Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are Creative Projects a Dying Art?

Lately, as I reflect on my unit plans, I find myself continually coming back to the same questions. What is the purpose of this activity? Is this going to help my kids master the learning targets? Is this going to give me the information I need about where they are currently at with regards to mastery? When I answer these questions truthfully, it sometimes means that I no longer see any justification for some of the “fun activities” that go along with novels I am teaching. As much as we have a good time creating funny Facebook profiles for Lady Macbeth, I’m not totally convinced that the activity provides anything more than just a few laughs. But, does that mean that I should cut out all opportunities for creativity in my classes? I sure hope not.

I recently gave my Honors World Literature students (sophomores) an opportunity to demonstrate in a creative way their understanding of Chinua Achebe’s important African novel, Things Fall Apart. I asked them to focus on important themes, character development, cultural significance of the novel, and/or metaphorical and philosophical analysis of the text. They had a lot of freedom in designing and implementing their visions, but the learning targets were the same for everyone:

  1. I can thoughtfully evaluate and explain important themes, characters, and significant events in Things Fall Apart.
  2. I can understand the point of view of a particular culture presented in a work of literature.
  3. I can provide formal, written analysis to explain my creative project, including textual evidence (quotes + page #s).
  4. I can speak with enthusiasm and expertise when presenting to my classmates.

It might sound cheesy,  but watching these students really pour their hearts into their projects was nothing short of inspiring. I was truly blown away by their creativity. More importantly, I was thoroughly impressed by their insightful commentary and meaningful conversations with classmates regarding the novel. So, was this creative project a worthwhile assessment? I’ll let you be the judge.

For more information on each project, please leave a comment or contact Kristen on the Twitter link above!

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