One of my AG&T pupils often finishes her work very quickly, and always to a very high standard: very neat and very well composed. Because of this I decided to think of something more challenging for her to do so when she came to me on Monday having finished all the work half way through the lesson I was ready with her challenge: to create the starter for the next lesson to be shown the following day. Our current topic is ‘The Swinging Sixties’ and she was to introduce the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album to the class. I told her this and also told her to do it however she wanted (in full knowledge that they’ve been introduced to several pieces of software such as Movie Maker and Audacity that could create something a bit whizz-bang if necessary, and suggested these to her).
I have to say I was a little disappointed by the result, which was a PowerPoint presentation with the information taken from Wikipedia. Although, once again, it was very well put together I felt it was the very safe and not at all creative option. I know full well it is the perfectionism in her that so many AG&T pupils have and the obvious question now is how to I get her, and other AG&T children, to work outside their comfort zone and take risks?
This is the problem that comes from expectation, both from within and from outside influences such as parents and teachers. AG&T children are so used to getting everything right that they often can’t cope when they don’t know how to do something or they get something wrong. They have very high expectations of themselves and others expect them always to be right too. But this then develops into a group of children who, although often highly motivated, won’t push themselves to take risks and do things differently.
I think from now on in my classroom I will be asking the children for their initial ideas for how to do something and then asking them how they might ‘do it differently’? In fact, I might make it into my class slogan for the year. If I were to give that challenge to R again I think I might try to limit her by asking her not to use a PowerPoint. Perhaps limiting the resources is the way to creativity rather than having an open choice?
Does anyone have any other ways to encourage risk-taking in learning in the classroom? I would love to know if someone has actually cracked it but for now I will keep on experimenting with different ideas.