in the comment section below. Also, pass the post along to others on Twitter, Google+, Plurk, and Facebook so that we can hear their opinions and anecdotes as well.