Monday, September 7, 2009

Teaching Problem-Solving and Creativity


On this dreary, rainy Labor Day, I'm sorting through last school year's technology journals. I came across an article entitled "Foundations for Independent Thinking" in the Fall 2008 edition of The Creative Educator magazine. The article gives several alternatives to the "choose a topic and write a report" assignments that we traditionally give--and that encourage the lovely "find a web site and copy and paste" creations that our students often submit for grading.

Many of you have heard me say more than once that if your students are able to complete your assignments by copying and pasting, you're giving the wrong kind of assignments! Consider these alternatives, which will require your kids to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. Yes, they will work their way up the new and improved Bloom's Taxonomy!

Top Ten List
Students create a "top ten" list ala David Letterman, which can vary depending on the topic. How about the top ten reasons for living in a particular state, or the top ten reasons why a certain animal would or would not make a good pet, or the top ten reasons why a historical figure should be nominated for the History Hall of Fame. Be creative!

Five Senses
Students write a poem about a place or habitat using their five senses. What might they see or taste or smell? Have them illustrate their poem by creating a PowerPoint, Voicethread, or Animoto video using images, words, and sound to further describe the topic they've researched.

Associative Letter Report
Assign each student a different letter of the alphabet and ask them to use only words beginning with that letter to describe the topic they've researched. Yes, they will have to put on their thinking caps and perhaps use a thesaurus to come up with appropriate words. This might be a great time to introduce alliteration. Students can create a Wordle cloud to illustrate their words and/or use Powerpoint to create a book to further expand on and illustrate each of their words.

If . . . But
This activity requires comparing and contrasting. Students research two topics, and then writing in first person, compare and contrast the two. If I were A, then I would . . . . But if I were B, then I would . . . . If I lived in A, then I would . . . . But if I lived in B, then I would . . . How about having students create a Glogster poster for each of their topics to help visualize the similarities and differences with images and perhaps video?

All of these ideas can be modified for almost any grade level or subject area, and in my opinion, will be more interesting and motivating to students than the typical "write a report" assignment! See the article for even more ideas and get ready to challenge your students in 2009-10!

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