If your teen's not naturally creative or struggles in the more open types of tasks,
OR if they are super-creative but isn’t achieving the results they really want,
then is the episode for you!
Listen in to discover what creative tasks are really about
(hint - it’s not creativity and unique ideas),
and how your teen can take advantage of this, whether they're the creative type - or not.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teen Podcast, episode 18 - and if your teen is not naturally creative or struggles in the more open types of tasks, OR if they are super-creative but isn’t achieving the results they really want, then is the episode for you as I share what creative tasks are really about (and hint - it’s not creativity and unique ideas), and how your teen can take advantage of this, whether they are the creative type - or not.
Hello Very Important Parent’s. I’m so excited for this episode. Because I know that if I’d known this as a student it would’ve been a HUGE help. Not only in terms of achieving higher marks, but also in terms of lifting some of the weight off my shoulders and saved me lots of time, when it came to creative tasks.
We’re talking today about tasks where students have to come up with or design, or make something creative. Maybe in Art, or Media or woodwork, or a story they have to write in English. Maybe its a play, a photography project or choreographing a dance.
Whatever they are having to create, here’s what I want to tell you. It’s not about them being creative.
What? I know. Hear me out.
Now the command of CREATE is actually at the top of the levels of cognition. It’s kind of on a par with evaluate. Bloom’s taxonomy has create at the top, others like Marzano have swapped it with evaluate and have evaluate at the top. But either way it’s considered a high level skill. The levels are: remember at the bottom - so that’s remembering facts, definitions, simple info. Then we go up to understand, that’s explaining and making links, then apply, then analyse then evaluate, then create. So, from simplest, easiest cognitive skill to most complex.
BUT, what I want to tell you is that creative style tasks are much more about working at the APPLY level. I want you and your teen to think of them being all about APPLYING the relevant skills, techniques and devices that they’ve been learning, to whatever it is they have to produce.
Yes, they certainly can put their creative flair into it if they want, if they have that flair. But I can tell you that in something like English, where all students are studying it, up to a point at least, not all of them are going to be a natural at coming up with original or creative ideas.
Now, I know that this might therefore be good news for some of you and not such great news for others. In fact, for one student who I coached on this, after having struggled a fair bit with these sorts of tasks, she got an excellent result, and her mum, as well as emailing me about her result, she also told me in the email that although she’s happy with her result, her daughter now she feels like she’s just pleasing her teachers. She’s not actually showing her creativity or ideas or learning and advancing in more interesting or personal or dynamic ways. And when it comes to assessments, I agree. Like anything we’re being judged on, it’s about knowing what the judges are looking for. That’s why, if they have certain passions or interests, they can definitely pursue those outside of their assessments, and I’m sure that some elements they can bring in will be valuable, but overall it really is all about meeting the criteria on the mark scheme.
And like I said, for some this is great news, for others, it’s a bit depressing.
But think of it this way.
Let’s take an example like ice skating. There are some events where they are looking for artistic flair, but they’re also looking for technical prowess, and then, in speed skating, they aren’t looking for any of that, they are just looking for how fast you can complete the track and get over the finish line.
And this is why knowing what you’re being judged on is so important for students who do want to improve their marks, or want to be able to reduce the amount of hours and effort they;re putting in to get them. And it is very easy in the creative subjects or even in the more creative or open tasks in not-so creative subjects, to think that it is all about artistic flair or coming up with super-interesting or unique ideas. And just like in the ice rink, it's sometimes a bit of that, but actually it’s much more about integrating certain skills or showcasing certain techniques. Hence the focus on the cognitive skill of APPLY. Because an ice skater could have a beautiful style, have some really creative and uniques ideas, but if they don’t include some of the more difficult moves OR if they don’t execute them technically really well, then no matter how creative they are, they aren’t going to get a high score. And it’s the same for your teen and their creative assessments.
Now, personally, I’m not naturally great with open-ended tasks or any writing where you have to be imaginative. So, I’ll share an example where this idea of applying skills was totally at play for me.
(My husband always says I have zero-imagination! He’s quite into movies and I’m just like – well *that* wouldn’t happen).
