Creative Practitioner: Cristy Burne
Creative practice: Children’s author and science writer
& Internationally Published Children’s Author
School: Fremantle Primary School
Teacher: Jordan Holloway
Year group: 4/5
Main Curriculum Focus
Year 4: Use simple visual programming environments that include a sequence of steps (algorithm) involving decisions made by the user (branching) (ACTDIP011).
Year 4: Use of software Use a range of software including word processing programs to construct, edit and publish written text, and select, edit and place visual, print and audio elements.
Year 5: Design, follow and represent diagrammatically, a simple sequence of steps (algorithm), involving branching (decisions) and iteration (repetition) (ACTDIP019).
Literature and context Make connections between the ways different authors may represent similar storylines, ideas, and relationships.
Creating texts Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative, and persuasive texts containing key information and supporting details for a widening range of audiences, demonstrating increasing control over text structures and language features.
Creating literary texts Create literary texts that explore students’ own experiences and imagining.
Experimentation and adaptation Create literary texts by developing storylines, characters, and settings.
Editing Reread and edit for meaning by adding, deleting, or moving words or word groups to improve content and structure.
WHAT WE DID
We challenged the students to design, write and code their own Choose Your Own Adventure stories. This involved working as a team to outline the structure of their story, which needed to include sequences, branching and at least one loop.
Initially they worked in their teams to plan the basic character, setting and plot of their stories. This involved working out how to flowchart different sections of the story, as well as collaboration, compromise and sticking with difficulty.
The teams then split into individuals to write and code the stories using a free online website called Twine (twinery.org). Although they were working individually, we noticed team members still supported each other through the coding process.
In creating and coding their stories, we challenged students to think like a writer (planning the story and reader experience), as a reader (using imagination to fill in the gaps left by the author) and as a coder (understanding how sequences, branching and looping can add to the story). They stayed on-task, were engaged, and excited to read others’ stories as well as to create their own stories.
Students experimented wildly with their story architectures. Some filled detailed pages with thrilling prose, others created dozens of branching plot directions and even reluctant writers were spurred on by the fun (and power) of being about to create a Choose Your Own Adventure experience (and they didn’t let fear of mistakes in spelling or grammar hold them back!).
How did we make the curriculum come alive?
The kids absolutely loved being able to instantly experience the results of their coding and creativity using the Twine software. They could immediately see when things weren’t working, they were able to spot bugs in their code (“Why isn’t this working?” “How do I get it to work?”), and then debug that code to create the reader experience they were looking for (“Now it’s working!”).
How did we make the Creative Habits of Learning come alive?
Every session we encouraged the students to think about what they were learning, not just in terms of coding and writing, but in terms of the Creative Habits of Learning. At first these habits were just coloured words on a poster, but over time the kids gradually began to understand just what each habit entailed and how practising that habit might help their overall learning experience.
“I learned to be resilient and patient. I lost my whole story on the computer, and I was so devastated, but I rewrote it again and it was so much better than the first one.” - Student
“I notice that when we are in groups we have to be determined and bounce back. I can trust the people in my group way more now because I got to know them better. It proved to me that people can be nice. We did team building like the human knot. It showed me how some people talk and stay calm, but others shouted and freaked out and that didn’t work as well.” - Student
How did we activate student voice and learner agency?
Just as in the Choose Your Own Adventure stories that students were writing; we tried to throw choices and decisions back to the students wherever possible.
We worked on listening to student ideas and suggestions for how the lesson might go (for example, taking one student up on his offer to distribute reflection booklets or the letters we’d written to ourselves; letting students choose the warmup; letting students put themselves in warmup groups; letting students decide whether they wanted to work by themselves or invite feedback from a partner).
We also experimented with speaking less so we could hear more (our Teachers Don’t Speak session was brilliant!).
Students can often spend all day being told what to do, so it was clear that the chance to direct and orchestrate a story where they’re completely in charge of another person’s destiny (their reader’s destiny) was empowering and refreshing and most of all, fun!
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT?
“We are becoming more collaborative and imaginative. Kids are reading more books and drawing more. They are starting to be more creative and getting more ideas than before.”
“What I noticed most of all was the growth in both creativity and collaborative skills in the class. Our kids became more able to persist with challenging creative tasks, more willing to try, draft, fail and try again. They also became far more able to collaborate and share responsibility and ideas in a group- I thought it was fantastic! Creative Schools has taught me a lot as a teacher, from the first session when Cristy told me to ‘let go’ and trust the process, I learnt that there were ways of doing things I would never have thought of before, and that I can give my students much more space to be creative and autonomous and that they will rise to meet the challenge!”
“I loved seeing kids experiment with words and ideas and vocabulary they clearly couldn’t spell. I loved that their drive to write a story was stronger than their fear of a misplaced comma (or seven). I loved watching them push the limits of their story (with 20 doors leading from a single room) only to realise (often belatedly) that too much choice can lead to a diminished reader experience. It was a pretty funny experience, because at the same time, we were striving as teachers for a balance between offering students too much choice and too many rules. This is a classroom of students with so much to say. They’re chatty, they’re energetic, they’re full of ideas, and it was a delight to see them empowered to put their ideas into action. I especially loved seeing kids who didn’t like to write getting into the fun of writing their own adventures. Hearing them reflect on all they had experienced and learned was a real buzz.”
“My parents like hearing about Creative Schools. My parents think it’s a great thing to do at school. They like how everyone in the class can be creative once a week.” - Student
“The Creative Schools program has brought a wonderful energy to our students, classrooms and teachers. Working through the Creative Habits of Learning has helped students build a common language which can be applied in all areas of learning. The work has enabled the school to take a major step forward in achieving our school vision of “inspiring critical, creative thinkers in a caring, inclusive community.” The program has supported teachers to involve student voice meaningfully to create solutions to real-world problems. It is the kind of work that can bring together classrooms and community, as it requires communication, purpose and collaboration. Creative Schools has helped us as teachers revive some of the fundamentals of effective and engaging pedagogy at a time when the world needs innovative responses to ever evolving problems.”