At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Simplicity of Innovation

This past week, I decided I had to throw a monkey wrench into things in my Ethics class. We had crunched through the Ten Commandments over the course of the year and I wanted to do something that would swerve the pace. Something innovative, something that would swell the creative element among my students.

And all they'd need was their brains and a laptop.

I arranged each of my classes into groups of 3-4, each of them at one of five table clusters. On the tables were cups that held different color-coded slips of paper: one cup for "names", one cup for "items", and one cup for "word". Each group had to draw a slip from each cup and use those words in their story, a story they'd come up with as a group. Here's the thing: Each story had to be drabble, a work of micro-fiction of exactly one hundred words. (Check out if you're interested) And the stories had to relate to the commandment posted on their table.

For example, students at a table for the ninth commandment, "You shall not lie", might draw the name Evan, the item burrito, and the word humiliated. And yes, those words had to get used in a story of 100 words…put together in 12-13 minutes before I announced each group rotate to the next table and start the process over again with another draw of words and a new commandment.

The life and energy that pulsed through the room was unreal. The most consistent question was "What if we tried…?" and the most consistent statement was "That's a great idea!" Smiles and laughs rang through the classroom, especially as they knew they'd be emailing the compilations to me later to be part of an all-class collection.

Even better were the moments when a student got that gleam in their eye…perhaps you've seen it before. The one when a student says, "Man, I struggle so much with writing papers for English class, but I can do this! This is so much fun!"

And I didn't have to put together a Prezi, a video, or make a game show out of it. All that was needed was to place the chance to create in the hands of students.

More often than we imagine, it's not the grade a student gets, but it's all about the exhilaration of learning bursting forth in a new way, when the joy on their face says it all.

It was a great day to be a teacher, even more so than usual.

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