Creative Teaching

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By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

A recent blog at the National Education Association website reported on a study concerning how K12 teachers can be creative in the classroom, in the face of standardized curricula and testing.

The authors of the study assert that the current high-stakes testing model in American education can impede the development of creativity in students. Yet as they point out, “creativity has always been and will continue to be a driving force in moving society forward”.

Drs. Danaah Henriksen and Punya Mishra co-authored the study. They are both professors of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University. Their methodology involved lengthy interviews with eight recent winners or finalists for National Teacher of the Year awards.

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Several  themes were common across the group:

  • An inter-disciplinary approach to subject matter
  • The use of multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic)
  • Learning that relates to the real worldSeveral  themes were common across the group:
  • Having confidence to try new ideas in the classroom
  • Creative teachers draw on their own creative abilities and interests (e.g. musical, artistic)

The study authors “recommend that teacher education programs devote more resources into interdisciplinary thinking and training.” And they add that introducing creativity does not need to involve “sweeping change”, that “more realistically it’s about an ongoing willingness to find the places to make small or interesting changes and watch these add up over time.”

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Creative teaching is important for multiple reasons. One is that it provides more channels through which students can learn. Another is that it introduces children to the creative process, and helps them to become more creative themselves. And it allows teachers to remain more engaged with their students and the joy of teaching. Creative teaching is more rewarding for teachers.

Curriki applauds creativity in the classroom. We suggest you share ideas around enhancing classroom creativity with other educators by joining one or more Curriki groups. And we encourage you to look for ways to add cross-disciplinary and cross-learning content by taking advantage of some of the more than 62,000 free resource materials found at curriki.org.

The full study report can be found at: “We Teach Who  We Are: Creativity in the Lives and Practices of Accomplished Teachers”.

Top 10 Non-STEM Resources

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki 

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With all the emphasis on STEM education many people have begun to wonder if there are any major or minor repercussions in focusing on STEM education. Thankfully that’s not as serious a problem for us here at Curriki because we provide tons of resources that are STEM related AND non-STEM related. If you didn’t know that, take a look at this list of our Top 10 Non-STEM resources. As always, these high quality resources are free to use, share and customize, so you definitely should take a look at them!

10) Unit 10: Turbulent Decades

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Noir at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This collection contains resources specific to the post war era, covering topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and cultural movements of the 1960s.

Find it here

9) Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict Collection

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This lesson is part of a larger unit on the Great Depression. In this unit, students will be focusing on determining importance; summarizing; making predictions; recognizing plot structure; and identifying flashbacks, foreshadowing and setting. Wherever possible, mini-lesson texts relate to American life in the 1930s, and all students will be reading literature circle novels set during this time period in American history.

Find it here

8) The Crisis of Credit VISUALIZED

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan Jarvis created a video that clearly and simply details how the credit crisis of 2008 came about, what mistakes were made, how it was all interconnected, and how everyone was affected. The video is very concise, while also being thorough and easy to understand.

Find it here

7) Rob Lucas Grammar Collection

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Always in our top 10 resources, this grammar collection is an extremely rich resource offering a complete unit on teaching grammar in a fun way. The content is correct, thorough and appropriate. Inclusion of a version of Mad Libs and a collaborative group project/presentation offers as much creativity for teaching grammar as possible. A humorous poem in worksheet form makes the lesson engaging and interesting. A scoring guide for the presentation makes the unit meaningful and understandable to students. The unit uses many various strategies to enhance the content.

Find it here

6) AfricaQuest

“Great Zimbabwe Closeup” by Macvivo at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg#/media/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg

This WebQuest guides student teams to research and answer questions about their assigned African nation. It includes research about the economic growth of modern China to gain understanding of how developing countries might further expand economically.

Find it here

5) Tuck Everlasting Novel Study

“Tuck Everlasting25″ by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tuck_Everlasting25.png#/media/File:Tuck_Everlasting25.png

This resource provides an excellent 25 day unit on the novel Tuck Everlasting. With an emphasis on questioning, particularly question-answer relationships, the novel study materials guide students to develop critical thinking skills. All materials like question cards, game instructions, graphic organizers, rubrics, templates for character development, vocabulary development, etc., are included in this thorough, comprehensive, highly usable resource.

