Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Grade 5s and the 4 Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking

I've been thinking about the 4 Cs all year and since reading the Futurelab report Digital Literacy across the Curriculum I've been thinking even more! I think many people's first reactions when they think about encouraging creativity in students is to think about the arts subjects or maybe creative writing. Yet I believe we need to consider creativity in maths and the sciences too. The Futurelab report states:
Creativity is about more than just artistic ability, it is also about how we think and how we construct and share knowledge.

In IT lessons students are both consumers of information and also creative producers. During the year IT has allowed the students to be creative in many different ways to share their knowledge and learning. Currently I'm working with some Grade 5 teachers on a maths unit that involves shape and space. Their central idea is that geometrical ideas and relationships can inspire us to create. They have already looked at reflective and rotational symmetry and this week have gone on to create tessellations out of shapes and to take photographs of different things they have found around the school that are made up of tessellations - from brickwork, to the wire netting around the playground, to the roof tiles. We are going on to use Prezi so that the students can share their knowledge of what they have discovered about maths and art through IT.

Earlier in the year these same students were making movies to support their unit of inquiry How We Express Ourselves. In their language arts lessons they were learning about persuasive writing. Now most of these students have mobile phones and cameras that can take video, and I'm sure many of them use these to share things they are doing with their friends. My whole aim in teaching movie making, however, was to have them go through the process of making a film, rather than just shooting off a quick clip on their phone or on a camera. We talked about different sorts of movement in film, such as pans, arcs, zooms and different camera angles - and when was the most appropriate time to use these shots in a movie. We talked about close ups, medium shots and long shots and how to put these together in sequences. Students had to write a script and produce a storyboard and only then did they start the filming. A lot of critical thinking went into the shooting of these movies, before the students even started on editing. I worked with the class teachers to draw up a rubric that covered both the IT skills that I would be assessing, and the persuasive content of the film that they would be assessing. At the end of all this, the movie really was something that was co-planned, co-taught and co-assessed.

The 5th Grade movies were definitely an area this year where there was a lot of collaboration - between us as teachers and between the students who worked in groups of about 4 or 5 students to plan, shoot and edit their stories. There was a lot of dialogue and discussion as the students shared and communicated their ideas with the rest of the group.

The Grade 5s are now deep into the PYP Exhibition, and my support of this unit so far has involved mentoring small groups of students who have come with ideas as to how to show their understanding of whatever it is they are investigating - from how to stop smoking, through to animal welfare and environmental issues. For me, as an IT teacher, the most important skill I am trying to develop in the students during these meetings is choosing the most appropriate communication tool for the task they are wanting to do, as well as helping them to develop expertise in this chosen media. Thinking about how they want to present their ideas is enabling them to critically engage with their inquiries in a focused and meaningful way. They have all done plenty of research already, now they need to add meaning to what they have discovered, analyse it and transform it to create something that is theirs. They need to develop their critical thinking skills and they need to develop their reflective skills and evaluate their findings.

When I look back on the year so far with our Grade 5s I feel very pleased that the IT lessons have given these students many opportunitites to be creative, to work together collaboratively and to communicate their ideas as well as to think critically. I'm confident that all these skills will give them good grounding for moving up from the Primary School and into the Middle School in just 2 more months.

Photo Credit: Windows by Andrea Costa. Tessellations by Carlotta and Dora


  1. Maggie, I love this post! It is critical that we stop thinking of creativity as taking place in the arts, there is so much cross over into the other disciplines and yet we so often don't tap into them. Your students have had so many fun learning experiences this year and they are learning how to decide how to choose the right tool of expression for each job. Wonderful!

  2. Inspiring, as always! Your students have had so many great learning experiences. Our Year 6 classes do a film unit, which includes making a movie... I'm interested to know more about your experience with this and how long you spent on it. Hopefully we'll communicate by email!

  3. Thanks! this topic is really helpful with my lessons next week. I was wondering how am I going to develop a material wherein I could test the logical capability of my students and how high are they receptive to solve puzzles?