Special Supplement: Creativity & the Common Core

9/25/2013 8:00:00 PM

Creativity, Collaboration, and the Common Core
[Scroll to end to watch a panel discussion on this topic from Chicago Tech Forum]

It’s not easy to come up with creative group projects that satisfy Common Core standards— or is it? “I used to tell my students, ‘I want you to do something that no one else has ever done.’ Because that was the goal, the kids loved it,” says Carol Broos, who taught music for 33 years and now serves as technology coordinator for the Illinois nonprofit Golden Apple Foundation. “There is so much on the Web, but for a child to say ‘I was the first one who did that’ is powerful. Technology lets us put things together in new ways.”

Broos encourages teachers to start with something they know really well and make simple substitutions. Let your students to help you come up with ideas. They’ll show you the light. “Allow your students to not follow the project or rubric, and they’ll take you places you won’t even believe!”

Here are four projects to try.

PROJECT 1: iMovie Book Trailer and QR codes

Coblentz’ 3rd graders love using iPads to tell their stories.

Teachers: Ashley Coblentz, 3rd-grade bilingual teacher, and Jackie Moreno, librarian and bilingual teacher leader, Sandburg Elementary in Madison Metropolitan (WI) School District.

Subjects it addresses: Writing and language arts.

Common Core State Standards: W.3.6: With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others. W.3.4: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.

Speaking & Listening-Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas SL.3.4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

Student authors at Madison Metro School District in Wisconsin digitize the writing process by creating QR codes for their own books.

How to: 1. Give students a descriptive rubric to guide them through the project and let them see examples of professional book trailers. Students use the rubrics to evaluate the professional book trailers before creating their own so that they know exactly what the CCSS learning goals are and what is expected from them.

2. Students write and publish a story and then use iMovie to create a trailer about their story.

3. Next, students use Voice Record Pro to record themselves reading their story and convert their voice recording into a QR code so that other students can have the story read aloud to them when they scan the QR code.

4. Place the books with the QR codes on them in the school library so that students throughout the school can read the print versions and scan the QR codes to access audio versions of the books as well as the book trailers.

Why students like the project: They get to share their writing and book trailers with the whole school, which creates a sense of authentic purpose for writing. By creating the trailers and books, students have more access to texts that reflect experiences of other English language learners.


Sample Book Trailers

Should There Be Zoos?

My Trip to Minnesota

PROJECT 2: Immigration Project

Teachers: Ashley Coblentz and Jackie Moreno.

Subjects it addresses: Language arts and social studies.

Common Core State Standards: RL.3.6: Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters. W.3.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

How to: 1. Set a purpose for learning in terms of language and content learning, grounded in the CCSS and other state or applicable standards.

2. Provide access to a wide range of texts about immigration at appropriate reading levels through visits to the school library as well as via digital texts.

3. Do some lessons on research and note-taking.

4. Ask students to synthesize the information they collect, creating meaning and forming opinions.

5. Students create movies that include the reasons they did the project (e.g., academic and personal). The movies will also show the books they read, recurring themes, and an original song expressing the students’ opinions on the topic. Our students composed a song about their hopes and dreams for immigrants.

Why students like the project: They are allowed to choose the topic, and they feel proud to engage in something that is academic but also allows them to help advocate for immigrants in their community.

Sample project:


Tools They Use

• Adobe Reader
• GarageBand
• Gmail
• iBooks
• Idea Sketch
• iPads
• iMovie
• Keynote
• Pages
• Scan
• Voice Recorder Plus
• YouTube

PROJECT 3: European Colonialism of Africa

Teacher: Kyle Shack, former 9th-grade world history teacher, Urban Prep Academy in Chicago. (Shack is currently the lead global studies, American studies, and government teacher at Allegan Alternative High School in Allegan, Michigan.)

Ninth-grade world history students learn about Africa using
mobile devices.

Subject it addresses: World history

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

How to: 1.Divide students into four- to six-person groups and give each group an iPod Touch or other mobile device with a QR Code Scanner app.

2. Hand out blank charts and ask students to complete a detailed background about various African and European nations. The students complete these charts by scanning QR codes that have been taped to wall maps hanging in the classroom. The QR codes link the mobile device to a document that contains information about the country.

3. After completing the charts, the groups can discuss their findings and analyze which European nations were most likely to colonize certain African nations. When a group decides on two potential nations, they can scan another set of QR codes that reveal if they are correct. If not, they have to reassess their findings.

4. After finding the correct nations, students write reflections on why they chose certain nations and why they believe certain European nations colonized specific African nations.

Why students like the project: The mobile device lets them connect in-class experience with a tool most students are familiar with using outside of the classroom. These devices are ubiquitous, and many students read and absorb information on a mobile device. Students viewed the project more positively than if they analyzed the same information through a textbook or worksheets. The project also allowed them to fail in a safe environment. The groups could analyze data, make an educated guess, be wrong, and reassess—all without instructor intervention.

Tools They Use

• ClassDojo
• Glogster
• iPad
• iPod Touch
• Notes
• Paddlet
• QR Reader
• Remind101
• Twitter
• YouTube

PROJECT 4: “Yo Soy Yo” Original Spanish Songs

Teachers: William Marsland, music teacher, Chicago Public Schools, and Jamie Perry, Spanish teacher K-8, Stone Scholastic Academy, Chicago.

Chicago seventh graders write and record songs in Spanish.

Subjects it addresses: Music and Spanish (7th grade).

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations. ELA-Literacy. CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

How to: 1. In Spanish class, students progress through a step-by-step sequence to create an original Yo Soy Yo (“I am”) poem in Spanish that is reflective of themselves, their communities, their culture, and their individual interests.

2. The poems are turned into song lyrics by combining multiple poems into one group song that is tied together by a “hook” or refrain that the group writes collaboratively.

Chicago seventh graders write and record songs in Spanish.

3. The final step, in Spanish class, is for students to recite their poems aloud in class, experimenting and improvising with the rhythm and beat of their words. In music class, these same groups use the online music studio Soundation (soundation.com/) to create a background track for their original song. With their song’s lyric form in mind, groups cooperatively create a background track using the available rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic loops in Soundation to produce a track that accompanies their individual verses and shared refrain or hook, and includes an introduction and ending to their original song. Then that track is saved and uploaded to Garageband so that students can record their spoken or sung vocals over the background track, creating a finished collaborative song entirely in Spanish.

4. The songs are shared on a class Web site and are both peer- and teacher-assessed on a rubric that addresses both the musical and Spanish educational goals of the project.

Why students like the project: Students liked that this was a cross-discipline project that gave them an opportunity to see how music and Spanish can be used together, not in isolation, as is most commonly experienced throughout the year. This project added relevance to both content areas because it connected with students on a unique level by incorporating concepts from popular music into their learning. Students were free to experiment, improvise, and play with content in both classes, working independently and collaboratively. After the project, students were more eager to listen to Spanish music and think more deeply about the lyrics and meaning, since they had personal experience writing lyrics and creating a song in the language. Students were also more engaged in the discussion of how popular music is created and organized after composing their own background track. They also enjoyed showcasing their work in a forum (a class Web site) that allowed for peer comments and feedback.

Tools They Use

• BrainPOP/BrainPOP Jr.
• Compass Learning
• Dell PCs
• Elmo document cameras and projectors
• Garageband
• MacBooks
• SMARTboards

Common Core FAQs

In September, the nonprofit Web site teachingchannel.org hosted a free CC SS Q&A, where anyone could submit a question for their guest experts—PARCC , Smarter Balanced, and Student Achievement Partners. Below is a sampling of these questions (click on the links to see the answers):

·      What does a Common Core classroom look like when teaching Math and Language Arts?

·      How do I blend Common Core with technology and visual arts?

·      Where can I find good writing prompts that fit the Core?

·      Do you have sample assessments that align with the Smarter Balanced expectations?

·      What qualities make a good Common Core test?

·      Any tips on transitioning middle school students to Common Core math standards?

·      Where can I find a detailed list of complex text examples for each grade level other than appendix B?

·      As a librarian, what books should I focus on purchasing for my collection in order to best enhance the Common Core Standards of my high school?

·      How can I use Common Core to write Individual Educational Plans for Students with special needs?

·      Where can I find interactive 9-11 grade math problems?

The Starting Point

Need some inspiration in the kitchen? Here are questions to help you infuse creativity with technology.

What do your students enjoy discussing socially? (Can students rewrite Gangnam Style using textual evidence that supports a history concept?)

What are the latest Internet trends students are into? (Can students create memes or infographics that use visual and textual representations to describe a concept?)

What are the popular social media tools your students use? (Without using the sites, can you recreate the feel of students creating a Vine-like looping video that calls for them to create an abstract representation of their understanding of a concept and compare it to the text?)

How are you putting your students in charge of the content and allowing them to synthesize, create, and share?


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