Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Connected in the Classroom: Think Outside the Box Lesson

Today, I'm sharing a lesson that I've seen several times when scrolling through Instagram. I know many teachers that use this "Think Outside the Box" drawing activity. I think this is such a fun way to challenge students' minds and have them exercise their creativity. I used the drawing part (like you may have seen before on Instagram) and added on a writing component. My students are not into writing. They would do math all day long, but engaging them in Language Arts is like pulling teeth!

I've been looking for ways to interest them in Language Arts and this lesson was a major win. They were totally captivated by the drawing part and didn't complain once about having to write. I was a little ambivalent about using this activity knowing that some students are more into art than others, but all of them ate this up. I could not get through the explanation fast enough - they were ready to work (and they worked oh so quietly!!). I'll walk you through what I did and share my graphic organizer with you below.

Whenever I have a handout for my students, I make sure to have a digital copy to display on the SMARTboard. I know that as soon as I give my kids something, they're gone. I lose their attention when they have something in their hands to distract them and they end up missing parts of the instructions. I want them to be able to see the graphic organizer before having to work with it, so we go through it on the board - they get a little preview but aren't distracted!

I displayed my graphic organizer and talked about the assignment. I told them that they would first draw a picture, then write about their creative process. We talked about what might be an acceptable timeline when working on this assignment. We created a collective timeline of 5 minutes of brainstorming, 15 minutes of drawing, 30 minutes of writing and 5 minutes of revising and editing. I also suggested that they some back and color the picture at the end if they had time. This way they ensure having a drawing and their writing done before coloring.

As part of my explanation, I also went over my grading rubric with my students. I always do this before my students start working to make sure they understand how they can get full marks. In this assignment, I expected them to create an original, creative drawing, to write using developmentally appropriate spelling and grammar conventions, to write 3 developed points about their creative process and to make effective use of their time when working.

My students are working on time management and I find the most effective way to help them stay organized while they are working is to put a timer on the SMARTboard. This strategy helps to keep the students responsible for managing their time. We have discussed that there is no punishment for finishing after the timer. I don't use this strategy to penalize them at all, just as means of keeping them aware.

Once I go through the explanation, I pass out the graphic organizer (you can download it for free HERE) and let them get to work. Included in the graphic organizer is the drawing prompt page (shown below) and a page for writing.
As my students are working, I always walk around the room to make sure they are all on task and understanding the work. I have a chatty group of kiddos but this assignment really focused them - there wasn't a peep for the longest time! Very few of the kids got stuck and they expressed SO much creativity!

When they started writing, there were a few more questions. Some of my students started telling me about their creative process and I would tell them to write it to me instead of saying it. This really interested them! They loved that they were allowed to write about their thoughts. I asked them to give me a little look inside their brain as they were drawing (how did they decide to draw what they drew? Did they have any other ideas? Did they rotate the paper? Did they get stuck? What helped them get unstuck?...). This low stakes writing really resonated with them.

Ok, enough of the chit chat, right? Can I share some of the incredible drawings that I got?
In looking at this student's work, I noticed a mistake in my writing - ha! I wrote 'and umbrella' not 'an umbrella' oops!! How did I not catch this sooner!? I'm surprised not of the kids pointed it out to me in person!
 I love, love, loved this crab!! And I so loved his writing too!
 Cake? Yes, please! This little one drew a cake for her friend's upcoming birthday! Sweet, right?
 This kid is always drawing! I knew he would love this assignment and he totally did! He even made up a jingle to go with his picture and sang it to the class!
How cute are these gnomes? I know teachers aren't supposed to pick favorites but I just love these little gnomes and I was blown away by this little's creativity!!
Again, so creative! I had no idea where my kids would take this assignment and they really impressed me!
I don't know why Beatrice's Mom is saying 'omg' but I love the watermelon!! I love how their little personalities come through in their drawings.
Please note that this drawing is not nearly as alarming as it looks. he wrote 'butter knife' in the corner to specify that this wasn't a violent knife. To quote this kiddo 'it looks more violent than it really is it's just for butter and sometimes peanut butter.' I'm sure glad he clarified that!
Another one of my favorites! A woodpecker! Amazing, amazing! This kid totally rocked this assignment!
A fish bowl! Incredible! She wrote such a great little piece to go with it too!
When I asked this student if he would consider adding a surfer to his wave he said "Miss Mackenzie, this is my creative idea, not yours." Ha! Point taken! I just got so excited about the wave - so much fun to be had in the waves!
Another great one. I don't know what to tell you about the "Where is my cereal bowl." I asked this kiddo what it meant and he said it's just for added effect.
A dinosaur breaking out of an egg - too cute!
And, a cookie jar! What!? I was so impressed with this one!

As soon as my students finished this assignment they asked if we could do something like this again. I know I would be using variations of this activity often in the future because they worked so well on it! I've taught this lesson to both of my groups and I just have one recommendation if you plan on using this - make sure to tell your kids that there is no right answer. Many of my students got stuck in wanting to be right - ugh! I totally get how they are driven towards that but I really wanted to let them go and not feel structured into a 'right answer.'

When one of students said "Wait! What's the right answer?" Another student said "The answer is nothing and everything all at once." This earned a couple of eye rolls, but he was totally right! There is no answer AND everything has the capacity be the right answer. I would emphasize this a little more when teaching this again.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

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