Friday, August 15, 2014

Rethinking Craftivities {Amp up the Rigor Blog Series Linky}

This is the first in my "Amp up the Rigor" weekly blog series, where bloggers can link up ideas to Amp up the Rigor in the classroom. If you have a blog post about amping up the rigor:  Grab this image, link back to the post and link up at the bottom. 

I know this topic may be a little controversial, but I think it is important. I've hesitated writing about it. but since it is the beginning of the year and teachers are heading back to the classroom I want to offer some food for thought.

Let me start off by saying, I don't hate craftivities or teachers who use/make them.  I have many friends and colleagues who use them often. Do I think they are bad teachers? Absolutely not. I think craftivities are cute. Parents love them. Kids think they are fun.They are extremely popular on Pinterest.

But are the kids using higher order thinking skills when making a step by step craft? 

Not really. 

Of course, I'm not addressing all craftivities, some allow for oodles of creativity.  I'm addressing the ones where when the class is finished with their work it looks like their work came from a copy machine. 

I cringe in the hallways when I see a long bulletin board of completely identical work. They look cute,don't get me wrong. It's just that, well, it isn't creative. I understand the importance of learning to follow directions carefully, but what if you let the craft be open-ended? What kinds of wonderful things could they come up with if they weren't busy tracing the exact same circle as the rest of the class?

Again I don't think step by step craftivities should be done away with, but I do believe that they should be used sparingly.  And of course there is another option: modification! Take the craftivity idea (from Pinterest, or TPT or wherever you got it) and figure out how to allow unique expression.

For example, a few years ago I did a mini-unit of pickle activities with my pickle-obsessed class. In the writing craftivity, each child gets the same pickle, but they create their own pickle character and write their own pickle story. When I did this activity in my class none of the pickles looked the same. They were all so unique. 

When allowing the kids to make their own craftivity, I model how to think creatively. I did a Monster Math lesson where my first grade students created their own Monster Math problem. They were to create their own monster math problem and create a monster that showed the answer of the problem 
I had the kids meet me at the perimeter of the rug. (I use the word perimeter so they start knowing the meaning of that word early- a tip I got from my mentor teacher).

Using construction paper, scissors and glue, I created my Monster Craft in front of them, modeling my thinking out loud. I asked questions like, "Which body part should I cut out first?" "Why would that make sense?" to allow the kids to explain their reasoning. 
"Okay, I will start with her body. I want her to be triangle shaped. I think I like the color purple. I have to make sure that the body is big enough so I can put arms and legs on her." 
 It was a quick mini-lesson but it allowed the kids to visualize how to make their own craft. As you can see they each created unique ideas to match their Monster Math problem These certainly weren't cookie cutter, but it was a craftivity!

Am I saying that this Monster Math craftivity lesson was perfect? Absolutely not. Next time, I would have them write on lines, for one thing! But, it met the standards, demonstrated mastery, encouraged higher order thinking and it was a craftivity!

I often see teachers use these step-by-step craftivities as a culminating activity to finishing a unit, chapter, or standard. In my opinion, a culminating activity should allow for higher order thinking. I believe mastery  of a skill indicates that you can take it to the next level.  You can create something, evaluate something, explain something, build something, etc.  to demonstrate your mastery of the skill. Utilizing project choice boards, real life connection activities, and simulations are all great ways to demonstrate higher order thinking and mastery of a skill. Another idea is to include the craftivity as a choice in a project choice board.

In a time where students are expected to be inside the box so often in standardized tests, it is so important for them  to go outside of the box in projects and activities. It is our job to instill creativity and outside the box thinking in our little learners. 

I'm wondering, 
What things do you do to instill creative thinking in your classroom?
What are your thoughts on craftivities? Do you use them? In what ways?

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  1. I definitely agree!!!! I have done the unified crafts before, but I prefer creativity!

  2. Thank you so much! I definitely have to, but it's certainly worth thinking about. Thank you for your support, I was worried this post might attract a mob. :)


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