Craftivities and Printables

2014 jsmWith any look through educational blogs you will find some new terminology – craftivities and printables.  Exciting new teaching methods?  Not really.  Upon closer inspection you will see that craftivities are crafts that are tied to an educational objective and printables are simply worksheets that are ready to be downloaded and printed out.  With the calls for teacher accountability, a stand-alone art project has become a thing of the past.  But for many gifted children,  the need for expression of creativity is still present and lurking underneath the no frills policies of teaching the basics.

So what have educators done to try to continue to meet this need of students?

According to my blog search, we have employed clever semantics to covertly meet the need of the creative child.  Old buzzwords like “art project,”  or  “holiday  craft activity” signals a red flag to many school systems. Apparently craftivity isn’t on the buzzkill  radar yet. Even though some educators are skirting this trend of back to the basics, it is good for the child?  I say yes.  But, what do they gain from gluing together an elf at Christmas or a designing a pot of gold and rainbow in March?  Here’s  why I think it’s a good thing to bring out the glue sticks and construction paper on a regular basis.

First, we as humans have an innate need to make things.  We make lunch, we make the bed, we make friends, we make a living, we make clothes, we make factories, we make a family.  We create and generate objects at all levels from tangible to intangible.  If we stop this process at a young age, I believe we are disrupting a necessary mindset.

Students learn social skills from art projects.  They must share glue, help pass out paper, make a trade for the purple-handled scissors when they got the ugly green ones instead, and finally, make nice comments to the other students as they share their work. All great skills for the eventual workplace of the future.

In Georgia, many gifted students get placed into gifted services with the help of the Torrance Test for Creative Thinking, so it makes sense to  provide activities to foster the skill that helped to place them in my classroom in the first place.  Crafts promote creative thinking, fine motor skills, and apparently vocal skills as my students sing, laugh, and talk loudly as they create.  You might think painting would be a quiet afternoon activity…not so much in my classroom.   Students learn the mundane responsibility of cleaning up after themselves and the high level skill of critical thinking as they judge the merits of their products.

The opposite of the creative outlet of  “craftivities” would seem to be the “printable.”  We don’t often have fond memories of the 50-question practice-and-drill purple ditto sheets from our youth. But, I would like to suggest that worksheets are not the evil cousin of the art project.

studentFor some gifted students, worksheets are a haven of relief in the busyness of the day.  With many elementary students, they face a multitude of teachers throughout the day – classrooms that change for subjects, specials teachers for p.e. and computers. A worksheet can be a constant in the day.  It’s all there in black and white and all you have to do is fill in the answers.  A comfort for some.  Mostly the sheets don’t need much clarification for the gifted so it’s an opportunity for success and independence.  Students get to work at their own pace and then get to jump out of their seats and run to slap the paper loudly on the teacher’s desk for all to see and hear who was the FIRST ONE DONE.  (Um, we’re still working on that gifted classroom social skill.)

For middle and high schoolers, worksheets are a bridge between lecture and project.  A roadmap to help send a student on to independent learning.  They are a useful reference for what the teacher has been (as the students call it) yammering about for the last 30 minutes and they also provide documentation for the teacher for formative assessments.

Do I use crafts and worksheets (craftivities and printables) all day every day.  Absolutely not.  However,  in this day of online everything, I choose not to abandon either of them.  I believe the benefits each provide fit into my larger repertoire of teaching methods. And I believe others support me in this philosphy or else teachers wouldn’t be flying under the radar renaming these longstanding instructional methods.


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