All it takes is that drop of creativity to keep classrooms interesting and focused in different ways, and at Smith-Cotton High School teachers introduce original ideas in their classroom for students.
Lensie Means, who teaches algebra and geometry, tries to keep her lessons away from the usual. When Means teaches about slope, she incorporates jumping jacks into the lesson for it to be more creative. The students do jumping jacks in 30-second intervals until the time hits two minutes. Then, they graph the number of jumping jacks and figure out the slope from point to point. This helps the students connect that the slope decreases as they get more tired. Means also uses real menus from local restaurants to teach about taxes and tips.
Biology teacher Kristen McKinney introduced notebooks into her classes this year instead of having students do the same old worksheets. Every year, McKinney changes things up.
“Kids change, (teachers) got to change it up,” said McKinney. The notebooks that the students use include notes and visual representations the students create. At the beginning of the year, McKinney takes surveys to figure out what helps the majority of students in each class learn best.
Ashley Raetz, a testing coordinator and instructional technology specialist, works with students in an indirect way by helping teachers come up with lesson plans using technology that can foster creativity. Raetz said technology is a tool that can be used to encourage students’ skills, inspirations and creativity to achieve and excel in their academics. She added that teachers can promote creativity in their classrooms through active learning, collaboration in problem solving and group discussions where the students’ voices can be heard.
Kelsey Stuart, who teaches dual credit anatomy and physiology, along with Earth science and forensics, gives students the opportunity to do different things within the classroom. Many of the assessments Stuart gives aren’t the typical multiple choice tests. Instead, students can construct a poster, write a paper, or create a presentation. Sometimes her classes have big classroom case studies where everyone has the chance to be involved. Students have options of what they’d like to focus on and choose what to do based on their interests.
Raetz said: “I think it’s important for students to use their own talents, inspiration, skills and creativity to form practical ideas and solutions to problems. I think everyone has the potential to be creative in many different ways.”
Smith-Cotton Principal Wade Norton said creativity improves focus within a student. He added, “The more creativity they see, the more interest they’re going to have.”
Stuart got many of her ideas from the Science and Mathematics Academy for the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers, a graduate program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also collaborates with colleagues she knows from Rock Bridge High School for ideas.
“Back in high school, it was boring, and I want to provide something different for my students,” Stuart said.
Stuart advises teachers to consider their audience to be able to teach to their needs and for them to use their resources. McKinney gets ideas from seeing what kids do and sometimes finds ideas on Pinterest that inspire her to change up lesson plans.
“As a teacher and a human being, teaching the same thing over and over again can be boring,” Means said. “I try to introduce new things as much as possible, as much as math will allow.”
Clarissa Homan, a freshman who has Means for geometry, likes doing different things in the classroom such as hands-on activities and projects. Homan said, “It can be hard to focus in school, but when there’s that spark of creativity, it makes you think outside the box.”
McKinney wants students to like what they’re doing while at school, and when they able to express themselves, they can show that they’re a part of what they’ve created. McKinney added that getting a feel for what students like and gearing instruction toward that can help teachers become more creative and engaged in their classrooms.
“As a teacher you can always make your lessons better,” Stuart said. “There’s always, always, always something you can improve upon and teach things without relying on your textbook.”
Something new that some teachers are introducing is Kagan Learning. It allows students to engage with each other and get used to working in teams with different people to achieve a goal. Means, McKinney and Stuart have introduced Kagan into their classrooms. McKinney said students get to know one another and talk to kids that they don’t usually talk to while learning the content.
Means said: “If you do the same thing, (students) will get tired of it. What works for one student might not work for another. It’s important to try new things. It’s either going to work or not. It’s worth the risk.”
Victoriya Kondratenko is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.