Changing a list into something that catches other’s interest…

Write about what?

dead butterfly

For a recent assignment, students were to examine an advertisement. Questions led them to look at the visuals: subject of emphasis, originality of image, the placement of objects, type of people pictured. Then, they examined techniques such as use of  band wagon appeal, or slogans Finally, they were directed to evaluate the intended audience,  and validity of claims in the text. In the end students had to take all the answers and compile them into a composition.  However, their writing basically read like a list of answered question.  Taking something in one form and changing it into another form that appears organic is the art of transforming words into writing. Like the metamorphosis of the butterfly it seems to be magical. Exactly how do you get students (or yourself) to take a fragmented stew of ideas and facts, and transform it into with something  else?

The first piece of wisdom…

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Visualizing conversation

Adverbs are words, too.

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converse Ave Ledru-RollinImagine you are creating an everyday conversation of a fairly happy couple lunching at an outdoor cafe. The idea is to make it sound ordinary but still drop in some clues about the problems looming just beyond the horizon. However, you tire of using the ubiquitous  “said” after every sentence of dialog.

“How was your day?” she intones.

“The new president has made some unusual requests,”  he articulates.

“They cannot be as strange as what Mr. Rossi asked for today,” she utters.

“How would  you know?” he rejoins.

This couple already has deep problems beyond bizarre requests from the new president and Mr. Rossi.  They are tedious, and the intellectual verbs used to replace “said” trend to drip with boredom. So, let’s try to add a little more feeling to the conversation and use words that are stronger.

“How was your day?” she queries.

“The new president has made some…

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The case for the case

Using an old way to show one’s ability as a new way to assess skills….

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case2Portfolio – a portable case for holding papers – a simple name for a collection of works into which a person has poured hours of deliberation and sweat. Today the portfolio is just as likely to be stored on a flash drive that fits into the palm of a hand as in a case. But its purpose is still the same – to demonstrate the quality of work a person can do.

Prospective buyers and employers have been scrutinizing people’s portfolios for centuries. At one time most schools encouraged students to produce works worthy of their portfolio. However, with the increased popularity and ease of standardized testing, the production of quality work has often taken a back seat to test scores. Are the multiple-choice standardized tests scores easier to compare – Yes.  Are they a more accurate indicator of higher order thinking skills – not according to a sizable portion…

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The ogre of orginality

Why originality in the classroom is so difficult…

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prom 2011 (7) copy

The creative writer combines originality, complexity, independence of judgment, and aesthetic sensitivity according to the research of Frank Barron, who was known for his in depths studies of the creative mind. His subjects often took extremely complex elements to produce a final product that was elegant and deceptively simple.

Barron found that creative people could hold two opposite views at the same time and yet see no contraction. Basically, they could be both naive and knowledgeable, emotional and logical, or disciplined and free spirited.[1]

Such dichotomies tend to become better integrated  as people grow older. For creative adolescents, this lack of integration may appear as moodiness or fickle thinking as they try to balance ideas at opposite poles. For example, adolescents may push the envelope when it comes to being different from older people, but not from their peers. In fact this age group exhibits more conformity to their…

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Multiplying like rabbits

The growth of over confidence…

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Conejos_en_una_conejeraHave you been a the position in which someone who was purported to be knowledgeable, or even an expert in an area at work gave you instructions that were impossible to follow once you got into the details… huge chunks of the process were missing or instructions, replete with jargon, were garbled with no real information. However, this person didn’t do it just once or twice, but so frequently you began to wonder if they were out to destroy your reputation at work, or just plain stupid. According to recent research on overconfidence there is a good chance that were probably not as knowledgeable in the field as you, but didn’t even know it.

Two recent studies have shown that overconfident people have deceived themselves into thinking that they know more than they do. Unfortunately other people believe this, too, which only reinforces this delusion.

One study conducted within the…

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Too rigorous for creativity

Creating is going to be messy….

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reading2A teacher voiced his frustration about getting gifted students past the hurdle of simply looking at events of a story to the uncover the devices that the author used in writing the story.  The students need to interpret the effect these literary devises had on the readers.

At that point I worked with children who had made this leap, despite needing help in reading due to dyslexia.  They did this because they were attempting to write stories themselves.  I suggested to the teacher that he could have students write short fiction so they could understand the process that an author went through. His response, “The curriculum is too rigorous and doesn’t allow time for creative writing. They can take that course if they want to.”

I don’t find this the most sensible route to take for many reasons. Blooms taxonomy used to place Evaluation on the top rung. The critic…

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To cheat or not to cheat

With apologies to Shakespeare…

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“To cheat or not to cheat, that is the  question
Whether ’tis nobler to in the mind to suffer
The sleepless nights of outrageous homework
Or to take arms against a sea of academia
And by opposing end it. To cheat, to pass —
No more– and by passing to say we end
The headache and the thousand hours of study
That students are heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To cheat, to pass–
To excel–perchance to be caught:
Ay, there’s the rub”

With apologies to William Shakespeare for  revising his work, I find this a fitting way to point  to a major dilemma in education today.

Living in a global village makes information easier to obtain. Therefore, instructors have requested increasing amounts of work, which has a tendency to lead to increasing amounts of academic dishonesty. In…

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Bucking creative standards

What is really original?

Write about what?

Fredricksburg 046a
A few years ago, my daughter and I visited the National Portfolio day in Dallas. Over fifty leading art colleges were present to review students’ art work – a sort of hotbed of the creative future. My daughter quickly realized that while considered extremely artistic and original in her own school, she was below average when compared to students across a multi-state region.

Most people want to assume they are above average, but statistically they cannot be. Looking at average grades in high school will reveal that the bell curve doesn’t come down as low on the high end. More students make A’s than F’s. This grade inflation tends to make grades less meaningful and the dependence on standardized tests greater. It also helps to promotes the “I’m better than average” illusion.

We often hear high praises for the experience of living in a global village, but there is a…

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Teaching academics like athletics?

Two different types of learning…

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Sometimes students wish academic classes were more like performance based sports, but how would it work? How do they respond differently to coaching for physical skill versus teaching a cognitive skill?

Warm ups

In athletics students spend time warming up with exercise routines before hitting the field to actually perform the sport. Why. To stretch their muscles  and slowly raise the heart rate. These routines are to loosen joints, which help to decrease injuries, and increase blood flow because the stress of sports requires more oxygen. The warm up prepares the body to be pushed beyond normal  physical activity.

in a class room teachers typically use warm-ups as a classroom management technique to get students quiet and focused. Sometimes they also serve as a daily assessment to identify students that are falling behind. In an upper level academic class, there are typically no warm-ups. Why?  Learning is a class…

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Who is responsible for learning?

Who plays the most important part in a child’s education?

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swimmerOne of my friends mentions the local swim team as a possible activity for my children in the summer. For the first one it was a good fit. When younger he had taken a swim class, it  had only two students due to the overlapping the first week of school. He had opportunity to practice frequently at a friend’s pool. When the second child was the same age, it was a different story. The initial swimming class had been over crowded and useless; the friend with a pool had moved away.  It was fine to put the older child on a team with coaches.  But the second one needed a swimming teacher.

How many times have you overheard  teacher discussing a class say the words “they should already know how to…”  For students who just require coaching to learn, that is probably true. They have already been exposed to the…

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