Find it here

4) Traveling West in a Covered Wagon

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The unit explores the reasons that led early Americans from their homes in the east to the west via the Oregon Trail. The students will discover that the emigrants headed west for various reasons, such as cheap land, jobs, and a better life. The unit simulates life on the Oregon Trail through a series of hands-on activities and inquiry. The students will travel back in time to the 1840s to travel west on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. The students will return to 2009, with artifacts they collected on their journey. The artifacts will be created by the students throughout the unit. The students will display their artifacts at the end of the unit in an Oregon Trail Museum.

Find it here

3) The Kite Runner Unit

“Kite runner” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kite_runner.jpg#/media/File:Kite_runner.jpg

A unit of materials to support the teaching and reading of the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The unit includes a suggested reading schedule and unit plan. pre-reading assignments and worksheets, during reading questions, graphic organizers and lesson plans, and after reading assessments and writing extensions.

Find it here

2) Civic Duty vs Uninformed Voters

“Election MG 3455″ by Rama – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Election_MG_3455.JPG#/media/File:Election_MG_3455.JPG

A lesson and Powerpoint in which students will evaluate the role the media and celebrities play into our ideas of civic engagement and voting while asking the question if duty outweighs the uninformed vote.

Find it here

1) Analyzing Media Perception of Congressional Power

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A lesson that looks at the powers of Congress, as defined by the constitution, and how the media perceives what powers Congress has. This will be done through viewing media, such as online articles, videos, and political cartoons. We will compare and contrast the perception and what the constitution says. It also includes alternative suggestions to the “official” lesson.

Find it here

If you have a favorite Curriki resource about Humanities, Language, Arts, or other Non-STEM Resources, please let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Inspiring Learning: Inspire Self-Inspiration

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

We recently ran a survey of our members asking them “How do you inspire learning?”. We appreciate all of the interesting responses we received.

One of our members, Vincent Churchill, provided a very interesting multi-page response, which I would like to summarize here. His response is actually rather profound. Instead of thinking about you as a teacher inspiring learning, think about it one level higher.

That is, quoting Mr. Churchill: “Lead students to inspire themselves”. Think about it – the best inspiration and motivation comes from within as a continuous process, once the student can get to that place. So help them to get to that place where they don’t just draw occasional inspiration from without, but fuel it more regularly from within. And help them get to the place where they will also seek additional external sources of inspiration for themselves.

Here’s some of what Mr. Churchill wrote in his response:

“And the answer is…

My answer is twofold and in starting the first part of my answer, I would have to qualify that it is about leading students to inspiring themselves, with their own motivations and reasons, not aimed at a’result’, reward or specific goal in mind. In short, that they be inspired at a very personal level and for various different reasons… their own reasons! My thoughts on the matter are geared towards a quite few things;

1. … to want to know more about the subject/issue at hand

2. … to be willing to share his/her thoughts about the subject/issue

3. … to find authentic and original examples for illustrating a particular example

4. … to examine, investigate, question and put forward opinions (sometimes of a personal nature)

5. … to be willing to ‘risk being wrong’ by giving an answer

6. … to debate and discuss (even argue) with their peers

7. … to take the classroom experience/material out into the ‘real world’. “

So help students find their own reasons for motivation and inspiration. It’s not enough to be inspired to just get through an exam, but to love the learning process, and the personal growth associated with that.

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The second part of Mr. Churchill’s answer is about individualized learning. He notes that there is no “silver bullet” solution.

“In concluding, my answer takes cognisance of the fact that students can NEVER be seen as ‘just a class’ and that any motivation, inspiration, action or expectation should be based on careful (yes, sometimes erroneous) observations, assumptions and expected outcomes of INDIVIDUALS in the class. The motivation for learning then follows, from the student’s side, because they have a genuine interest and also a reason for wanting to learn.”

