Yes, I am one of “those teachers.” Take out the paint, pastels, markers, construction paper, foam board, canvas…. power up the computer…. sing, dance, show me what you have! I believe that students can learn so much through creative student choice, project-based assignments. Truth: In addition to being a literature specialist, I am a writing specialist. Yes, I “preach” to my writing students that being able to compose a paper with ease is not only necessary but will be a critical part of their success in higher education. You will never hear me discredit the merit of writing a solid paper. Something magical happens to a student when they realize they have found the perfect dramatic opening, written an amazing thesis or found the perfect word choice. I truly believe that to become a better writer – you have to write – ALL. THE. TIME.
With that said, when I put on my “hat” as a literature teacher, I often play a different tune. This often catches my students by surprise. I am a huge advocate of creative student choice, project-based assignment. In my literature-based classes, student can expect a minimum of one creative project; however, in one particular class, the entire 10-week session is based on student choice. No, they do not get the choice of NOT completing an assignment. In addition, they are not allowed to complete the same project over and over. And yes, there must be some component of writing (not an essay – but something) attached to each creative project. Creative student based projects, provides students, to dig deep and analyze literature using their creative juices. I have to admit that I look forward to receiving these creative projects more than any other project. I become giddy with delight waiting to see what my students will create! And yes, sometimes I giggle when I take a look at the wonderful works of art that await me. Painting. Word Collages. Book Reviews. Creative Comic Strips. Book Trailers. Time Capsules. You name it – my students have done it.
There are many reasons, all based on research, why creative projects are beneficial for students of ALL ages.
- Thinking abstractly.
Creative projects allow students to think. Yes, students have to think to write an essay or critique; however, a creative project will encourage a student to think if a different way – using a different part of the brain. When it comes to writing an essay, a general formula needs to be followed and most of the time students need to respond to a prompt or choose from a few prompts. When it comes to a creative project the students are allowed to take the reins and make connections that he/she may not have been able to make via words alone. I have had students compose (and sing) songs based on novels, research, shop and cook full meals that represent the culture in a novel, create technological book trailers, create word graffities and then present the meaning of each word they specifically chose to represent the novel etc.
- Personal Interests and talents
Creative projects allow students to connect a text to their personal interests and talents. We are all unique and our differences should be celebrated. Some students are good with computers and technology while other students can sing, and yet other students can create fabulous works of art. Who says these are not part of education and growing into the independent human beings we become. Thinking. Planning. Effort. Work. All four of these critical components are necessary for the success of a creative project. Often, I personally think, more effort goes into a creative project than written work. Allowing students to do something they enjoy while connecting it to a work of literature is not only for the student, but also for peers as they are able to view the projects of their classmates (yes, we do this virtually!) and appreciate individual talents and perspectives.
- Connecting to the Text
Because context plays a critical part in literature, a creative project may help students probe context more efficiently than a paper. This will help the students analyze and think about the text in a different way. When the students take a look at the piece of literature creatively, they are connecting to something and will not forget about it. The literature becomes part of them.
Isn’t that what childhood is about? Taking risks. Exploring various mediums of the creative arts. Problem solving. Thinking outside the box. Now, come on, think back to your education. When you got to choose what you were going to do, and were given permission to think outside-the-box, weren’t those some of your fondest memories in school. Give YOUR child the same opportunities!
Exploring American History through the American Girls – Grades 2 – 5 – Creative Projects could include: timelines, maps, living wax museums, newspapers, time capsules and jackdaws:
To Hope and Back: The Journey of the SS St. Louis – Creative projects could include: timelines, maps, diary writing, artwork, interviews and more!
You Can’t Stop Them! Strong Female Leads in Literature – Creative projects could include: Artwork, comic strips, technological projects, time capsules, word graffiti, Twitterature, cooking and so much more!
Two other classes, that are writing focused, each having a creative project involved:
Perspectives: Combining Short Stories and Writing – Creative Project: Book Trailer
Lights! Camera! Actions! Analyzing Classic Movies as Literature – Creative Project: Student Choice
Eva Goldstein-Meola, is not only co-founder of Open Tent Academy, but an instructor as well as a former homeschooling mother. She has lived in New Jersey, Florida, Western Massachusetts, Northern Virginia and now resides just outside of Jerusalem. Eva holds a Master’s Degree as a Consulting Teacher of Reading and Writing, IEW certification and a Bachelor’s Degree as an Elementary Teacher. She has also been involved in education since 1986 as a Private Tutor, Teacher, Reading Specialist, Homeschooling Mother, Homeschooling Teacher and Business Owner of an Online Education Consortium. In addition to teaching, Eva enjoys cooking, baking, playing Settlers of Catan, traveling with her husband Jonathan, Broadway Musicals and reading. Eva teaches a variety of literature and IEW writing courses for Open Tent Academy.
Some other articles by Eva: