Fostering Creativity in Kids

Fostering Creativity in Kids and Love Doing it!

When I was a teacher of the talented and gifted we administered the Torrance Tests of Divergent Thinking as one of the admission tests. Points were given if kids expanded some basic squiggles into creative drawings.  Kids loved the test and always wanted to do it over. IF they did take the test again, they probably would have done better.  Why?  Because after the test I had shown them how they scored Therefore, they learned how to score better the next time.

Talented and Gifted Admission: A Good Idea?

A Torrance retest would be a perfect example of learning, but could I use the results to test creativity? I’m not sure.  The example showed that creativity is a skill can be developed. So, what about the kids who scored high on the original test?  Was that inborn talent or had they had opportunities to develop their creativity prior to testing?  Perhaps they had experiences that gave them the confidence to try different challenges where there was no right or wrong answers.

Bottom line is that parents can foster creativity in their kids.  Fostering a child’s creativity through art and music is a common idea.  However, creativity and problem solving can be seen in all areas.

10 Ways to Promote Creativity in Children

  • Give kids lots of unstructured playtime to let their imaginations be unlimited.
  • Provide resources to let them explore. (Ex. paper, pencils, boxes, old clothes for dress up, straws, newspapers, blocks, Legos) Let them look around and find things to use.
  • Give them flexibility to make choices and think of solutions.
  • Help them learn words associated with creativity by asking questions. Ex. What would happen if? What could you do with that?  Any ideas that might be possibilities? Let’s think of possible solutions.
  • Applaud their creativity! Remembering that there is no right or wrong.  Allowing kids to express themselves with acknowledgement helps to build confidence to try new things.
  • Allow them to make rules to a game. They’ll experience whether they work or not. When they don’t let them change them again.  Problem solving at its best
  • The focus of creative activities should be on process: generating (vs. evaluating) new ideas.
  • Remind them it’s ok to make mistakes. You don’t want them to be afraid of failure. Adults make mistakes too!
  • Encourage divergent (different) thinking. I used to challenge all my first-grade classes to find 100 ways to melt a snowball. It was a struggle, but they always did it.  Wow, those kids were creative!
  • Show kids creative ideas. In other words, something that will trigger “out of the box thinking”.

The photo attached to this post was taken by my husband on a golf outing.  He thought it was unique and knew I would share it with some of my grandkids. But he didn’t know that I would use it as the focus photo of a post on creativity!  Who would ever thinking of carving and painting  a scene on a tree?  So, maybe, you won’t paint on the next tree you see, but I bet you’ll think of this photo the next time you see an entwined tree trunk.  Now, you’re being creative.

Thanks to Griffon Ramsey, for the creative inspiration from “Bad Day on the SS Normandie” (2017)

Reading to Babies? How?

One of the groups that I  volunteer with is the Poughkeepsie branch of  the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  One of our recent projects was to create a brochure about the importance of reading to babies. I’m happy to announce that the finished product, in both Spanish and English, is now available throughout Dutchess County in libraries and pediatrician offices.  Thank you to the graphic designer, the translator and the Poughkeepsie Library System for all their efforts to complete the project.  The information below is included in the brochure.  Enjoy!

Reading Milestones: 

While every child develops at his/her own rate, these are general guidelines.

Birth to 3 months

  • Looks at the pictures but might noy want to touch the books
  • Prefers a book with high-contrast colors and patterned designs

4-6 months

  • Explores books by putting them in their mouth
  • May coo or babble at you when you read

6-12 months

  • Pays with books like toys
  • Can help turn the pages
  • Babbles at pictures

12-18 months

  • Holds or carries books
  • Looks at books independently
  • Uses index finger to point at the illustrations

18-24 months

  • Says some of the words and phrases in familiar books.
  • Wants to have a story read over and over.
  • Pretends to read and mimics adult reading behaviors.

Reading to Babies –  You Are Your Baby’s First Teacher

  • Nursery rhymes are short and fun to read with babies. Additional rhymes are easily found online.
  • Keep it short. Infants have short attention spans so read for 10-15 minutes, once or twice e a day.
  • Sing to your baby, songs of your childhood. Be creative. Take well-known tunes and put in your own words to match your activity.
  • Talk to you baby to help build social skills.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Reading the same story over and over helps your baby learn what he/she should laugh and get excited by the changes in your voice.

When Choosing Books for Your Baby

  • Look for books that include things to touch and flaps to lift
  • Search for boos that include illustrations of photos of other babies
  • Choose books that YOU like since you will most likely be reading them over and over.
  • For the youngest babies, look for simple pictures in black and white.
  • Try sturdy board books when babies start to grab the books
  • Read books with rhythm, rhyme, and repetition.
  • Visit your local library. You’ll find many great books and programs.
  • Enjoy these special moments with your child!

Other posts related to this topic

Picture Walks Promote Reading

Why? Reading to Babies?

5 Parts of Reading: Completes the Puzzle

So good news.  If you are reading this blog, you have been taught to read.  5 parts of reading However, how did you learn to read?  What are the main parts when teaching reading? I’ll give you a hint… there are 5 parts of reading.

I asked that question to a few non-teaching friends recently.  They all responded comprehension, and with some additional prodding, they added vocabulary. Both are correct!  Now, what are the other 3? For anyone helping kids learn to read it is important to know that it takes all 5 ingredients working together for kids to become successful readers. Adding to comprehension and vocabulary are fluency and phonological  and phonemic awareness.  Often, students that have difficulty with reading comprehension have difficulty in 1 or more of the other reading components.

Comprehension is what most people think reading is. It is creating a meaning out of a group of individual words.  Reading comprehension is the most complex aspect of reading.  It includes the other 4 components and requires the reader to think about what they are reading and make connections with their personal knowledge.

Vocabulary is needed for kids to read books.  As they become stronger readers, they will tackle more difficult readings with new vocabulary words.  When reading with a child ask them to try to figure out a new word by the context clues (hints) in the text.  They can look at other words in the sentence, the main idea of the story, or the pictures in the story to provide hints to identify the new word.  Like vocabulary, reading comprehension skills develop and improve over time through practice.

Fluency is a reader’s ability to read with speed, accuracy and expression. It is important for reading comprehension because it frees up working memory in the brain to spend time comprehending what they are reading. Reading books slightly below your child’s reading level will help build confidence and therefore, increase fluency.

Phonemic Awareness is recognizing parts of words. To see that a word has a beginning, middle and end and makes a new word if you add an ending such as /s/.  Phonemic awareness is also blending the parts of words together to make a full word. For example: /h/ and /at/ to form hat.  Phonemic awareness also recognizes specific sounds and location in a word.  For example: knowing what the first sound in the word “ball”.

Phonological awareness is the connection between sounds and letter symbols.  These sound/symbol connections create words. Children need to understand the connection between the individual sounds that each letter makes and how putting the letters together to create a word to understand. Nursery rhymes are great resources to help develop both phonological and phonemic awareness skills.

Top 5 things for parents to do to help their child read

  1. Read with your child daily.
  2. Reread books to expose kids to same words to build fluency.
  3. Ask questions about the story or illustrations.
  4. Use different vocabulary words in conversations with your child (age dependent)
  5. Read different types of text.  (Ex.   magazine, menu, cereal box)

  Other posts related to this topic

Best Reading Resources for Teachers

Use Your Words Daniel Tiger

“Use Your Words”: Learning Kit with Daniel TigerDaniel Tiger Neighborhood

The technique “use your words” encourages children to talk about their feelings. Being able to use words to describe what they are feeling gives children power over their feelings. Giving words to feelings can make them become a lot less overwhelming or upsetting or scary. The Use Your Words Learning Kit with Daniel Tiger is a FREE resource has many tips for parents and teachers for helping children learn to use their words to express how they are feeling. Great resource that kids will love!

Use Your Words: Learning Kit with Daniel Tiger

You may also find helpful 

3 Words to Help Expression

 

Every Kid Needs A Champion

banner for we love our teachers

I saw the video “Every Kid Needs A Champion” a few years back at an ASCD conference in Texas.  I don’t know exactly what touched me about it, but it gave me “the goosebumps”.  You know what I’m talking about.  The goosebumps you get on your arms when you really “get” it.

Take a few minutes and sit back with a cup of coffee to watch this video.   Then think about the question below of how you feel after watching it. Whatever answer you choose, it validates your choice to become a teacher. What you DO makes a difference in a child’s life.  Thank you for what you do.

Rita Pierson: Ted Talks Education: Every Kid Needs a Champion

How do you feel after watching this video?

  1. Honored to be a teacher
  2. Thankful to be a teacher
  3. Inspired to keep teaching
  4. All the above

Children remind us to pay attention to the details and the magical moments. They encourage us to sing “Let It Go” for the 100th time. (with hand movements, of course). Children’s enthusiasm is contagious and that’s why we teach. How can we keep that joy alive in our teaching?

It’s because we are champions.

Change Happens… Now What?

I’ve used the video below many times in Teacher Professional Development workshops when we try to understand the many changes occurring in education today. Sometimes the video helps to focus a group to understand the need for changes.  Other times it helps to support a group challenged to change and looking for meaningful and sustainable pathways.  Overall, a good visual to illustrate how our world has changed and a glimpse into the future.  At the very least it’s a 5 minute history lesson.

I had this video embedded in a recent Keynote speech,  only to find out that the Internet was not working.  (Don’t you just love technology!) So, here you go Astor Friends!  I will also be posting the Champion Speech.   You all deserve it!

Did You Know (Shift Happens  – 2018 Remix

 

Minute-Mysteries: October

Minute-Mysteries are stories that can be solved with close examination of mystery detectivethe clues in the story.

Emily and Connall were playing checkers at GG’s house. They played 5   games.  Each of them won the same number of games and there weren’t any ties.  How could this happen?

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was the youngest person elected to the presidency.  However, he was the second youngest man to hold the office? How could this be?

On Monday, the teacher asked Teaghan how old she would be on her next birthday.  She answered that in two years she would be twice as old as she was five years ago.  How old is Teaghan today?

A photographer went for a walk in the woods to take pictures of nature.  That was the last time anyone saw her alive.  Three days later she was found dead in the woods.  The story says that she died because of a pack on her back.  What was so deadly about the pack?

Other posts related to this topic      

Mysteries to support critical thinking

Answer Clues: 

  1. How many kids were playing checkers?
  2. Are presidents always elected?
  3. Use a chart or a table as your problem solving strategy.
  4. Is there anything else special about the phrase  “pack on her back” other than it rhymes?

Answers:  (You asked for it, here they are) 

  1. Emily and Connall were both playing checkers but they were not playing each other.
  2. When President McKinley was assassinated, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt became president..  At that time he was only 42.  President Kennedy was 43.
  3. Teaghan is 12
  4. The pack that was on the photographer was a “pack” of wolves.

 

3-Words to Help Expression

3 words for expressionTeaching young children to use their words is a well-known educational tool.  These 3-words are meant to help kids express their feelings to lessen frustration. Parents and teachers can give children exact words to teach them how to manage new situations.

Kids, parents and grandparents get frustrated when you don’t understand.  However, with kids, their emotions can be heightened, and they can’t tell you what the problem is.  We must teach them to express themselves.  That means giving them direction and model how to express themselves.

3 Strategies to Help Kids Use Their 3-Words

  1. Give kids “feelings” words to use and help them know “what” they are feeling.
  2. Role-play so they can practice how to use their words in different situations.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice since all situations are not the same.

Finally, I caution you to be careful of what you ask for.  You may be surprised to find your child sharing with you their honest opinion.  I was told recently, by one of my grandkids, that he “sometimes thought I was mean”.  Honestly, I was shocked and felt badly. However, I stepped back and realized that he was expressing his thoughts on my decision not to let him play with a toy. I acknowledged his feelings and once again explained my reasons for saying “No” to his request.  I hope he understood my reasoning but realize that may not be the case. In the end, I was happy he had learned to use his words, but I still felt a little badly.

