Sunday, September 08, 2013

Creativity in a French Immersion Kindergarten Classroom

By Stephanie Bartlett

What?

“What is your plan?”
“Before we build that fort, maybe we should draw a plan.”
“Today I am going to build another prototype of my butterfly house.”
-Conversations from Mme Stephanie’s Kindergarten classroom.

Creativity is a word that we hear so often these days and yet so many of us are intimidated or just don’t know where to start.  Some are interested, but don’t consider themselves creative, therefore they leave it for others to try.  Naively ignorant of the world of creativity, I fell into that camp until everything changed in July 2012 when I began my Masters at The University of Calgary in Creativity in Educational Practice.  Our professor, Robert Kelly, thoughtfully guided us through a personal and professional transformation that catapulted me into the world of teacher as designer.  Together with my partners, we spent all of last year developing our own creativity and figuring out how to make room for something new in our teaching practice.  

We experimented with units of different lengths, and letting the students wonderings guide our explorations. We also played with implementing Genius Hour, something that we will definitely incorporate into our practice this year as well.  And, as we all know, there is no point in teaching anything if you can’t access it, so we created and trialled assessment tools, both teacher and student friendly.  After so much trial and error, we realized that we weren't just adding new concepts on top of traditional ones; we were completely restructuring our classrooms and the way we taught.  Judging by student performance and their high levels of engagement, we were hooked.

So what?

Creativity aligns beautifully with the philosophies of Reggio-inspired learning and inquiry.  My classroom became living proof that when students were taught the process of creative development, when space was treated as a collaborative tool, and when feedback was given often by teacher and students, the evidence of metacognition and student engagement is far-reaching.  Seeing the intrinsic motivation of my students as they headed straight for our classroom garden or their plans and models of the new classroom water table renewed my passion for teaching.

Now What?

I now know that I am creative, that there is a developmental process to creativity and that creativity does indeed enhance both my teaching and the way students learn. Together with my partners, I will continue implement creativity in the classroom.  We have joined the collaborative project on twitter, #LookingClosely.  Exploring nature through the lense of creativity will be an exciting venture.  We are developing a yearlong project that will highlight the uniqueness of each student and incorporate many learning outcomes along the way.  Lastly, we will continue on with Genius Hour on Friday mornings.  We have a busy year ahead and have learned to trust the process of creativity and outcome unknown.



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