Friday, December 3, 2010

Module 7: How do I love thee?

The above video is a powerpoint that plays with the idea of students giving their writing a "makeover' in order to give it style and make it more attractive to their intended audience. Students will gain an understanding of how different types of figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia) add sensory appeal to their writing. More than just learning the definitions of the terms discussed, students will see the importance of figurative language and why it is useful when trying to capture the audience's attention. Using art and technology to teach this concept helps engage the students and stimulates those who are primarily visual learners.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Module 7: What's the Big Idea?

Playing with a purpose has proven beneficial for many of the great minds of the sciences and arts. While play may begin without responsibilities or rules, it has the potential to end with results that are informative and valuable. It is by playing with the topic that we actually begin to be creative with the other thinking skills addressed in the Sparks of Genius book. Playing allows us to reach outside the limits of the norm – finding abstractions that we may otherwise not have discovered, recognizing patterns and even developing new ones, practicing body thinking and empathizing. Play also has an effect on our ability to make transformations from one area or skill to another; this could include writing poetry to help students understand math, setting rules, formulas, definitions, etc. to music in order to increase students’ ability to memorize, or even including artistic, visual imagery to invoke understanding to concepts in any field of study.

One example of playing, which has been useful in the field of Language Arts, is one’s willingness to play with word patterns, which can be found in all the different forms of poetry – acrostics play with the letters of a word to form sentences or lines that describe the original word. Then, of course, there are sonnets, haikus, cinquains, and many more ways to play with patterns in poetry. Scott Kim and John Langdon played with words in their books Inversions and Wordplay. The creators of Word World, seen on PBS, play with words by creating word pictures and J.R.R. Tolkien played with letters and created new “Elvish” languages – languages that are still played with today.

I think this whole chapter on playing helped with my immediate creativity because it gave me an excuse to step outside the rules. There is a freedom to try something new without worrying about the intended results; it is a bit like writing a poem in free verse where one does not feel obligated to follow a specific rhyming pattern or a specific set of grammar rules. In the long run, I think opening the door to “playing” in the classroom sparks the kind of creativity Vivian Paley had when she allowed her kindergarten students to act out stories that they read as a class and stories that they made up on their own. Her students learned a lot about themselves and each other as they engaged in this type of play and Paley and her students created a community in  the classroom that began to thrive on levels that otherwise would have gone undeveloped without Paley’s willingness to “play”.

Language Arts offers a variety of different options for play within the classroom – acting out plays and stories, playing with old literature and modernizing it in either a dramatic or humorous way, creating new types of poetry, making up new words, or even following in Tolkien’s footsteps and creating a whole new alphabet and language. Giving students freedom to “break the rules” of grammar and literature enough for them to learn to appreciate it and enjoy it can make all the difference in their perception of literature. As students see literature’s multiple purposes through their time of “play”, they will hopefully see the importance of their own contributions and the creativity of their own ideas at work.