You may also find helpful 

Great resource: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/Pages/Using-Their-Words.aspx

A great primer on language and toddlers.  Gives short background on the importance of language and its role in reading. It also includes some brain research information to support the concepts.

Add Effective Questioning to Toolkit

 a map with text

“Bloomin” Questioning: The Basics

My knowledge of questioning was limited prior to being hired as a teacher of Talented and Gifted students. I vaguely remember hearing something about Bloom’s Taxonomy.  But honestly, it didn’t sound important to me at the time.  My new position put it front and center of my teaching. However, I was WRONG not to have used it in my prior placements. Good questioning should be in every teacher’s toolbox and used often in both instruction and assessment.  It is a great addition to a parents’ toolbox as well.

Most questions are used to ask students to recall and check for understanding.  For deeper understanding, we should ask children to apply their knowledge. Often my students could recall the information but could not explain their answers.  Most of today’s testing requires students to explain their answers and gives partial credit to validate thinking.

This is an excellent topic for discussion.  Therefore, look for future blogs on effective questioning for different age students that will include questioning stems to help in the classroom.

Blooms taxonomy map

Remember: Being able to recall or recognize ideas and information.

Understand:  Understanding the main idea of new information and being able to summarize.

Apply:  Applying an idea to solve a problem.

Analyze: Breaking down an idea into parts to help understanding.

Evaluate: Using reasons to support your idea.

Create:  Create a new idea using new information.

You may also find helpful 

Highly-abled students need attention too!

Magazines: 2 Free for Educators

Sometimes you just need a magazine with short, easy to read articles on education topics.  A resource to share with your colleagues over lunch.  A resource that gives ideas to immediately use in your classroom. Two resources that you may want to try are Edutopia and District Administrator.   

Edutopia is a magazine that celebrates and encourages innovation in K-12  Edutopia cover schools.  The George Lucas Educational Foundation publishes this resource for educators.  Sign-up on the website is easy.  Only available through digital subscription.  Get great resources sent to your mailbox each week.     https://www.edutopia.org/

District Administration (DA)  The most widely received and most regularly read publication for school district leaders nationwide. It is available in print and digital formats. If you are a K-12 District Administrator magazinedistrict leader you may qualify for a free subscription to the DA print magazine.  A digital edition is available on line for free.   https://www.districtadministration.com/

Other links that may be helpful

Reading Resources: Top 5

Reading Resources: Top 5

         Free Magazine Resources

Free Magazines: 2 Free Magazines

This blog is response to a reader for a list of some good reading resources.    A tough  question because SO much goes into a recommendation depending on what their need is.  Recommendations should be based on many factors.  Who needs it? For what purpose is the recommendation? What type of reading resources do you need?  Are you looking for resources, research, opinions?

The table below is my best attempt at a TOP 5 list.  However, please look for future posts on this topic.

TOP 5 Reading Resources

Source Overview Cost Teachers/Subs Student Teachers Parents & Grands
Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) Research-based classroom activities developed to improve reading instruction  Pre-K through 12th grade. Center Activities includes a Teacher Resource Guide. A Professional Development Video that provides insights into differentiated instruction. www.fcrr.org FREE X
ABC Mouse A subscription-based digital education program. Geared for  children ages 2-6. First month is Free. Games and activities are based on student progress.  Many subject areas included. www.abcmouse.com FREE  1st month $79 yr.  Look for coupons X X
Starfall Starfall is a free public service to teach children to read with phonics.  Excellent resources for  preschool, K-2, special education, homeschool and ELL’s. Math and music activities are also included. www. starfall.com FREE with Premium $35.00/yr. X X
Reading Rockets Offers a wealth of reading strategies, lessons and activities designed to help young children read.  Support to build fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills. www.readingrockets.org FREE X X
ReadWrite Think Provides access to high quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in FREE materials. Every lesson plan has been aligned to NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts and individual state standards as well. www.readwritethink.org FREE X X

Behaviors (7) Predict School Success?

