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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in imagination

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

...writing poetry can feel like doing ballet in a phone booth.

Poetry. Boring? Government. Ordinary? Math. Lifeless?

We think not.

I had the pleasure this week of working with a diverse group of 42 secondary school teachers. They came from many different schools and taught a range of topics in Grades 8-12. The session was entitled Emotion At The Helm: Engaging Emotions and Imaginations in The Secondary Classroom. Part of the workshop involved two collaborative activities, one employing tools to tap into students’ Romantic imagination, the other to tap into their Philosophic imagination. (Learn more about different forms of imaginative engagement here.) This post shares some of the imaginative ideas the teachers* came up with that employ cognitive tools to evoke their students’ emotions and imaginations with “ordinary” topics like Poetry, Government, and Linear Relationships (Math).

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

It can be intoxicating to realize that a whole world of abstract ideas exists that can explain and help us interpret the world of our daily lives. If supported in thinking in theoretical ways, many of our senior students/adult learners quickly and thoroughly take to the powerful understanding of the world that abstract ideas can offer.

[And so my "Tips for Imaginative Educator" Series continues. Welcome (back)!]

Developing A Sense of Abstract Reality

All through our lives we actively develop a sense of reality through particular kinds of emotional and imaginative engagements. This focus on reality–the real world around us–tends to develop with the onset of literacy. We seek real-world examples of knowledge we are introduced to. We tend to particularly enjoy the “romantic” adventure- and wonder-filled aspects. What does this look like, then, when we study a topic like history? Well, with tools of oral and written language shaping our meaning-making, we most enjoy vivid accounts of exceptional events, heroes, or stories of people/situations that “beat the odds”. We are engaged with the ingenuity of people who are able to channel their hopes, fears and passions in ways that lead to novel solutions and inventions. We collect many examples of specific historical events that, together, create for us an image of why the world is as it is.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Whether early or accomplished readers, if your students read, then their emotions and imaginations can be evoked when they engage the "literate eye". Add this to your cognitive toolkit: literate students learn better when they have opportunities to work with information in different visual formats.  

So, encourage your students to play with graphs, charts, tables, maps, lists, VENN diagrams, info graphics etc.

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The Literate Eye: A Cognitive Tool

If you have been following this Tools of Imagination series on BAM EdWords, you will be familiar with the term “cognitive tool”. The practice of organizing knowledge in different visual ways is another tool of the imagination and, thus, learning or "cognitive tool." Here’s why: when we become literate the way we access information shifts. Rather than gaining most of our information about the world through our ears (which is the case primarily for oral language users) we now access information actively through our eyes. We de-code symbols all around us (language being one symbol system) all the time. So, afford your students opportunities to play with information visually and you will tap into this powerful feature of their imaginative literate lives.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Books like the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe it Or Not never stay on the shelf for long.  

Young people tend to be fascinated (even obsessed) with the limits of experience and the extremes of reality--these kinds of books reveal all the record-breaking aspects of the world. I recall leafing through our own home copy of the Guinness Book Of World Records at about age 9 or 10, just consumed by the images of the curling, caramel-colored finger nails of that record-holder or the unsettling size of the world’s largest human, pig, or pumpkin pie. 

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We don’t completely lose that interest in the extreme features of reality—think about the headlines that most engage you now. Often they reveal something that falls outside the normal—far outside. We love the “superlative” tense in life—the fastest, slowest, most and least of all kinds. The most expensive houses. The smallest technologies etc. We are curious about things that are foreign to us, that seem odd, exotic, bizarre and—for many young people—just plain gross.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

“Variety’s the very spice of life

That gives it all its flavour.”  

(Source: The Task (1785), Book II, “The Timepiece” William Cowper 1731-1800)

Most people like variety; it keeps life interesting. Unfortunately, few people associate typical schools or classrooms with variety. Indeed, it is the routinization of patterns and behaviors that makes most classrooms run like well-oiled machines. In addition, no matter how artfully decorated, the classroom space many students experience on a daily basis at school is the same from day to day. The unvarying nature of the classroom–and worse yet, a sterile learning context–is an obstacle to imaginative and emotional engagement. Simply put: taken-for-granted, routinized contexts extinguish the imagination.

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