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Make 'mistakes' part of the creative process

By Team ISTE
February 10, 2017
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The phrase “everyone makes mistakes” has a unique meaning for retired educator and ISTE author Mark Gura. Rather than just a cliche, he see it as an entry point for bringing creativity, and a new way of thinking, to literacy lessons.

“Mistakes are a valuable tool, rather than something to be avoided," Gura says. "They should be celebrated and folded into the learning process.”

In the bigger picture, this different way of thinking about mistakes will also help teachers bolster a culture of creativity in classrooms.

One way to do that is to turn a string of assignments into one cohesive project, with a beginning and an end. That appeals to students more than “an endless parade of activities,” Gura says.

Here’s what a poetry project might look like:

Gathering feedback. As students write their poems, have them seek advice from classmates. “In a classroom with a strong culture of accepting mistakes, we can share our work with others and rely on them to provide feedback,” Gura says.

Reflecting. Ask students to journal about their poem and write a formal assessment where they identify areas of improvement. For instance, they might explain that they are not happy with the overall direction or a certain portion of the poem.

Rewriting. After journaling and reflecting, students can return to their poem and rewrite it based on feedback from classmates and their reflections in their journals.

Gura suggests students create several versions of the poem, saving all versions so that “the creative options are visible, able to spark further ideas and able to be manipulated.”

Presenting. Students present their finished poems to an audience. “The wonderful thing is that this can be an ongoing circle of readers, writers, creators and collaborators,” Gura says. “Creativity is a process-oriented phenomenon. We’re not just dropping seeds and sprinkling them. We can scaffold this for students, showing them a process-oriented approach.”

Educators seeking more tips for bringing creativity to literacy projects can watch the recording of the ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Literacy and Creativity: Essential Skills for 21st Century Students." Viewers will:

  • Get tips on how to spark student creativity.
  • Gather a list of resources for creative literacy lessons.
  • Learn how to build a culture of creativity in your classroom.
  • Find out how to turn “mistakes” into valuable learning tools.

ISTE members can sign up now for the ISTE Professional Learning Series, which includes a recording of the webinar “Literacy and Creativity: Essential Skills for 21st Century Students.” Not a member? Join ISTE today.