Liberating the arts from the prison of the timetable…

The arts are not mere diversions from the important business of education; they are essential resources.

Elliot W Eisner, “The Role of the Arts in Cognition and Curriculum” (2001)

If this is what we believe, why do we allow the tyranny of timetable to dictate the constraints of our arts programs?

Why are Art and Music often viewed as ‘lessons’ rather than effective modes of communication, ‘through which students explore and construct a sense of self and develop an understanding of the world around them’? (IB Primary Years Program, 2018).

Why are the arts not always valued as ‘fundamental to the development of the whole child, promoting creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving skills and social interactions.'(IB Primary Years Program, 2018).

With these beliefs and wonderings in mind, we are wondering…

What if our Art and, perhaps, our Music teachers worked on a more flexible timetable, allowing them to step in and out of the learning when the time was right and the learning could be enriched through the experience?

What if, instead of always planning whole class lessons, our specialist teachers worked with individuals, small groups or larger groups, depending on the needs, interests and opportunities that grew organically within the learning?

What if some or all grade levels had ongoing, interwoven inquiries that allowed children to deepen their learning through a hundred languages, and explore questions such as ‘how might I communicate my ideas?’ ‘and ‘how is my thinking changing through engagement with a different material, experience or ‘language’?

What if the arts shifted from being a lesson on the timetable to being viewed as integral to learning and as a powerful means for inquiry?

If it already looks like this in your school, we’d love to hear from you!

Encouraging creative instincts…

What is creativity?

Can anyone be creative?

What are the conditions for creativity?

Can creativity be taught?

Can/should creativity be assessed?

How might we encourage children’s (and teachers’) creative instincts?

How do we create opportunities for creativity in our classrooms?

Is teaching creatively the same as teaching creativity?

Is creativity an attitude, a skill, a conceptual lens or is it action? (PYP connection)

What is the relationship between inquiry learning and creativity?

How might global collaborations  enhance creativity?

These are some of the big questions with which participants grappled in a PYP workshop on encouraging creativity, last week at Victorious Kidss Educares, an international school in Pune.

It was the first time I had led this workshop and I wanted to ensure that the teachers’ own creativity was awakened and that the workshop would provide opportunities for creative thinking and creative expression.

In addition to exploring the issues above, among other things, teachers designed creativity maps..

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recorded their thinking on wall mounted ‘bubble catchers‘…

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engaged in a newspaper bridge building challenge…

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audited their units for opportunities for creativity…
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Skyped with teachers in Melbourne about creativity in the early years, in writing and in maths…

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planned and created animations...

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Hope they had as much fun as I did 🙂

10 ways to foster a love of learning…

1. Show that you’re a learner too

Share things you have learnt. Tell your students about PD and conferences you attend. Invite their opinions on things you have read for your own interest. Never talk down to the students. Be part of the learning community.

2. Encourage creativity

Give students opportunities to create in any way they like. Have them create original expressions of their learning through a variety of  web 2.0 tools. Let them draw, write a song, make a film, create a cartoon or record a podcast. Put a camera in their hands for recording and expressing learning.

3. Make it meaningful

Make connections to their lives. Encourage interpretations that make sense to them. Create for an authentic audience, by publishing online through blogs, wikis and other web 2.0. Don’t set chores, don’t hand out worksheets, don’t assign work… create motivating learning experiences.

4. Flatten classroom walls

Don’t confine learning to the classroom. Bring the world in. Collaborate online with kids in other places. Use Skype for global connections.

5. Demonstrate your passion

If you aren’t enjoying the class, neither will the students. If what you do bores you, it will bore them too. If you clearly love it, they will too! Interact with other educators online to fire up your enthusiasm.

6. Respect your students

Don’t expect the same from every student. Make sure every child knows that you know where they’re at. Don’t imagine any kind of standardized tests will tell you that. Listen to their conversation and value their thinking. Show interest. Know every child’s story.

7. Provide variation

Don’t fall into the habit of doing things the same way all the time. Come up with new ways of practicing skills. Share ideas with other teachers. Get ideas online. Get ideas from the students. Surprise them. Use different tools and formats and approaches. Plan for multiple intelligences and different learning styles.

8. Implement inquiry as a stance

Encourage students to explore, question and wonder. Invite them into a new topic with a strong provocation that inspires curiosity. Provide opportunities for them to play with possibilities and investigate in a variety of ways. Help them make connections between different areas of learning. Focus on concepts and big ideas.

9. Play games

Find games online and offline. Get kids to move around and play physically. Play thinking games. Invent games and let students invent games. Make sure every game has a learning goal. Make the learning goal explicit to the kids. Make it fun!

10. Encourage students to be responsible for their own learning

Tell them they are! Give them choice. Don’t make all the decisions.  Encourage goal setting and reflection.  Create a culture of thinking. Talk less. Step back and hand over control…

Please add to the list!