So, imagine my horror, when in my invitation to interview for my first ever teaching job I was asked to prepare to teach:
– a Geography lesson to a class of Year 9’s (no problem)
– that would be observed by the principal (bit nerve-wracking, but again, no problem – this is what all teaching interviews involve in the UK).
So. Teach a Y9 Geography lesson on the topic of…
It didn’t even have to be something from the Y9 curriculum.
I was like, "Come-on! Give me something to go on!"
Maybe they thought they were being kind, but for me, that was the worst possible type of lesson to plan.
I honestly would’ve preferred them to tell me to teach an interesting lesson about watching paint dry.
That would’ve felt like less of a challenge, because at least I’d have had somewhere to start with that. Some guidelines.
Because I like direction and instructions and steps. (You’ve got that by now, right?!)
But of course, it wasn’t about the topic, the lesson was just the vehicle for them to see my teaching skills, see how I handled a brand new class.
And that’s exactly the same for students. Any creative task is the vehicle to have them
APPLY the techniques, skills and capabilities they’ve been learning and building.
So here’s an example that they’ve likely experienced.
Let’s take English and say the’ve been set some type of narrative, like a short story perhaps.
Now, when students go through the mark scheme, they’ll realise that their marks and grades are less about the actual story or characters and more about their ability to use a variety of sophisticated literary devices, like imagery and symbolism for example.
So they need to come up with a setting or character or event, that allows them to use and apply plenty of those.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to plan strategically. They don’t want to be planning from the point of “hmmm, I wonder what’s going to happen in my story?”, but from the point of,
“OKAY – what sort of story will easily allow me to incorporate a variety of writing techniques like personification, metaphor, alliteration?”
“What sort of character would allow me to give some really interesting and detailed descriptions and charcterisation?”
“What sort of setting would I be able to adapt my writing to really well, in terms of style and vocab?” – like using tech-y words for sci-fi, or lots of extravagant details for a romance.
And then they can start to consider what their story could be about.
Plus, now they also have a kind of checklist to work with.
Bonus! (Yay! A checklist!)
Or, let’s take an art piece. Again, they need to look at what they’re being marked on. Is it using a variety of materials, or a particular technique, is it about conveying a particular theme. What would be best suited to doing that? What would allow them to showcase those in the most effective and high quality way? Are they going to have to write an evaluation on it after, and if so, what should they use in their design that will enable them to critique it in a really detailed and sophisticated way afterwards?
If it’s a menu for food tech or if it’s a piece of furniture for woodwork, then yes, they need to consider the target audience or the client and the associated specifications, because yes, they will be marked on how well they’ve met those, but they also need to consider what else they’re going to be judged on. It’s not just going to be about what it looks like or tastes like. They want to consider what technical ability or skills they’ll be able to showcase within it.
Just like the ice skater. They don’t make up the routine based on what simply looks good, or what music they like, or what moves they like performing. They craft the routine around the skills they need to showcase. They start out by knowing what they need and therefore want to display in order to get a high score. In other words, they know what’s in the mark scheme, what they’re being judged on, and then they figure out how to put that across in the creative format required. A 2 minute skating routine, or maybe that three course menu, a wooden magazine rack, a short story, or any other creative assessment task.
So it should never be a question of:
“What on EARTH should I write a story about?!”
“What music will I choreograph a dance to?”
It’s got to be a question of - what am I being judged on, what are they looking for, what’s in the mark scheme? And then finding the best design or story or creative piece to showcase those things - and to take this a step further -
Considering what choices and decisions will allow them to do so in an efficient way AND in a way that provides the most, and highest quality, opportunities to convey those skills, those strategies, those techniques?’.
And it’s not *just* for students who aren’t particularly creative.
For those students who ARE the creative types, then it’ll provide them with that trusty checklist to see which of their wonderful and creative ideas is going to serve them best when it comes to the marking of their work. This is the science and strategy behind the creativity.
So, let me know what you think about this. I’d love your feedback! And I’d love your questions.
Remember, once a month for three months I’m going to do a special Q&A episode of the podcast. So send your questions, or have your teen send their questions to: email@example.com and until next week, I hope you have a fantastic week and I’ll see you with your questions in the inbox.