I am an inveterate creator and tinkerer when it comes to my classes. Usually all of my courses are pretty different, which keeps things interesting and fresh for me, but this semester, there are a lot of overlaps in assignments (though not in course content). I am more focused than ever on learning as exploration, as a trying out of thinking and ideas and approaches, as play. Here are 7 ways I’m trying to incorporate more opportunities for my students to tinker and create:
Sketching. I’ve been experimenting with sketching as a way for my students to respond to literature for a few years now. Some of the best work I’ve seen from students over the past few years has been in drawing assignments in my Brit Lit I survey course. It’s not that the art is so great—usually it’s not, though there are some exceptions. It’s that drawing shifts something in my students’ minds, lets them experience literature, learning, themselves, in a different way. They discover fresh insights that they—and sometimes I—haven’t had about the text before. My students will be keeping sketchbooks in two classes (Graphic Novels and The Creative Mind). I’ve got several low-tech art projects in store for Digital Literacy. Even the Methods students will be sketching their neighborhoods and drawing heart maps in their Writer’s Notebooks.
Notebooks. I have two students who are enrolled in THREE different classes I’m teaching this semester. We’re going to be spending a lot of quality time together. They are also going to be spending a lot of quality time with their notebooks—all THREE of them: a sketchbook, a composition book, and a writer’s notebook. Different names for each, because each is a different tool with a different purpose in a different course.
Blogs. Because I’m teaching a course overload and have 5 different preps (including 2 brand-new, never-before-taught-by-anyone courses), I decided to reduce the amount of blogging I’m asking students to do. I was afraid I simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with reading and commenting on so many posts. But I’m still using it in 3 classes. Children’s Lit students will be participating in the It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme and selecting one additional book meme each week to join. Digital Literacy students will be reflecting on the course content and blogging about their Passion Projects. Methods students will also use the blog primarily for reflection.
Micro-response. Students in 4 classes are going to get a heavy dose of Twitter essays, 6-word stories, and 17-word summaries. There is something so powerful and affecting about the clarity and strength of a thought expressed under constraint.
TED Talks. I cooked this assignment up for a first-year inquiry course I co-taught last year and loved the results, so now students in The Creative Mind and Digital Literacy will all be preparing and delivering TED Talks for their final exams.
Picture book read-aloud. I’ve decided to bring #classroombookaday to all of my college courses. I have a lot of students enrolled in two different courses this semester, so I’ve decided to share a different picture book for each class so that students can be exposed to more books. I have no idea how I’m going to organize and keep track of what I’ve read where, but I’ll figure it out. The easiest list to generate was the list of picture books I want to share in The Creative Mind class. The hardest, so far, has been Digital Literacy.
Student experts. My students will be taking over class and doing a lot of teaching. Many of my students are pre-service teachers, so they need time in front of a group of students. But presentation skills are so important for all students to develop. I have tried to create opportunities for students to teach us about things they’re already experts in as well as issuing invitations to develop new areas of expertise.