Last week, my oldest granddaughter excitedly started Kindergarten.  We all knew she was ready, but our eyes still welled up when she climbed the bus stairs.  She is growing up so fast!  So, how did we know?  Well, GiGi’s and daughters JUST KNOW but research on behaviors that predict Kindergarten Readiness also gives information to consider.

report by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicates that kids entering kindergarten display a wide range of behaviors.  Some of them give kids a big advantage. The study tracked  students from kindergarten through third grade, to  determine whether some of these behaviors are related to academic performance. They are:

  • Pays attention well
  • Learns independently
  • Persists in completing tasks
  • Organizes belongings
  • Adapts easily to change
  • Shows eagerness to learn new things
  • Follows classroom rules

Looking at the list and Little Miss M, a couple of items make us raise our eyebrows but OVERALL, she was ready.  Have fun Miss M! School is  ready for you!

Helpful Link: Entering Kindergarten: A Portrait of American Children When They Begin School 

Picture Walks can promote reading

Research states that reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the word. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. But what to do if your child is not interested and it becomes a nightly struggle rather than a special nighttime ritual? Try Picture Walks!

As a K-2 principal I sometimes gave pep talks to parents in ways to engage their child in reading. A simple and easy way to help your child read is to do a “Picture Walk” BEFORE reading an unfamiliar story. “Picture Walks” help children to learn how to preview and make predictions about a book. A “Picture Walk” can last one day or multiple days depending on your child’s interest.

Before you read with your child

  • Choose a book and read it to yourself first.
  • While reading, look closely at the illustrations (pictures), the text (words) and the structure of the book (lots of illustrations, words on the bottom/top, rhyming, repetition of words)
  • Think about what YOUR child will like about the book. (illustrations, characters, ending)

While reading with your child

  • Model how to read
  • Look closely at the illustrations with your child and have them talk about what they see. There is no right or wrong answer, just talk about the illustrations.
  • Point out text features that will help them comprehend the story. (Subtitles, question marks, exclamation points)
  • Use some of the new words in the story when pointing to the illustrations.
  • Looking at the illustrations, ask general questions about the story. (Ex: where do you think the story is taking place, who might the story be about?)
  • Respond to their replies vaguely; rather that they are correct or incorrect. (Use phrases like “I wonder, it looks like, oh maybe, let’s read further)

After reading the book

Review some of the ideas and predictions that you talked about while looking back at the illustrations.  This reinforces their thinking and fosters enthusiasm.

 

Mysteries to support critical thinking

mystery detective Solving mysteries can support critical thinking while having fun

Mystery Luncheons were a regular activity in our school when I was a principal.  I invited different grades each day to join me to eat lunch and  I shared with them a few mysteries to solve.  It was a great time as we all chatted and tried to solve the mysteries.

The object of 1-2 minute mysteries is to solve the mysteries based on clues in the story. The clues are few and very often are not obvious.  The mysteries seem impossible to solve until you remember there is something (or more than one thing) that you are making assumptions about.

Steps to Solve:

  1. Read the story slowly.
  2. If you are solving the mysteries with a friend, you can ask questions that can only be answered yes or no. Be sure to phrase the questions vaguely at first? Such as does the solution have anything to do with a specific character, the setting, the time of year, time of day, the weather etc.
  3. Once you realize the answer is not clear, look at the story and think about what the tricks in the story could be:
    • Most times the trick could be in our assumptions of the 5 W’s. (Who, What, When, Where and Why)
    • What tricks could be in the story?
    • Is there something about the sequence of what happened? (what happened first, second or last)
    • Is there something about the characters? (Their name, the type they are)
    • Something about the setting? (weather, time)

Mystery Stories

  1. In the old West a man rides into town on Friday. He stays for three days and leaves on Friday. How can this be?
  2. A father and son are in an auto accident. The father dies and the son is rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The doctor looks at the boy and says, “I can’t work on him, he’s my son.” How can this be?
  3. Donna and Jerry and Howard and Mary all live in the same house. Donna and Jerry go out to a movie, and when they return, Howard is lying dead on the floor in a puddle of water and glass. It is obvious that Mary killed him but she is not arrested.  How could that be?
  4. There is a pipe, a carrot and a pile of pebbles together in the middle of a field. Why?
  5. Declan wants to go home, but he can’t go home, because the man in the mask is waiting for him.

