Friday, November 21, 2014

I'm not Creative--Guest post from Kristy Louden

As the title so accurately states, I'm not creative.  In any way.  And it's not for lack of trying.  

I come from a long line of crafty people.  My mom's creativity comes out through a variety of channels: painting Christmas decorations, sewing Halloween costumes, and putting together beautiful quilts.  My sister is similar in that she sews curtains and blankets, paints and decorates her house (like, all the time).  My dad owned a bakery for most of my life, where he designed and decorated beautiful cakes.  Even one of my brothers writes poetry and designed a piece of jewelry to help his kids feel safe when they're away from home.  I mean, come on, what happened to me?

Now, don't think I haven't tried to be creative. I have a lot of projects floating around in my brain (Thanks, Pinterest), but when I try to bring them to fruition, well, there's no fruit. Or if there is, it's all misshapen or rotten.  On top of that, I just don't really like being creative.  I can't draw. I can't paint. I can't sew (I can, but I don't enjoy it for more than ten minutes).  So, it's not all that fun.  Plus, fine motor activities hurt my hands.  

All of this transfers to me struggling to be creative in the classroom.  Since I don't like to draw/paint/etc, I sometimes forget to give my creative students an opportunity to express themselves.  Thankfully, I work with some really creative people who help me with my struggles.  

Most recently, my friend and colleague Hannah Zarzour (@hanzarz) encouraged me to try something new.  She got the idea of the Iceberg metaphor project from Kelly Gallagher (LOVE!!) and used it for The Great Gatsby last year but I was too much of a chicken to try it.  It's nice having a new teacher around to try things and remind me that it's okay to take risks, I mean, that's all your first couple years of teaching is, right?  Risks.  Anyway, the project was a success.  My students were a little confused at first because metaphors are hard (and, in full disclosure, most of them actually wrote similes, but I'll take it).  

Below you can see some of the beautiful pieces that I got.  (I'm sure you can guess that I had several that didn't make the blog, but overall I was still pretty impressed.)  I was excited to see how the kids put their thoughts into images, even those who can't draw (hey, I'm right there with them!) were thinking through their decisions and really putting their minds to Gatsby.  

These were all facing the right way when I uploaded them :(

Unfortunately, that's just one small example among not many other examples of me using creativity in the classroom.

I think it's easy for us to forget the importance of creativity in the classroom, especially as secondary teachers.  Crayons belong in elementary classrooms, right? But creativity is more than just coloring pictures. Perhaps we need to back up and reconsider what creativity even means.  I don't believe it's just drawing or painting pictures.  Students can be creative in writing, speaking, etc.  So what does creativity look like and how can we use more of it in our English classrooms? Or, how are we as teachers creative in our approach to teaching and learning?  

Sometimes we are creative in our approach to activities that in themselves may not be considered creative.  In an article from 2012 on,  Chaz Pugliese writes, "There's another reason why teachers should use (more) creativity in their classes. Just close your eyes for a few seconds, bring your students nearer: what do you see? They have very different backgrounds, different learning styles, different learning experiences, different degrees of motivation, different language levels and different intelligences and cognitive styles. Unless we bring imaginative approaches to teaching we will have failed to reach out to the very diverse cognitive and emotional needs of our students."

How do you use creativity in your classroom?  Better yet, how do you DEFINE creativity?  

As we explore this issue more leading up to the 2015 ACTE conference, I am excited to expand my ideas about creativity.  I might not be able to sew a Halloween costume, write poetry, or paint Santa on a sled, but perhaps I can use what creativity I do have to reach each one of my students through the lessons and activities I design for my classroom.  

I hope to meet you and learn with/from you at the conference!

~Kristy (@kmkteach)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 2015 ACTE conference and blog ideas

Hey English/Language Arts teachers!  Welcome to the ACTE blog.  There are exciting changes coming for ACTE and our presence on the web.  As you can see above, we now have a website ( and a Twitter account (follow us @ALcouncilofEng).  In addition, we are hoping to make our blog a bit more active.  To do so, we need your help!  We are looking for Alabama English teachers who are willing to guest post here on the ACTE blog.  Leading up to the conference in February, we would like to focus on "Creativity in the Classroom" as it is the focus of the conference.  If you are interested, please contact us through our website. :)  We would like to continue this sharing long past the conference to help our colleagues connect and collaborate across the state.

Speaking of the conference, registration for the 2015 conference is now open.  We hope you can join us!  You can register here!