An Interest in Innovation

Language Arts Resources, Middle School Classroom

As a 6th grade teacher, I pride myself in making my classroom a place where students enjoy being. Seeing smiles on their faces or seeing them rush to get to my room makes me feel that, with small steps, I’ve successfully gotten to this goal for many of them.

My school district has spent a lot of time and energy this year with professional development on the topic of innovation. Much of this training revolves around technology, but I believe that stopping the innovation conversation at technology results in truly missing the mark.

If I could make up my own definition in innovation, it would simply be “thinking outside of the box.” Sure, technology can most certainly be incorporated to help influence innovation, but it is certainly not the end goal.

While many days go by and I feel like my kids are happy, learning a lot of new information, and applying their learning in fun, creative ways, I often find in my self-reflection that I feel my kids are coming up short in something. You guessed it: innovation. I made it a goal for this week to do 3 things to make my class more innovative.

Students used this soccer ball as a way to start discussions during our Socratic Seminar. I color-coded the spaces on the ball to represent different levels of questions that students could ask.
  1. Pick-your-own-project– It’s sort of like a fun shopping experience for proving their learning. Kids in my ELA6 class are getting up to 5 options (yes, 5!) to show their learning during each section of our novel. Some options this week included sculpting a character from our novel, making a movie about a character, or creating a social media page for a character. We have a show and tell time on the day the projects are due so we can see how everyone studied characters in different ways.
  2. Socratic Seminar– Socratic Seminars encourage students to question as they read, then share those questions to lead a discussion in class. This method is based off of Socrates himself! While there are several variations on the Socratic Seminar, today was the first one I ever lead. My enriched students formed questions and had a discussion among themselves in a super big circle about the book. There was a lot of academic talk and I was really impressed with this. Later, I’ll link more directions to how to make these seminars most effective (once I polish them myself!). I used a color coded soccer ball today in class to help our conversation move more smoothly. To add to the innovation, I also had my students keep track of how many times they spoke during the discussion and grade themselves on a self-reflection rubric. Again, more info to come on this!
  3. Flipgrid– Flipgrid is an online social learning platform where kids can make short videos and submit them. In a way, it is sort of like a vlog for classrooms. Other students in the class can view the videos and even like and make comments. This week was also the first time that I used this tool, and what better way to be innovative! So far, I’ve used it as a supplement to my in-class Socratic Seminar in order to allow the quieter and absent kids a place to prove their knowledge of our novel. Best part about this? It’s free!

What ways have you been innovative in roles? Comment below!

One thought on “An Interest in Innovation

  1. As admin I feel a big part of my job (and a tough one to to measure) is to create an environment where staff feel safe, support and energized to “innovate”. Sometimes “innovate” seems like a scary word so to simplify maybe we should say “try something new that puts students and teacher out of comfort zone in hopes something cool happens (learning/growth)”. OK, maybe “innovate” is simpler. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!


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