So to get to this place one has to look at who the students are as individuals, what are their likes and dislikes and passion? What skills and experiences do they have, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What is their personality, is it shy, is it aggressive, etc.?

As we said in our last blog, about AltSchool, an experimental school in San Francisco – “Not all children are alike.  Not all children learn the same way. AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the ‘assembly line factory model’ of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.”

There are over 62,000 resources at Curriki to help support individualized learning and to help students inspire themselves! Please take advantage of these free, open source resources to inspire self-inspiration.

5 Great STEM Websites

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Here are 5 excellent sites for free STEM resources.

1. NASA’s TeachStation

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The site TeachStation has resources about the International Space Station and STEM activities on the ISS. Included are student projects and a series of videos demonstrating STEM concepts for students in the middle grades and high school. Concepts covered include Newton’s laws, microgravity, and surface tension. TeachStation is at this link:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/expeditions/index.html#.VVRd0XBXerU

2. National Repository of Open Educational Resources, India

nroerlogoIndia’s Ministry of Human Resource Development has established a National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER). It has a range of resources across grade levels and subjects, and available in multiple languages.

You can access the site at http://nroer.in/home/ and it includes videos, audio, images, documents and interactive modules. It has a useful concept map to facilitate browsing.

The NROER site has this to say about their resources: “Categorised and made into collections, the resources are mapped to concepts that will span the entire school and teacher education curricula of the country.”

3. MIT Highlights for High School

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MIT OpenCourseWare provides resources primarily at the university level, but they also have a significant number of STEM resources for high school students. They have specifically curated resources, including selections from college-level courses, for use by high school teachers andd students. You can learn more at:  http://ocw.mit.edu/high-school/index.htm

4. Karen Fasimpaur’s Collection

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This collection from  Karen Fasimpaur is at http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/117659#anchor

Quoting from the site:

“This is a collection of some of the best open-licensed educational resources that can be used in K-12, as well as other useful related information.”

5. Curriki – Free Learning Resources for the World

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We save the best for last, naturally. Curriki now has over 62,000 open source resources in total, and the majority of these are STEM-related. For example a search on mathematics results in over 13,000 resource listings. You will likely find many materials that you can put to use in the classroom, up to including full courses such as Curriki Algebra and Curriki Geometry. Try our search function today.

http://www.curriki.org/welcome/resources-curricula/

3 Steps to Effective EdTech Implementation

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By Guest Blogger Jessica Sanders, Director of Social Outreach, Learn2Earn

EdTech implementation: the phrase alone makes the process of bringing technology into your classroom sound daunting and stressful. Luckily, what you see isn’t always what you get, and this process can be smooth and stress-free if you look at the big picture, take your time, and remember to be flexible.

Use these three simple tips to take the nerves out of making your classroom future ready.

  1. Look at the Bigger Picture

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

 It’s important to remember that technology will merely facilitate to your big-picture plan in a way that engages your students and gets them excited about learning. Tools need to supplement your lessons, not the other way around.

Before choosing any tools, answer these questions:

  • What aspects of your curriculum would benefit most from the addition of technology?
  • What are your year-long goals for these students? How does technology fit with those goals?
  • What are Common Core implementation issues that could be solved with technology for you?

Other technical questions to ask yourself:

  • What equipment do I have access to? A computer lab, iPads for all the students?
  • Is there Wi-Fi access in the school? Is it reliable?
  • Will my students be able to access these tools at home or just in the classroom?
  1. Take Your Time

After answering the previous questions you can start your research. Begin browsing apps by genre (Math, Reading), pricing (free, fee-based) or style (gamified, image-focused). You can also browse lists. A few good ones are:

10 Teacher Tools to Techify Your Classroom

Interactive Web Tools for Educators

10 Tech Tools to Engage Students

Once you’ve chosen a few tools to pursue, it’s time to experiment. Spend time learning how it works, and consider how your students will use it in the classroom.

Ask yourself:

  • Will it take them a long time to learn?
  • Will I have to spend a lot of extra time managing it?
  • Will it make me more efficient?

