When you hear the words “vocabulary quiz,” you probably don’t think of visual art pieces, songs, or poetry. But those were just a few of the creative responses that resulted from the most recent vocabulary quiz in John Cross’s 7th grade English classes when a common test was transformed into an opportunity for play, self-exploration, and growth. To inspire some competitive spirit, Mr. Cross’s assignment prompt was framed in a fictitious rumor that “Westridge kids can’t write their way out of a paper sack.” He gave his students free rein to prove this rumor false by writing anything they wanted, as long as it demonstrated their understanding of 10 vocabulary words. Some students interpreted the challenge literally, writing and reciting poems and stories on the inside of a paper bag or cardboard boxes, while others proved their writing prowess by producing inspiring songs, poems, and short stories.

“This was a powerful reminder for me of the importance of play,” said Mr. Cross. “Kids learn many valuable life skills through role-playing, including empathy and how to communicate and socialize. Reading and listening to these vocabulary quizzes, I witnessed many students losing themselves in the flow, finding joy in the process, working up the courage to sing or recite to the camera, and trying on roles through their vocabulary poems, stories, songs, and art. Especially now, it is crucial that we find moments where we can transcend our circumstances and play. That is where we grow.”

Click below to see and read some of these artistic vocabulary quizzes: