It is important to be clear about your expectations. It can be stressful for students if they are unsure what to do. It’s like going on a journey, but not knowing where you are or where you are going.
But, every so often, it pays to allow students room to ramble. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” And, neither are students who are given open-ended outcomes. When students are given the freedom to think, imagine, explore, and really challenge themselves – without negative consequences – amazing things can happen.
I assigned a vocabulary activity recently. It was simple stuff – students had to show that they knew and understood new vocabulary words by taking a word from our Word Wall, writing a definition, using the word in a sentence, and then illustrating the idea in a visually “creative” way. When students asked me what I meant by creative, I shrugged and told them to surprise me.
And surprise me they did. Here are some examples of their work:
The freedom may be a little frightening for some. You’ll probably get questions like “Is this what you want?” or “Am I doing this right?” Just smile and assure the students that there are no negative consequences for their creativity and watch what awesomeness happens.