You may love every tool you test—but that doesn’t mean you need to bring them into the classroom all at once. In fact, this may be stressful for you and your students. Choose just one to start with, and once you and your students have mastered that tool, consider adding a new one to your roster.

  1. Be Flexible

 The first few days, even weeks, of using a new tool can be trying. You and your students are getting to know how it works, deciding where it fits in the context of everything else you’re trying to accomplish, and more. During this period, you need to be flexible with time, patience and students. Remember:

Something will go wrong: Sometimes, even the smallest mishap can throw you off. Prepare for this by considering all the things that might not work—students aren’t interested, some students aren’t successful with the tool, it stops working, your Wi-Fi is down—and have a backup plan.

Students might know better than you: Your students have been raised with technology, and know the ins and outs of many programs. Accept their advice if you’re unsure about something; this may be a time when you can learn from them—a moment that empowers them to be leaders.

Bringing new tools into the classroom doesn’t need to be an arduous or stressful task. These tools can make your students more engaged and you more efficient, if you take your time considering what works and what doesn’t.

Look at the bigger picture, test the tools you like, and don’t forget to be patient: anything new takes time to understand and manage, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll see the time was worth the outcome.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students to raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

10 Tips to Equip Your Classroom on a Budget

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Almost a year ago, we did a post that was very popular about tips and tricks to help teachers equip their classrooms. We’ve brought several of those tips back in this updated list and broadened the scope beyond just free resources. All to give you several options for supplying your classroom on a tight budget!deskchild

Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
  • Check out eBay and your local Craigslist. There’s a lot of great stuff listed on eBay. On eBay, try to bid on “lot” offers for children’s books, teaching supplies, and craft supplies, instead of bidding on individual items. On Craigslist, look under the For Sale section using the keywords “teacher” and/or “classroom.”
  • Find your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a network with millions of members that are all about reusing each other’s items. Put up a “Wanted” post explaining that you are a teacher and listing what you need.
  • Use Book Clubs! Clubs like Scholastic Book Club offer free books after you’ve accumulated bonus points.
  • Shop around for Back-to-School discounts at the Office Depot and Target in your area. Sometimes managers will allow you to go over the sale limit for coupons because you are a teacher. Other stores frequently put school supplies on clearance when the supplies reach a certain level.
  • Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
  • If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
  • Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores(from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers.  And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
  • NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
  • And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.

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If you know of other free resources, would you please share?

An Experimental School in San Francisco

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

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Yesterday morning, I read an interesting article in Wired (www.wired.com) about AltSchool (http://www.wired.com/2015/05/altschool/), an experimental school in San Francisco founded by a former Google exec that is using technology to enhance and personalize education with a focus on student-centered learning.

Many educators were taught that environment is hugely influential when it comes to student learning. If the atmosphere is not conducive to exploration, students tend to not learn as well. Natural lighting, colorful activities, open spaces, and a flexible teaching method all contribute towards a healthy learning environment and AltSchool seems to have nailed this.

The school is built around the concept of personalizing education, something I wish I had when I went to school. By using a digital platform for students called My.AltSchool and the Montessori Method of teaching, AltSchool is providing a personalized experience for every student, while teachers get instant feedback that allow them to custom-teach to each student. AltSchool uses what they call “The Playlist,” which incorporates “a set of weekly learning experiences and exercises that help students meet their specific personalized learning plan goals.”

AltSchool also incorporates a feedback loop where a product development team works hand-in-hand with the teachers (and by extension the students) to develop apps that have practical usage, such as a recommendation engine for teachers, similar to the ones used by Amazon and Netflix. It takes into account everything that My.Altschool knows about a student and comes up with recommended activities. The eventual goal is to roll out these applications to other schools (public, private, charter) across the country.

Not all children are alike.  Not all children learn the same way.  AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the “assembly line factory model” of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.

Some may fault AltSchool’s for-profit business model or claim this is yet another well-meaning attempt to reform public education. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

If you’d like to learn more about AltSchool check out their website www.altschool.com