Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Call to Creativity: writing, reading, and inspiring students in an age of standardization by Luke Reynolds is a call to English teachers not to abandon creativity (both in how they teach and in student work) in the pursuit of meeting standards.

Reynolds is a secondary (grades 7 to 12) English teacher who, based on a hunch, decided to challenge his grade 11 students with an assignment that would require them to "craft 50 pages of their own original, creative fiction" otherwise known as the novella assignment.

His reasoning was based on wanting to incorporate more creativity into his teaching and students' work and that this 2 month project would get his students to "learn effective writing strategies and hone their skills far better than they would in the more traditional, widely marketed test-preparation curriculums".  He provides the assignment in an appendix.  (In fact, roughly 1/3 of the book is appendices that provide support for teaching his creative assignments if you should choose to accept this mission.)

All of his students hand in the 50 pages with
 dramatic increases in their writing abilities.  Their test scores that spring showed strong gains, and their attitudes toward writing had improved dramatically. It became common for me to overhear students talking in the hallways about what would happen next in their novellas, and  it was also common to come to class on a day when their next two pages were due, only to find that many students had instead written six, seven, or eight.
Sounds pretty good, right?

He continues on with additional activities showing direct ties to standards.  

What comes across is Reynolds' passion and commitment to trying to do more than just teach-to-the-test.  He wants to enliven his classes and engage his students and feels that taking a creative approach will do this.  He lives in the real world where accountability is to meet state mandated standards.  He shows us how he strives to do both.

This is a quick read with ideas worth considering.


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