Monday, November 5, 2012

Collaborating to Support Creativity using Multiple Literacies

Creativity in the classroom is an essential part of engaging students and allowing their ideas to be accepted and enhanced through exploration and working with others. In my geometry classroom it is important for students to make connections between topics as well as connections to what they see in their real world. Students in my class communicate and collaborate with others to solve problems and communicate their thoughts using precise language and thinking. Working with others and collaborating enhances individual thinking and allows students a chance to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Students in my class work in groups to solve complex problems, using the large whiteboards available for each group, as a way to share their knowledge with members of the group as well as between groups. In my class, we value student thinking a lot and want to make sure that their thinking is what they focus on and they have the freedom to demonstrate this in a more formal way using the thinking that they have recorded on the boards or through exploration activities.

            Through the structure of the class, students are able to process different types of information and record them. They are getting information from the instructor, their peers, as well as their previous knowledge and using this to think critically. Students label the origin of information, noting that the instructor gave it or that they knew it prior to being given the task, so they are utilizing their information literacy to understand that information comes from a variety of sources. We also discuss the validity of informational resources, as geometry has a big focus on proofs, we encourage students to ask, “How do we know?”. We want students to question the origin of information to support their ability to challenge ideas and think about their knowledge in a way that might allow them to prove many things using mathematics.

            In order to help students understand the connections they can make between content and the world around them, I created an assignment using the popular social media tool, instagram. I provided a short introduction to how the tool will be used to demonstrate their understanding of concepts from class and how they apply to things they see outside of school. Students were able to see the benefits and drawbacks of this type of media tool, and since some students don’t have access to this application, I allowed them to bring in a picture of their interpretation of class content in the real world and bring in the same rationale or justification of thinking that I required of students on instagram. Using the posts that students provided, I created practice and review problems for students to prove that these concepts do translate to the examples that they brought in. 

            Students need time to reflect and work independently in order to direct their thinking in a positive direction. Students in my class often have a chance to reflect on the concepts that they needed to know in order to solve a particular problem that they did in groups. Sometimes students will work on a similar problem independently in order to see how they are able to translate their group thinking into enduring individual understanding. Combining these two elements of reflection and individual practice seems to be the most effective way for students to make sense of the new concepts that they learn. Working in groups, as well as independently, allows students to use multiple forms of communication to practice with and demonstrate their knowledge of vocabulary. When working in groups, they can listen to others use the vocabulary and also speak using the vocabulary themselves, and then when they practice on their own and reflect they include justifications for their answers, writing out vocabulary. These group settings are very effective in allowing students to practice vocabulary, understand content material, challenge each other’s ideas and learn how to work with different groups of people in order to get productive and positive results. Understanding that each group is not going to always work effectively together and developing strategies for how to overcome this, is an important life skill so it is important that this is supported and practiced in the classroom. These groups that we use in the class change every two weeks so students are getting to work with a variety of different individuals with diverse learning profiles and personalities. 

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