The Heroic Classroom: Planning With Imagination

ChristaRawlings #imaginEdBy Christa Smith-Rawlings (MEd in IE; Grade 6/7  Teacher, Learning in Depth Teacher, Twitter @HeroicClassroom)

Welcome back to: The Heroic Classroom.  Over the course of the school year I am on the hunt for two things:

1.  Reflections on my lessons and how various Heroic Qualities present themselves.

2.  Observations of how/if students recognize Cognitive Tools in action and how they put the tools into use themselves throughout the school year.

I hope you continue to follow along on our IE adventure!

NOTE: Are you new to Imaginative Education?  Explore the range of posts about it on this blog!

Curate, Cull, Collect… then Create

After giving a seminar early this month it became clear that educators on board with the theory of Imaginative Education are really, really on board but struggle with where to start.   Let’s see if I can give you a starting point.

Forget about the lessons you do really well.  The lessons you are excited to teach every year are full of engagement and excitement.  That’s why you love to teach them.  Good for you.  You likely have a ton of Imaginative Tools embedded in your unit without even realizing.  I can hear you talking at your screen. “Oh no Christa, I just love Chemistry.   I hate teaching Algebra, it’s so boring. That’s why I don’t like it.”   I am sure you love Chemistry.  I am sure you are bored out of your mind teaching Algebra.  The perfect opportunity to do some tweaking don’t you think?

  1. Find your learning outcome and dive into it.  What is it truly asking you to share with the kids?
  2. Curate: Go through what you already have.  Is everything you have worthless?  Not likely.  Look again.  Do any of your lessons, worksheets, activities embody the Imaginative Tools?  Anything you have in that folder that doesn’t fit into Imaginative Framework or can’t be used to practice your soon to be engaging lesson, toss.  (I know, I know you might want it someday…. let me tell you a little secret…you won’t. In another post I will rant about Minimalism and Teaching but not today)
  3. Cull: Now go through it again and toss anything you aren’t sure fits.  It doesn’t. (Can you feel the Marie Kondo vibe I’m throwing out there?)
fulopszokemariann / Pixabay

4. Before you start collecting worksheets and lessons to fill up your folder take a few minutes to look over the tools again.  Grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet spot and really look at the tools and what they are asking from you.

5. Which tool speaks to you?  Which one do you gravitate to first?

6. Collect: Choose your anchoring tool.  If it’s extremes, then great!  If it’s Literate Eye, wonderful.  Because my anchor is usually Heroic Qualities I sit with the learning outcome and what I already know about the unit I am going to plan for.  I tend to dig in by finding the narrative of the topic in order to sort out what the Heroic Quality is going to be.  For Algebra I decided on Relationships as the quality I wanted to anchor my unit to.  From there things started falling into place.  I came up with a little drama where X was a criminal and we were detectives trying to isolate X on their own, interrogate his accomplices (the Coefficient Gang). How did they know X?  What did they do for X? How can the detective get the Coefficient Gang to join the good side etc etc .  It was a lot of fun. The students got really into it.

bluebudgie / Pixabay

We practiced one and two step equations all day as Detectives.  After all the role play they sat down and practiced with worksheets that were directly related to what we had been doing.  I didn’t make them, I found them, I collected them and put them together in a package.  You do not need to start everything from scratch.  As we moved into plotting points and linear equations I usually read excerpts from Makers of Mathematics by Stuart Hollingdale about Rene Descartes and the Cartesian Plane.  I generally have to cut out a bunch from the chapter because it will go over the 11-12 year old heads I have in the classroom but as a teacher that book is great for finding the narrative of the philosopher behind mathematical concepts.  Those narratives tend to get the history geek in me going.  This year I came across a great children’s book called, The Fly on the Ceiling by Julie Glass.  It was the perfect way to tell the story of Descartes and how he changed math forever from his bed.

7. Create:  Now you have intentionally added more imaginative tools to your unit. You have cleaned up that folder and have the lessons and papers that reflect the anchor you chose.  It is now that you create and put your own spin on things.  Trying to create before Curating, Culling and Collecting is too daunting.  Be gentle with yourself.  This is a whole new way of planning.  Baby steps are required.


Take a look at my post on Assessment below to see some ideas on how to add Imagination into your lessons right now.  I promise there is no glitter involved. I would love to hear how you transformed one dreaded unit into the one you can’t wait to teach next year.

Need to catch up? Take a look at some of the other posts from my Heroic Classroom series:

#1 Introduction to The Heroic Classroom

#2 The Heroic Classroom – Trust and Ownership

#3 The Heroic Classroom – Flexibility and Story

#4 The Heroic Classroom – Perseverance and Purpose

#5 The Heroic Classroom – Endurance

#6 The Heroic Classroom – Patience

#7 The Heroic Classroom – Assessment

#8 The Heroic Classroom – Duty


Other posts by Christa Smith-Rawlings:

Check out this post in which I describe why I use cognitive tools in my teaching:

The Selfish Teacher

Using Cognitive Tools to teach Place Value to Grade 6 and 7 students: Place Value and Really Big Numbers

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