Barbara Sandstrom | October 2019

Tapping into Student-Teacher Ingenuity

“We’ve taught you that the earth is round. That red and white make pink, and something else that matters more—We’ve taught you how to think.”

This powerful excerpt is found in my favorite first-day-of-school read aloud, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky. This thought-provoking story is meant to give my new incoming class a clue as to how the learning experiences occurring in this space may look and feel different for them… specifically in comparison to previous years.

The story celebrates Diffendoofer School for its creativity, diversity, success and sparking ingenuity. It is told from the perspective of a boy who explains that all students who go to school there love it. They love it because the teachers they have taught them things he suspects are not taught in any other school. This story also leads to many discussions! Some we’ve had in the past include: what is school?; the role of teachers; the role of students; as well as, what could we incorporate into our classroom that would make it feel “diffendooferous”?

An Evolution

“Create something that will make the world awesome. Play ball.” (Montague, 2015)

Over time, student teachers eventually became a frequent part of my classroom and teaching practice. So I wanted them to gain an understanding of not only my educational philosophy but also my strategies and arts-integrated approach. Be sure to create a positive relationship with your student teachers from the start.

With this in mind, I believed the best way to do this was to incorporate my “first day of school” student tradition within our introductory meetings. Put simply, the lesson I did with my students evolved into these student teaching sessions. They served as a means to tap into their creativity as well as to lay the foundation for the work we’d be doing together as we welcomed our new learners into our classroom.

Another story I often share is Through the Cracks by Carolyn Sollman. In this story, a young female character takes a fellow student on a journey through a school system where kids are literally “shrinking away” from the classroom. They have become disengaged, frustrated, and lost interest in learning and doing classwork. As the tour comes to an end, they find a different kind of classroom where students are engaged after all, and imagination is stimulated.

 

First Steps

Teacher let me dance in your classroom. Let the outside world in!” (Cullum, 1971)

One of the first steps to this “dancing” mindset, is having my student teachers dive into the Multiple Intelligences, Krathwohl’s Affective Domains, William’s Taxonomy of Creativity and Innovation, and also Bloom’s Taxonomy. As an arts-integrated classroom, it is essential for those coming to work and acquiring real-world educational experiences to have some knowledge and understanding of these structures for processing and learning in particular.

Like dancing, there are other steps. I have had the student teachers take a multiple intelligence assessment to discover their areas of strengths. I’ve also had them observe and look for examples of how I embedded these structures throughout the school day. Other additional steps that have proven beneficial have been to have them record student engagement, and also visit with students to gain their perspective on the different tasks that were being asked of them to do.

Let the Teaching and Learning Begin

“What’s your Space Jam? What will you create that will make the world awesome?” (Montague, 2015)

For the duration of the student teaching experience, I view our time together as collaborative. We team together to not only find commonalities among our students but also differentiate instruction and help our learners discover tools. Tools that lead them to more successful, creative endeavors. We all agree that students “shrinking away” due to disengagement and frustration is not a result we want to occur in our classroom, right? Then it is essential that creativity and innovation become the heart of lesson planning.

Whether my student teacher embraces my arts-integrated philosophy or not, my goal is to set in motion a process that has them examining lesson plans through the lens of William’s Taxonomy of Creativity and Innovation. These eight hierarchical levels and behaviors become the guide in developing our lesson plan’s instructional pieces and student assignments. The first four levels of the model are intellectually based and the context of the last four taxonomies come from the behavioral or feeling perspective.

The eight levels

  1. Fluency: the generating of many ideas, answers, possibilities or choices to a given situation or problem
  2. Flexibility: changing everyday objects by generating alternatives, variations, adaptations, different ideas/solutions/options
  3. Originality: the generating of new, unique, and novel responses, approaches, solutions by suggesting unusual twists to further thinking
  4. Elaboration: expanding, enriching, embellishing ideas to make it easier to understand or make more interesting
  5. Risk-taking: experimenting and trying new challenges by interacting with the unknown
  6. Complexity: making sense of a complicated idea by creating structure out of chaos or forming logical order in a presented situation
  7. Curiosity: wondering about options, pondering outcomes, and contemplating alternatives when shown a scenario
  8. Imagination: building mental pictures, visualizing possibilities and picturing new things that may go beyond current limits or what is deemed practical

Sparking Ingenuity

Sparking ingenuity in student teachers starts with encouraging and challenging them. How? By encouraging them to go beyond their comfort zone when developing thoughtful, engaging lesson plans. This can be daunting and overwhelming! But as we work together to become secure with the process, it is my job, as the supervising teacher to question and test the instructional pieces and student assignments the student teacher has developed. For instance, some ways I may accomplish this involve:

  1. Where have you caused students to classify or categorize information?
  2. Have students had an opportunity to generate a list of possibilities?
  3. In what ways have you allowed for artistic interpretation of the information?
  4. How have you caused students to stretch their thinking or ideas?
  5. Is there a time in your lesson plan where students have had to experiment or explore with limited guidance or a right or wrong way to do it?
  6. Where have you initiated the need for students to evaluate, justify, improve, or restructure the information to deepen understanding?
  7. Have you evoked time for students to discover, wonder, question or investigate?
  8. How have students engaged in imagining, creating, visualizing, or pretending?

It is through ongoing communication as well as the asking of probing questions that get student teachers to think and take some risks. Risks that will help them deepen their perspective and define their purpose for becoming an educator and knowing what is at the center of everything they do within their classroom. Therefore, putting ourselves in our students’ shoes become the mantra that steers our educational path.

Bibliography

Assessment: Find Your Strength. (n.d.). Retrieved from Multiple Intelligences for Adult Literacy and Education: https://www.literacynet.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html

Banks, J. (2018). An Introduction to Teaching the Gifted Learner. Retrieved from https://slideplayer.com/slide/12161173/

Candler, L. (2011). Multiple Intelligence Survey for Kids. Retrieved from Laura Candler: https://www.rcsdk12.org/cms/lib/NY01001156/Centricity/Domain/9842/Multiple%20Intelligence%20Survey.pdf

Creativity in the Classroom. (2019). Retrieved from Kairo Consultancy and Training: http://kairosct.com/williams-model-creative-thinking/

Cullum, A. (1971). The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On. In A. Cullum. Belgium: Harlin Quist.

Meleen, M. a. (n.d.). Classroom Activities for Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from Love to Know: https://kids.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Classroom_Activities_for_Multiple_Intelligences

Montague, B. a. (2015). Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome. New York City: Harper.

Three Domains of Learning – Cognitive, Affective, Psychomotor. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://thesecondprinciple.com/instructional-design/threedomainsoflearning/

About the Author

Barbara Sandstrom is an Arts Integration specialist and founder of I 2 I Institute: Imagination to Innovation in Mandan, North Dakota. She has 26 years experience in education as a teacher and administrator. Her passion for the arts has caused her to explore ways in which schools, organizations, and communities can utilize arts-based strategies to meet their mission and goals.