"Creativity for Everybody" Helps Middle School Students Begin the Year With Positive Self-Concepts

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This is a guest post by Karina Olsen, sixth-grade teaching apprentice at an independent school in Fairfield County, Connecticut. 

Sparkitivity's Creative Constellation lesson at the beginning of the school year helped me better understand my students. It also gave them a launching point for how to think of themselves as learners and community members. This is a great activity for fresh start in this new year, too.

At our school, we value childhood, creativity, and experiential learning. I wanted to start off the year with an activity to help them establish positive views about themselves because I’ve found that the most effective way to increase student success is through helping them find a higher sense of self-worth. When students confidently believe in themselves and have a clear understanding of their strengths, they feel ready to tackle challenges. 

I began the lesson by talking to my students about creativity and asking them if they think of themselves as creative. We had a discussion around “What is creativity?” and “What makes someone creative?” This allowed me to see their pre-existing perspectives on creativity.  

Next, I simply read to them from Kathryn Haydon and Jane Harvey's book, Creativity for Everybody. The book is written in a way that is so simple and yet engaging. The authors truly break down the stereotypical ideas about what creativity is (theater, music, art) and by reading from Creativity for Everybody, I was able to introduce the idea that everybody is creative. 

Then, I printed out copies of the constellation map from the book and gave a copy to every student in the class. I explained that they would be making “their own creative constellation that highlights their creative strengths.” 

While planning the lesson, I was unsure if some of the students might roll their eyes at the activity and I didn’t know if it was “too young” for their age. However, once we began, those worries were completely dispelled. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and excitedly the students engaged with this activity. 

Using white colored pencils, they all began to draw lines connecting their different strengths to make a shape in the sky on the constellation sheets. Some students took the time to write their strengths on the side of the constellation as well. In the end, they all made constellations, gave their constellations a name, and I mounted each student's sky map up onto the wall. 

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This activity gave me a reference point for each of my students. Not only did it create the opportunity for self-reflection for my students, but it allowed me to understand how they view themselves. Throughout the year, I can reference our constellations and ask my students “Have you been fulfilling your expression of your creative strengths constellation?” or “How have you been expressing your constellation lately?” This is a great conversation to have during our morning homeroom. 

There are several ways that you can approach this lesson and Kathryn Haydon writes about one of those ways and another teacher’s success here.  I recommend this activity to all elementary and middle school teachers, and I’m grateful for Sparkitivity’s support in changing the focus in education from “What are my students doing wrong?” to “What are my students doing right?”

I believe the more effective we are at helping our students have positive views of themselves, the greater success we will find in the classroom. 

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If you'd like a copy of Sparkitivity's Creative Constellation lesson plan, please email us at inspired@sparkitivity.com and we'll be happy to send it to you.