Providing for Creativity in Students

Every year at this time, our fourth grade team starts to prepare our students for their “Fourth Grade Celebration.”  It is not a graduation, but rather a time when the students and teachers create a performance that celebrates their time at the Cashman Elementary School as they prepare for middle school.

Our theme this year is to perform a tribute to all the people at the school who have helped and guided the students through their elementary careers including teachers, staff and their families.  We are singing all Beatles music to help punctuate the points such as needing Help! along the way and working a Hard Day’s Night.  Two songs in particular, not only are fun to sing, but we are also adding in some dancing.

For Twist and Shout, we are choreographing a flashmob style dance to perform on video and play while we sing it live.  (There won’t be enough room in the cafe to do it.)  All this week students have been trying out dance moves to use and yesterday we, after being inspired by the parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we tried out some “authentic” moves from the movie to incorporate into the dance.  Needless to say, it was fun!

The ending song is In My Life.  This particular piece is one where all the lyrics make complete sense and fit our purpose seamlessly.  The kids love singing it and are understanding the significance of the lyrics and what they mean at this time in their lives.  Yesterday, I asked for dancing volunteers that would be interested in choreographing a dance piece to accompany the instrumental in the song.  I told them this dance, unlike our flashmob scene, would have to be serious and sweet.  A handful of girls and boys stayed with me and another fourth grade teacher during recess to work on this short segment.

I had no plan, and that was perfect.  When you mix brainstorming with the arts, creativity starts to flow.

We asked them to try out some moves and if they were the right “feel” we were going after…great!  And so they did.  The kids started twirling and leaping, stepping and posing.  Chris (the other teacher) and I sat in the sun praising their wonderful movements as the students naturally started to create their own dances.  It was beautiful.  There were no arguments, just kind collaboration.  Each of the ten committed students knew they were all there to create something meaningful for the ones they love.

As we sat there watching, Chris and I couldn’t help but comment on how wonderful it was to just watch them take ownership of this and relish in the freedom (within a structure) they they were given.  And as I continued to reflect on this later, it just further solidified my own thoughts on how important it is to provide students this type of time – time when they can be freely creative.  (Freedom in Structure!)


Want to get creative too?  Join educators in the MA/NH/ME area for three days of a Teacher Art Retreat where you can get inspired so you can be inspiring to your students!  …and earn professional development too!  Click the link to get more information and to register for this great summer opportunity.

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. E T says:

    Very inspiring. I hope you can post a video of this production.

  2. Tori says:

    As you know, I saw this production but I never understood what went into it; how truly wonderful it is now that I know even more about the process and how to trust it and take more risks. Thanks!

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