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April 2011

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Using Quotes To Introduce and Enhance Ideas: Step 1, Quote Finding

The creative process is often as difficult to develop as it is to explain. Educators strive to provide encouragement in creative thought, praising glimpses of originality observed in their students.  There are many skills that can introduce creative thinking. One that I have taught to my students is the use of quotes to introduce themes or ideas. Infused correctly, quotes can be powerful additions to oral presentations, essays, documentaries, and a range of other student products.

I have learned over the years that students take great interest in teachers who share their own work. As with many lessons I give in class, I’d like to make a little artistic modification (personalizing a lesson) to this topic. A few years ago I was doing a literature review of the decline of science curriculum since the turn of the century and I needed a few good quotes dealing with education. I had initially been inspired to write the piece while reading Einstein: Ideas and Opinions (Crown, 1982). I figured I would return for some more. Einstein’s work offered the initial inspiring quote and later served as a resource to enhance the paper I was working on. The quote I encountered during my first reading was found on page 64.

“The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgment should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge.”

That quote certainly inspired the writing that was to come, and once I completed a rough draft, I used the following to enhance my writing, the first found on page 63, the second on page 62.

“The teacher should be given extensive liberty in the selection of the material to be taught and the methods of teaching employed.”

“The most important motive for work in the school and in life is the pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.”

There are several steps needed to incorporate quotes in any work. In this Teacher’s Corner we will look at the first, using a quote.

Once students (and teachers) have found possible quotes, there are two primary ways to use them. The first way is to use quotes as a means for brainstorming initial ideas. The second involves enhancing information that has already been gathered.

My favorite brainstorming technique involves having a pencil handy when reading. As a quote or piece of information jumps out at me, I underline it as a point of reference, and plan to return to it later. My students use this aspect of “note-taking” while reading essays, handouts, and their self-selected novels.  I often quote song lyrics, taking advantage of an important media source for my students. Having already embraced the written “emotions” sung by popular artists, they are able to make strong connections when writing. 

To enhance ideas on a project that already has been started, the introduction and use of the text Bartlett’s Quotes is a must for middle school students. If you do not know of this resource, ask your librarian for a copy.  If accessing a book is not an option, there are a great many websites that categorize quotes by topic. Brainy Quote, and ThinkExist are two of my favorites.

Introducing “quote finding” to your students will open up a world of ideas to them and create a classroom environment of thought and reflection that will provide a way for students to be creative and original in their work. Try it today.