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David Lockhart explains his first three classroom structures needed to boost student creativity: lesson scheduling, building scenarios, and implementing student choice.

6 Classroom Structures to Make Creation Happen: Part 1

Jul 06, 2018 2018-07-06

By David Lockhart

Editor's Note: Enjoy part one of our two-part series, “6 Classroom Structures to Make Creation Happen” by David Lockhart, educator, Ed Tech advocate, and blogger of the Big Guy in a Bow Tie Blog. This article was originally posted on his blog March 28, 2018.

Students get more learning out of creation than they would out of almost anything else. We know that! However, creation projects are just like everything else success and learning depend on the structure.

If you don’t have structure, student creation becomes an absolute burden. You start questioning if doing those projects is worth it. Students deserve creation, and educators can provide it by implementing these structures:

1. Scheduling
The first issue I always hear about adding creation into the classroom is that educators don’t have enough time. To get creation in your classroom, you need to schedule all of your content early. I found I could schedule all of my standards in a timeframe of 80 days and have a few extra days if needed (snow days happen). If I did not need those extra days, they could become review days for tests.

The first step in scheduling is looking at assessments and units. When you schedule for creation, it may be best to make your units bigger and schedule fewer large-unit assessments, with ongoing assessments throughout the unit. This leaves more time to create.

Once you know your assessments, it’s time to create your semester schedule. Take an initial stab at splitting up the standards topics and assessments in an 80-day span, then adjust the schedule as needed. I always modify it to give more time to the topics I knew the kids would love.

Next, look at the options for student creation and hone in on things you want students to practice. For creation to work on the high school level, you almost have to do it on a unit scale. This gives students more time to finish and do the best on their project. You can give them several options that cover several different topics, and then they can have a period of peer evaluation, so they delve into topics that their project may not necessarily cover.

It’s also not wrong to add little assignments throughout the unit that both assess and give students practice with the content. This can do wonders for your understanding of what they know and how you need to adjust instruction.

Small assignments that practice needed skills are always good, too. One of my favorites during my time as a history teacher was to have students evaluate YouTube videos as historical sources. It taught skills with a platform that is becoming a main source of learning, challenged them to look at the value of a source, and extended the content that we were looking at beyond our classroom materials.

2. Scenarios
Another structure that makes student creation standout is placing students within an imaginary scenario. Many teachers look at student creation as a way to create on the standard of study. If they can shift that focus to imagining they are out in the real world and creating for that context, they can add a layer of creativity and fun to the project that might not have been there.

As a history teacher, this meant putting my students in history. We could imagine how modern tools would have worked in a given time frame, and we could create like we were living the history as it was happening. We could imagine ourselves as the characters we were studying, attending an event, or solving a problem from that time frame. It included creating commercials, social media accounts, news broadcasts, videos, and more. By imagining they were part of the history, students got much more out of it than just by asking them to make a presentation about a topic.

The scenario structure can also be applied to other core subjects. In the literature classroom, students can create scenarios that put them in the novel/book. In science, students can look at scenarios solving real-world problems. In math, engineering challenges teach concepts that can also be applied as real-world solutions.

3. Choice
Students success isn’t always based on the same content, the same level of work in creation, or the same format of the creative project. It’s important to personalize the experience for students. Creation allows you to design creative projects that fit a student’s interests.

Choice does take some structure. If you don’t have the structure, you might as well keep a cot in the copy room. Wouldn’t it be great to have a digital option? Thankfully, technology gives us a digital hub where it’s easy to organize choice for students. That hub can be very dependent on what your district supports, and the key is to set them up in a way that is organized and easy for the kids.

Many districts require their teachers to use an LMS that they purchase. Those work fine, but my preference has always been to use a website because I can control the organization. HTML allows me to embed almost anything on that site.

One of my favorite ways to organize choice is to embed a Symbaloo webmix on the site and set it up as a choice board using Symbaloo’s ability to embed Google Docs (also works with Microsoft Word). I put the assignment directions in the document and organize the tiles as I see fit. It gives me tons of options.

Stay tuned to Teaching4Tomorrow for part two of “6 Classroom Structures to Make Creation Happen” by David Lockhart.

David Lockhart is an Ed Tech presenter, speaker, advocate, coach, and blogger at For more than 10 years, that meant stepping into a high school social studies classroom and delivering instruction in a way that was different. His students learned in a historical newsroom concept where they created everything from social media accounts to news broadcasts. In 2014, Lockhart left the classroom to become an Education Technology Specialist with the Iteach Center at Kennesaw State University. Lockhart works with a metro Atlanta school district to personalize learning for students with the aid of technology. He has also presented on numerous education technology topics at ISTE, FETC, GAETC, AETC, and more. Follow David Lockhart on Twitter @bigguyinabowtie.

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