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Cross- curricular creativity brings language arts and creative arts together

Taking learning to the next level can be a challenge. Finding new ways to teach basic lessons can be equally difficult. However, when several Denison ISD teachers, on two different campuses, teaching three completely different subjects, came together on a project to help teach third grade students understand the importance of creativity in their writing, that’s when the magic happened.

"Right after Halloween, I was looking for fun and exciting ways to teach my students about adjectives. I stumbled upon a project where the students had drawn a picture of something and then wrote a descriptive story to go with it. With it being right after Halloween, I thought this would be fun to do with monsters," said Hyde Park third grade Language Arts teacher Katie Miller.

Miller had her students draw a monster and then write about their drawing using adjectives to describe it. Students created their imaginary creatures with a variety of colors and bodily features like oversized horns, multiple eyes, large feet and extra arms and legs. The children’s creative minds were allowed full freedom to design the monster they wanted. Then Miller started thinking about how her students love to read with the class’s collection of stuffed animals.

"How neat would it be if my class could create a book from their stories and have a stuffed version of their monster character to read it with? Then, they could read other books at home to their monsters as well. The next day I was down on Main Street and saw Monsters on Main, and the idea just came together," Miller said.

Miller reached out to Denison ISD Director of Instruction Shonda Cannon to see if the idea was even possible. Cannon then put Miller in touch with Denison High School art teacher Elizabeth Shielack and Denison High School Family and Consumer Science Teacher Nicole Douda Hawkins. From there, the idea became a reality as these teachers and their students began to see this project on to the next phase. The third grader’s writing samples, without the student drawings, were sent to the DHS art department at the high school where Shielack had her students draw their interpretation of the monsters based only on what they read in the descriptive paragraphs. After the high school art students completed the drawings, they sent their artwork to Hawkins where she had her sewing classes create the actual monsters out of scraps of fabric, ribbon and other materials.

“I enjoyed this project because we got to read the elementary kid's stories and come up with our own ideas and draw a visual representation of their monsters. After we drew the monsters and added every single detail to what they said, we made them into stuffed animals. It felt amazing seeing all the smiles on the kids' faces,” said Denison High School sophomore Laila Vazquez.

Hawkins says she and her high school students learned a lot and it was a great project for them. At times, they had difficulty visualizing what they wanted to do in order to create the pattern.

“I think it was a great opportunity for them to use their creativity and problem solving skills to be able to complete this project. And then after they got it done and saw the finished product, they were probably just as excited. It was a very rewarding project for both our high school students and those at the elementary,” Hawkins said.

The third graders anxiously awaited for their creations to come back to them. They were beyond excited and so proud when they saw how their hard work had paid off. When the high school artwork and the stuffed monsters were delivered, the Hyde Park students compared them to what they had drawn.

“My students know the process of prewriting, editing, and revising. When the high school art and the stuffed monsters arrived, students spotted the differences. We went back and read their original writing to determine what else could have been added to help make the high school drawings more like theirs. Overall, this was by far my favorite project I have ever done in 14 years,” Miller said.

Denison High School students worked to take the imagery that the Hyde Park students created in the writing and drawing project and make the monster design a reality.

Hyde Park principal Becky Suthers is treated to a full explanation of the project by one of her third graders. “This was truly an amazing project that brought so many different students together from different campuses,” Suthers said.

Students in Hyde Park Elementary teacher Katie Miller’s class receive their stuffed monster creations from the Denison High School students that helped produce them.

Denison High School Family and Consumer Science Teacher Nicole Douda-Hawkins, along with seniors Julissa Garcia and Emma McLemore, junior Kenzie White, and sophomores Abby Rhodes and Laila Vazquez delivered the stuffed animals and the artwork from the high school to Hyde Park students in Katie Miller’s and Sandy Anderson’s classrooms.


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