My 5th graders spend the last semester examining their own beliefs, developing manifestos, and researching a Dream Team of people who exemplify what they stand for. We use some of the “This I Believe” curriculum to help them identify their values. Yesterday, my students and I listened to one of the short radio essays archived on the website for the podcast. It is called, “30 Things I Believe.” In this particular episode, a first grader, Tarak McLain, reflects on his Kindergarten 100th Day Project. While most students bring collections of 100 objects, Tarak brought in 100 things he believes. For the podcast, Tarak shares 30 of those beliefs. My students and I enjoyed listening to his earnestly read list, and talked about what they agreed/disagreed with. We also discussed which of Tarak’s beliefs might change as he grows up.
Tarak would be about 16 years old now. I wonder what his thoughts are on the manifesto created by his 7-year-old self.
As my 5th grade students wind up the school year, I begin to worry that they will go to middle school next year and forget everything they learned in our GT classroom. Some of them have been with me for 6 years, so I’m hopeful that a few things will “stick.” Nevertheless, a visual reminder can be helpful. Rather than make them all stick pictures of me on their walls at home, I started this project with last year’s 5th graders. It seemed to make an impact so I decided to repeat it this year.
You can read a little more about the process I used to jump start this year’s manifestos here. Once the students did quite a bit of brainstorming, I let them jump on to Canva to design their manifestos. Things were going merrily along until I noticed that many of them were using famous Pinterest quotes on their documents instead of their own words. There was a bit of groaning when I insisted the manifestos needed to be in their own voice – not someone else’s. I’m still not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I just felt like it would be more meaningful. One of my students was quite satisfied with one her rewrites, “Life’s a llama with a neck full of opportunities.”
Another mistake I made was to let them design to the edges. Last year, the students downloaded their manifestos as images, and we printed them on t-shirts. The quality was not very predictable, though. This year, I went to the dollar store and bought each of my 11 students a frame. When we tried to put some of the manifestos into the frames, though, words got cut off. (That’s why you won’t see 11 in the picture below; I’m still re-printing some.)
For an investment of $11, I got more than my money’s worth when the students framed their manifestos. The students were proud of their work and I got the impression that at least some of them might display those manifestos in a place of honor when it goes home. I also really like having them in the classroom for all of my students to see. (We can’t hang them up because I am in a borrowed room at the moment.)
The next part of the project is for the students to design their “Dream Teams.” They are using the “Find My Role Model” tool from The Academy of Achievement to find 5 people they admire who embody the statements on their manifestos. You can see some ideas for how to publish your Dream Team here,
I showed them the Creativity video from Apple, and I asked what I thought was kind of a rhetorical question, “Is creativity important?”
One child squinted at me nervously, one nodded somewhat hesitantly, and the other two vigorously shook their heads. (I normally have 5 in this first grade gifted class, but one was absent.)
I tried not to show my astonishment, my absolute disbelief that they could have responded in any way but, “YES!!!”
After I picked my jaw off the floor, I asked the two certain-that-creativity-is-not-important students, “Why isn’t creativity important?”
One didn’t really have an answer, and the other said with great conviction, “Because it’s just fun!”
How had this happened? (Maybe because I need the above poster plastered on my wall.) How had I spent this long with these students without communicating that I feel, very very strongly, that creativity is so important?
Yesterday, I decided to get a wider sample from my class of 18 second-graders. Some of these kids have been with me since Kindergarten, so I was hoping more cumulative exposure to my teaching would give me different results.
It was slightly better. Only 5 students shook their heads. But the yeses did not seem very confident. When I asked the “no” students to explain, one student said, “Because it’s destructive. The more humans create, the more of our planet and animals we destroy.”
Wow. That certainly made sense.
Other students were quick to respond with how human creativity can solve problems, sometimes even improving things, and that it makes life worth living.
When I asked, “Which would you rather have more of – creativity or knowledge?” most of the class said, “Creativity!” But I suspect they may have figured out by then that I was not very happy about creativity getting a bum rap.
Obviously, creativity needs a new ad campaign in my classroom. Instead of saying, “Now, let’s do something fun!”, I need to say, “Now, let’s do another kind of important thinking,” or, “Now, let’s work on solving problems a different way.” I thought I was good at praising unique answers and unusual methods, but now I see that I don’t do it often enough.
Of course, I want creativity to be “fun,” but does that mean it can’t also be important? Does that mean the perceived “important” types of work can’t be fun?
This tweet that I saw the other day explains one reason that many of our students probably feel this way.
Do we have to measure creativity for it to be considered a valuable asset? If not, then what can we do to help our students understand its significance.
Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe creativity really isn’t that big of a deal.
Thanks to Sonya Terborg (@terSonya) sharing a tweet from @FriedEnglish101 this weekend, I discovered Pickle this weekend. Pickle is an ethics podcast for kids produced by WNYC. The episodes look to be an average of about 20 minutes, and cover topics like, “Would an Elephant Visit a People Zoo?” and “The Friendship Formula.”
Pickle is hosted by two adults – Shumita Basu and Carl Smith – but they consult the “BrainsTrust” of kids during each episode. I would guesstimate the target age group for this podcast would be 8 years old and up based on the topics and episode lengths. It seems ideal for family discussions and enrichment classes, and individual topics could be integrated into curriculum as well.
Pickle currently has only 6 episodes (from December 2017), so I’m not sure what the future holds for this podcast. According to the website, the original series (wouldn’t that be Cucumber?) was an Australian Broadcasting Corporation production, Short and Curly, which has a few more episodes to offer on its website.
One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD. #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before. However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.
One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War. (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.) I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!” My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.
In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?” Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps. After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles). Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.
I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver. I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson. Here is the link. If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck. You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here. Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded. Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.
I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.” Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified. Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver. There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.
Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?
That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!
The Kids Philosophy Slam folks released the topic for the 2018 contest, which has a deadline of March 9, 2018. The question is, “Truth or Deceit: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?” Definitely relevant!
Students from K-12 can participate in the contest, and younger students can submit their entries in a variety of forms (essay, art-work, etc…). If you have participated in the past, please note that there are some new guidelines for entries.
Although individual students can receive rewards, the contest is also looking for “The Most Philosophical School in America,” which will receive a $200 cash prize. See the above link for more information.
Note: As I was looking up resources for this post, I realized that yesterday, the day that I introduced Guernica to my current 4th graders, was the 80th anniversary of its bombing. I’m sure I probably knew that somewhere in my subconscious, but it still sent a chill down my spine when I saw the date.
Every year my 4th grade gifted students study masterpieces of all types – literary, mathematical, and artistic. “Guernica,” by Picasso is one of the artistic masterpieces that we examine as we discuss the empathy that the visual arts often reflect on the part of the artist. It is a difficult piece to confront, particularly once you know the history behind it, but I think that it is important to study for many reasons. Picasso’s internal struggle as a man who disdained using art for political reasons but also a man who felt compelled to convey his emotions with every brushstroke make this painting into an engaging topic of conversation with my students.
Gavin Than recently created another one of his fabulous Zen Pencils comics dedicated to Picasso’s “Guernica,” illustrating a famous quote from Picasso about the piece. It would be a great way to start a debate in your classroom about whether or not the students agree with Picasso’s stance. Another philosophical discussion that stems from the painting is the love/hate relationship we have with technology, as symbolized by the light bulb in the center of the painting. The same technology that allows many people from all over the world travel to see this work of art by air also doomed the Spanish town to being blanket-bombed by the Germans.