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Cooperative Creativity: Creativity as a Collaborative Process

Do you enjoy being creative? Do you like working in groups? Do you ever get stuck problem-solving?

Tomorrow I have the honor of engaging teachers from two districts in the state gifted associations from Kansas and Missouri in creative exercises pushing the ideals of what does it means to be creative in a cooperative environment.

My 2-hour presentation is full of laughter, hands-on engagement involving pipe cleaners, tape, markers, thinking caps, LOTS of discussion, and integrations of arts education.

I am attaching my presentation and if you would love to hear more, feel free to reach out.

#cooperativecreativity #artsintegration #giftededucation #educationinsocialmedia

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Education & Social Media: Teaching Social Media Intentions Matters

Today I talk about the intention of social media use and how adults are role models for children.

I reference the article, “4 Conversations to Have with Older Kids and Teens About Their Screen Time Habits” by #commonsensemedia and the ways parents or teachers can help children become responsible social media users.

I also mention the article, “Study: Social Media Didn’t Cause Teens’ Pandemic Stress” by #verywellhealth. Both articles discuss teens and their use of social media.

Finally, check out the book, “You Are What You Click” by Brian A. Primack.



#Education&SocialMedia #TeachSocialMedia

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Teaching Critical Consciousness in the Classroom

Teaching hard topics in the classroom can sometimes be challenging. However, discussing critical consciousness is essential for gifted adolescents to understand the world around them. By developing critical awareness in adolescence, students will later apply it to their academic, professional, personal, and institutional lives.

Paulo Freire defines critical consciousness as the ability to intervene in reality to change it. As teachers, our goal is to engage students in reflection about the inequalities in society. An effective way to do this is through children’s literature.

There are a growing number of children’s books published each year addressing critical consciousness. I have included links from a public library with children’s literature lists addressing diverse topics to get you started. I have also shared 3 lesson plans I created for various age groups completing multiple activities.

Finally, use the social media hashtag #smallstep_sbiggain and #BuildingCriticalConsciousness to share other resources to be used in the classroom!

Book Lists

Ages and DescriptionLink
9-12 Stand Up, Speak OutStand Up, Speak Out (thelibrary.org)
9-12 Celebrating Asian American VoicesCelebrating Asian American Voices (thelibrary.org)
6-8 Unity, Kindness, and PeaceUnity. Kindness. Peace. (thelibrary.org)
3-5 Asian-American StoriesAsian American Stories (thelibrary.org)
3-5 Celebrate Our DifferencesCelebrate Our Differences! (thelibrary.org)

Lesson Plans

Lesson PlanDescription
King and the DragonfliesThis lesson plan uses the young adult novel King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, written for middle school grades, to guide students and teachers into thinking about critical consciousness by examining different character’s perspectives. The goal of the lesson is to bring critical and social awareness discussions into the classroom.
Critical Consciousness through Picture BooksThis lesson plan uses pictures books to engage young students to examine areas where differences might be present—the teacher first models thinking aloud using the picture book Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi. The students will use the strategy, logographics, to create picture flags to identify their thinking. Logographics are visual symbols to serve as signposts to alert the reader to essential aspects of the text. In this lesson, the critical elements are examples of critical consciousness or areas of differences.
Tar BeachThis lesson plan uses pictures books to engage young students to examine areas where differences might be present—the teacher first models thinking aloud using the picture book Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold and examining other work by the same artist. Students learn about the artist’s history to examine how current events influences art and literature. The lesson will be explored through an arts integration lens. 
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Blocks to Creativity? Teacher Supported?

I substituted in a pre-school classroom several weeks ago and had the chance to sit down in an open art center. Students had no parameters to their work and were only limited by the time and resources. I sat next to a young 4-year-old boy deep in work on his project. I enjoyed observing his work and he did not even notice me sitting next to him at first. Once he acknowledged my presence, I commented his concentration and how much it seemed he was enjoying his work. He responded he loved this [art] center.

His final art work is included below. What do you think it is? Can you tell?

As he was working, I just asked questions so my influence in his design was as minimal as possible. I wanted to know his thinking. First, I wanted to know what he was creating. He created a book factory machine maker. Did you guess that? As he built it, he describes what each part did in great detail. I would prompt with, ‘Tell me more,“ my favorite words in discussion.

For me, I often wonder where curiosity begins to diminish in grade school. What is the teacher’s role in blocking creativity? There is research done by Torrance showing creativity drops around the United States grade levels of kindergarten, fourth grade, and again in 7th-grade. However, there is some promise with these levels, or slumps, as Torrance describes them disappearing when teachers begin to be more intentional in planning activities for creative thinking.

As teachers, we seek right answers, but do we take time to generate a lot of possible answers? Do we take time to look at answers that might not be logical? Perhaps we should allow more time for students to generate ideas in class over content, even the the ideas are not logical. We [teachers] want to go directly to the right answer and move on because the right answer is already available to us. However, in the real-world, is the right answer always known before a problem is presented? No! An illogical answer just might spark the idea that leads to a cure for a disease or an invention to improve cell phone reception in rural areas.

When you looked at the picture above, did you say it looked like a dinosaur or a monster of some sort? When the preschooler finished, he told me he might change his book machine to a dinosaur. I asked him why. He said that is what others might think it looked like. So I asked him to tell more about his dinosaur. He said it was, “Just a dinosaur,” without the same enthusiasm or elaboration from before. His book machine factory art with every piece having a description changed to ‘just a dinosaur’ due to the fear of judgement and perceptions of others. It was clear in my interaction with the young boy he was passionate about books but less interested in dinosaurs. Also a note, when it was a book machine, he was excited to give it to his mom but when it appeared more as a dinosaur, it became a gift for me.

I strongly believe as a teacher and individual, it takes lots of intentional practices to encourage creative thinking  and activities for our students. Do teachers support the creative blocks? Yes, we do when we do not encourage multiple answers, celebrate the illogical, allow out-of-the box thinking that go outside the rules, and encourage mistakes (even ourselves). We also have to be willing to go outside our own expert teaching areas to encourage the areas our students find interesting.

Celebrate creativity yourself – learn something new! Maybe it is sewing, a new language, take a cooking classes or try yoga.

Additional reading resources:
Conceptual Blockbusting (5th ed.) by James L. Adams
A Whack on the Side of the Head: How you can me more Creative (Special Edition) by Roger von Oech
Creativity is Forever (6th ed.) by Gary A. Davis and Jay Woodward

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Staying Organized and Assisting with Homework

Helping students who are gifted stay organized another area parents often ask for guidance. Some students tend to be hyper-organized, may have multiple colored pens for recording homework assignments, and a folder for other subject. However, other students might shove papers to the bottom of a backpack to be discovered at the end of the week or to be lost to the wind when a reading book removed from the bag. Organization also ties into homework rules or boundaries in the home.

How do I help my child stay organized? They have papers EVERYWHERE!

First, try to determine what works best for your child and not you. Personally, I am a fan of spiral bound plastic folders (see a link in the resources). The folders stay together and I can quickly place my papers in the pockets. These are also lightweight. Others prefer binders because they can hold larger amounts of papers per subjects. One word of caution with binders; if students do not take the time to secure the claps, the papers can fall out and this can cause frustration. This is difficult for students who struggle with regulating emotions. Another option is an accordion pocket folder and zipper style binders.

Also consider how students will store writing materials and what materials students need quick access to in their backpack. Cloth zipper pouches are great for holding materials and be sure to not overwhelm students by placing more items than needed. Find an outside pocket for essential items for easy access.

Finally, set aside one day a week to clean out your backpack. This helps get rid of unwanted papers and ‘reset’ the backpack as needed. This should be the responsibility of the student but under guidance by the parent.

How can I help my child set homework routines?

First, start by asking your child what they need in order to be successful. Would they prefer to do homework when they first get home or after an hour of ‘downtime’? Remember, school is their work and some children need a little downtime to reset before homework. Perhaps children need a snack while they work and a quiet work space clear of distractions. Let your child have say in their homework routine and it should be more productive.

My child complains their homework is just busy work. What can I do?

Encourage your child to talk with their teacher and then later, you should also send a follow up email or request a conference. If a child who is gifted is spending time completing homework that is not challenging or ‘just as busy work,’ perhaps there is a way to work together with the teacher to provide alternative homework on the same subject.

Check out this resource “Ten Tips for Talking to Teachers” from Jim Delise, Ph.D. and Judy Galbraith, M.A. – This is a long tested list for helping students talk to their teachers about concerns in the classroom.

Additional Resources:

Plastic Pocket Folders

Stressed Out! Solutions to Help Your Child Manage and Overcome Stress by Mary Anne Richey and James W. Forgan, Ph.D.

Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids: How to Understand, Live With, and Stick Up for Your Gifted Child by Sally Yahnke Walker, Ph.D.

When Gifted Kids Don’t have All the Answers by Judy Galbraith, M.A. & Jim Delise, Ph.D.

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Helping a Child who is Gifted to Clean their Bedroom

If you have every tried to get a child who is gifted to clean their bedroom, you know it can be a struggle for some parents. I have had several parents tell me it is a never ending battle. They tell their child to, “Go clean their room,” only to find the child engage in a making a Lego masterpiece after attempting to organize the pieces.

Why is it so hard for children who are gifted to keep a clean room?

All children (and adults) need to employ executive skills in order to perform basic task. These executive skills help us control behavior. Those who struggle with executive functioning have trouble starting or completing tasks, become overwhelmed easily, have trouble planning, struggle following directions, and find it difficult to switch between tasks. Does this sound familiar?

How can I help my child?

Rather than telling a child, “Go clean your room,” provide small tasks. By keeping it simple, these small goals help students feel successful and help prevent the student from becoming overwhelmed. Perhaps start with, “Pick up all your dirty laundry,” and then add another verbal prompt. When your child is able to follow verbal prompts, try a written checklist. This also works for other areas. Use a check list for your morning routine or after school homework. Remember- KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Additional Resources:

NAGC: Gifted Learners and Executive Functioning (Website)
Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson, EdD and Richard Guare, PhD. (Book)

Cooperative Creativity

Today I had the opportunity to keynote a presentation for the Gifted Association of Missouri District 7 and Kansas Gifted, Talented, and Creative Region 6 mini-conference. The focus was Creativity and Coping in the GT Classroom. My presentation, Cooperative Creativity, focused on arts integration and students working together to create a creative piece.

When we first started, I received skeptical stares as I made the group switch seats but there was soon laughter and smiles (as evident by the pictures)! We rapped an article summary, created stories from dice (and silently, too), and used the game, Snake Oil, to design living museum pieces.

The morning was full of creative ideas, collaborative sharing, and endless laughter! I am very thankful for the opportunity to share ideas and see teachers from different states collaborate.

You know you are a Ph.D. student when…

Oh, my… I am in the middle of my dissertation comprehensive exams. I am working on my essays, and my research books are falling apart! The pages were falling out, the binding was cracking, and I kept random pages on a corkboard. I took advantage of the FedEx office and had my books rebound. I LOVE IT!

You know you are a Ph.D. student when this makes your day! My books lay flat and will stay open. My new spiral-bound book brings me an enormous amount of happiness.

I am finding time to write between committee Zoom meetings and graduate student coursework. I LOVE my job as a full-time Ph.D. student and my research. Following my research is an absolute dream, and I love to talk about it!