Monday, June 13, 2016

Cute Doesn’t Cut It in Teacher-Created Curricula

The classroom was buzzing with activity. Students happily chatted away while cutting out construction paper figures, occasionally glancing at the teacher’s sample to figure out how to put the snowman together. It was winter, and students were creating snowmen. On the snowman, they were to attach a round writing template and write about a favorite winter activity.

By all appearances, the students were making great progress. They were accomplishing their tasks with independence, building fine motor skills, and they were writing. Accommodations could easily be made for students; one might dictate a single sentence to an adult, while another might write a paragraph. But something was missing.

“Hmmm….” I pondered.  “What’s the point?”

While the students were clearing clearly enjoying the project, very little learning was actually going one. There hadn’t been a writing lesson preceding the craft project. And, students would not be receiving feedback on their writing or expected to revise their work. Rather, the snowmen would be posted in the hall as a cute bulletin board displaying student work. That was the point. It was cute.

Therein lies the problem with “activity-based lessons” – those lessons that are designed to keep students busy and create something cute to take home. In this age of increased expectations, cute doesn’t cut it.

When teachers design curriculum to use with their students, it is essential that they have a clear, objective-based purpose for each lesson.  Otherwise the lesson becomes a time-filler.

Think of the classroom as a cruise ship.  The passengers (students) are headed to a destination (the learning objective). The captain’s job is to navigate to the destination.

The teacher is the captain of the ship, not the activities director. It’s the teacher’s job to guide students to accomplish goals, not to simply fill the day with fun activities. We set goals that are based on clear objectives. Without having a destination in mind, we could find ourselves wandering aimlessly in the vast ocean of education.

Creating curriculum is one of the great joys of being teacher, and teacher-created curriculum is clearly the most beneficial to our students. We know what our students know and what they need to know. We need keep in mind that with the creative outlet that curriculum development gives us, we have a responsibility to keep our lessons focused on our goals. Because lessons that have that cute factor (and nothing else) just don’t cut it.


  1. Well written, Mary! Great post! I am constantly searching for great "Craftivities" for the exact reasons you write about. And yes, let's create some curriculum while we're at it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Looking forward to collaborating with you!

  2. This is a good read! I totally get your point.