By Holly Korbey
In Sherri Scott’s first grade class, the daily “main lesson” pages students work on — essentially their handmade textbooks made up of words, numbers, and artwork — are copied straight from the old-fashioned blackboard, not created. And that’s the point.
“It’s what we do in Waldorf schools,” Scott says. “In the lower grades, those initial main lesson pages are copied as closely as possible, to allow practice and more practice with shading, perspective, accuracy, spatial awareness. All that practice copying turns into a keen eye and skilled hand when given free rein in the upper grades.”
For many dedicated to re-making our schools as hubs of dynamic innovation and creativity, getting good at math or science or literacy might be better found in techniques like inquiry-based learning, less emphasis on standardized testing, and avoiding the soul-numbing “drill and kill” exercises and worksheets used to instill basic skills.
But what if the right drill -- without the kill — actually encourages creativity?
Teach Like a Champion author Doug Lemov proposes this very idea in his new book, Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. His Rule Number 4, “Unlock Creativity… With Repetition,” falls in line with virtuoso musicians, elite athletes, and Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours rule” — that creativity actually comes after lots and lots of rote learning (also called practice)
has built a solid foundation of skills. Focused practice, Lemov has found in his research training teachers, actually automates a process in one’s body, which then becomes fertile ground for creative breakthroughs and individual variations.
To explain why his teachers have had so much creative success with repetitive practice, Lemov told the story of a particularly good literature teacher who would get stumped when students Continue reading