State Standards as a Source of Creativity?

   I wrote a post for my creativity blog ( yesterday about how I’ve noticed the other places in my life, besides my writing, where my creativity has shown up. This is directly related to this post on using the State Standards to create materials for your classroom.

   About ten years ago, education got a shot in the arm, and began a shift. It was just after Standards for each curriculum area had come under the spotlight. For some states, the Standards had been around for a while. Many teachers, myself included, were unfamiliar with them at the time. Since then, however, most of us have attended professional development and read articles and books about ‘unwrapping’ the Standards. Not only have we, as a teaching profession, been strongly encouraged to know and understand the Standards related to the subjects we teach, but some of us have developed an intimate relationship with the list of concepts and skills that students are to learn at each grade level.

   Once I understood the process in ‘unwrapping’ the Standards, I found that they weren’t so intimidating, and that it really opened up so many more options for how to teach the concepts, as well as for giving students multiple ways in which to practice and show what they know. Not only did it make the Standards mean more to me, but it gave me a road map of how to structure my teaching. It was from this understanding that I was able to create the multitude of centers, menus, assessments, games, learning logs, journals, group and paired activities that offered my students an opportunity to practice in different ways, thus deepening their comprehension.

   Here is the short version of using the Standards for creating materials to further student learning.

1) Obtain a copy of your State’s Standards for the subject you teach (or one of the subjects at the elementary level).

2) Decide on a concept that you will be teaching, and focus on the verbs in the Teaching or Learning Objectives in the Standard.

3) Words like: identify, classify, name, solve, evaluate, label, diagram, graph, include, and support are all what students must ‘do’.

4) Consider how a student can ‘identify’ parts of a cell (for example). They could label a picture, color different parts different colors, make flashcards of the vocabulary word on one side and a picture of the part on the other side, these words can be used in a Bingo game or paired activity of Concentration or Go Fish. There’s also 20 Questions, Mystery Part, and all of the Kagan structures that could be used in conjunction with the textbook or one of the ideas above.

5) With the use of index cards and colored markers, and a little bit of time, a rudimentary game can be created and students’ learning soars.

   I’ve used these ‘steps’ over the past ten years to develop materials for my classes. Some of them didn’t work as I had planned, and sometimes the materials were created to be used only once. All of this came from a need that I saw where students were not given enough time, or were not engaged in traditional learning and teaching techniques. We all know by now that students learn in different ways, and some need more practice than others. Some students, for assessments, would rather give an oral report, where others may choose to make a poster. In the workforce, creativity and originality in problem solving is rewarded. Why not start the process in school?

   I wrote in my post yesterday that ‘necessity is the mother of creativity’. In my classroom, that is evident. Instead of having students struggle and not master the Standards over which they will be tested (and many of them will have their diploma riding on the fact that they can pass the tests), why not spend a little time and create something that will bring a little joy into your classroom and a lot of learning to your students? To get an idea of what I’ve created, check out the materials available on my website I invite you to leave a comment about a game or activity that you’ve created from the Standards in order to help your students make connections.