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Embracing Creativity with Choice and Voice

There is nothing more special than watching a group of students proudly share and discuss something they have created. Providing students the opportunity to create something of their choice should be a key component of every class. When given the chance to plan, think, and execute something on their own, it is amazing to see what their creative minds come up with!

I am extremely thankful that Ms. Elizabeth Morgan, a freshmen English teacher at Neuqua, invited me to visit her class this week to participate in a gallery walk that showcased her students' independent reading projects. She explained in her invitation that this assignment gave students ownership of the novel, project, and rubric:"This project is unique in that students chose a novel that they were interested in from a list of books that address Essential Questions of Unit 4: Complicated Relationships. They then met with me [Ms. Morgan] to propose an individualized project based on their personal strengths and create their own rubric." 

First, I LOVE that she gave her students choice over the novel. Students are always more willing to read when it is a book of their choice. Second, I REALLY LOVE that they got to pick their project based on their personal strengths. This is an awesome way to give students voice over learning. Third, asking the students to create their own rubric might seem risky, but wow....what a great way to get them to think, reflect, and plan with purpose. Asking students to truly grasp what they are going to create and then critically think about how it should be assessed takes choice, voice, and essentially, their learning, to the next level. Ms. Morgan explained, "I am SO IMPRESSED with the creativity of my students as they thought through what they wanted to do, how they would execute it, AND how it would be assessed."

As I walked through the gallery of student projects - all unique and very well done - I couldn't help but notice Ms. Morgan beaming with pride about her students' work and all of the time and effort they put into their projects. Students created journals, poetry, artwork, music, videos, scrapbooks, wood carvings, baseball cards and programs, models connected to the model, diagrams, and much much more. While I know our students do great work, I was truly mesmerized by the creativity and passion that went into these projects. 

While I looked at projects and read rationales for their creations, I enjoyed listening to the students in Ms. Morgan's class. I loved how they proudly walked past their own projects and explained their process when questioned. I appreciated the students' responses to other students' work; they were genuinely interested in what their peers created and took a lot of time to look, read, listen, and/or watch the project/rationale. On numerous occasions, I heard students compliment others and the skills they displayed through their project. I am also happy to report that I heard numerous students say that they now wanted to read certain books after seeing their classmates interpretation. Students motivating other students to read...what an awesome concept! 

I left the gallery walk feeling inspired and motivated to try something like this with my students in the future. Giving students ownership can be scary and a bit overwhelming for teachers, as we all typically like to be in control; however, our students' creativity, interests, and passions need an outlet.  When we give them choice and voice, the opportunities for learning, sharing, and engagement are endless! #whatsup 


  1. This was a great experience. I also love that the students had a choice on both the novel and how to express themselves. I am thinking about a twist on a project like this: What if the students assess what they believe they are good at and what they are not so good at and then create something to build on the perceived weakness. For example, a student who says they are not good at drawing could draw as part of their final product. Don't get me wrong, this is great as is. I am just thinking outside the box a bit.


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