Clues:

  1. Friday is not a day of the week
  2. Some careers have both men and women employed
  3. Howard is not a man
  4. Can you think of something that uses all 3 items?
  5. The man in the mask is not a threat. He is supposed to be wearing a mask.

Answers:  (You asked for it, here they are) 

  1. Friday is the name of the horse the man was riding on.
  2. The surgeon is the boys mother.
  3. Howard is a fish.  He lived in a fishbowl and it had fallen on the floor.
  4. The items were the remains of a melted snowman.
  5. The man with a mask is a catcher at home plate.

Other posts related to this topic

Mysteries to support critical thinking

Minute-Mysteries: October   

Highly-abled students need attention too!

magnigying glass Most students in my talented and gifted classes were highly-abled.  At times, these students exhibited traits of giftedness in a subject area.  At other times, it may have been their creativeness or problem solving ability.  Knowing the characteristics of highly-abled students will help teachers modify curriculum to develop strengths and address student needs.

  1. has an excellent memory
  2. has a large vocabulary
  3. Uses complex sentence structure for their age
  4. reads earlier than peers
  5. enjoys problem-solving
  6. demonstrates logical thinking
  7. concerned with social and political issues
  8. asks probing questions, inquiring minds, curious
  9. has original ideas
  10. enjoys and initiates own learning
  11. is organized
  12. can concentrate for lengthy periods of time
  13. tends to be persistent and motivated
  14. can be impatient and intolerant
  15. has a wide range of interests
  16. may have an extreme focus in one interest
  17. has a deep knowledge base
  18. often highly sensitive
  19. has sophisticated sense of humor
  20. transfers learning to new situations
  21. makes connections between different activities and ideas
  22. works well independently
  23. enjoys spending time with  older students or adults

(Source: National Association for Gifted Children (https://www.nagc.org/)

Support for Special Education and ELL’s

Support is essential for every child but especially for students with special needs. Because teachers have classrooms filled with students that have many different needs, information is valuable to the learning process.  Parents can help teachers by providing information about their child  that supports their child’s learning.  This communication helps to build a good parent-teacher relationship.

Understood.org- FREE Special Education Resource

Understood.org  provides parents of kids ages 3–20  with learning  issues a free, secure access to personalized information.  Supports are included from experts as well as other parents to help ELL students in the classroom. As a result the site supports a common language for parent/teacher conversations.

https://www.understood.org/en 

Colorín Colorado- FREE ELL Resource

A website that supports teachers and families of English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12. Colorín Colorado has been providing free information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

http://www.colorincolorado.org/about

What sites do you use as a resource to help support parent/teacher partnerships? Please share your websites in the comments section!

FREE Pet for Pre-K -Grade 9 Classrooms

free pets for classroomDo you want to know how to get a free pet for your classroom!

This grant provides financial support to purchase and maintain small animals in the classroom. Established by the Pet Care Trust it helps provide children with an opportunity to interact with pets.  Caring for a pet gives students an experience that can help to shape their lives for years to come.

How to Apply:

Pet Care is currently accepting applications from teachers in grades Pre-K through Grade 9 for the 2018-19 school year. Private and public schools may apply for the grant any time between August 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019. The classroom grant program is ongoing throughout the year. Prior to applying for the grant, teachers should investigate the school district’s regulations as to which pets are allowed in the classroom.

Grant Detailshttps://www.petsintheclassroom.org/.