Creativity is a skill, just like reading or math, that can be taught and learned. No kidding!! :-) Through exposure, experience, and practice, creative thinking is a skill anyone can cultivate.
Not only is creative thinking FUN, but it is also important! Divergent thinking increases a student’s desire to learn and supports his/her intellectual development. When we encourage creative thinking, we promote student engagement, motivation, and love for learning.
My first post in this series, "Let's Get Creative," addressed the 4-Framework model of creativity and shared easy, low or no-prep activities to use in the classroom. You can read more about that here, if you like. This post will focus on ways to develop a culture of creativity in the classroom.
1. Accept and celebrate all of the ideas that students offer – even the ones that are wacky or off the wall! When brainstorming, the goal is quantity, not quality. Generating ideas is the first step in effective problem solving! Students can always revisit their ideas later and decide which ones are worth keeping.
2. Encourage “piggybacking” or building on the ideas of others. Creative thinking does not exist in a vacuum. People learn from and thrive on the inspiration and ideas of others. Encourage students – not to copy – but to build on, develop, and extend the ideas of their peers.
3. Model it! Creative thinking is a skill that can be learned! Just as we would provide instruction and support to help our students understand fractions or physics, we need to do the same for creative thinking. Our students have tremendous creative capacity and it is our job to help them identify and develop it. One of my favorite ways to model creative thought is described in tip #5; students often learn best from their peers.
4. Creativity takes time, so give students time to think, try out new ideas, and invent. Creativity can be integrated throughout the academic day with strategies like open-ended questions, project based learning, and student choice. I also like to specifically carve out time in our day to focus on creative thinking. Because the school day is so jam-packed, and much of our instructional time is mandated by others, I tend to use creative activities, like "Brain Food," as:
- Bell Ringers: My students can arrive anytime between 7:30 and 8:00. This 30 minutes can pose a challenge! While I want morning work activities to be worthwhile, I don’t want students who arrive at 8:00 to be “penalized” for missing this time. I love using creativity exercises as bell ringers because my students who are present are meaningfully engaged and developing essential skills, but it does not put other students “behind.”
- Center Activities: I often have a “Creation Station” as one of my center rotations in both math and reading. Divergent thinking activities are perfect for this spot! Students can tackle the tasks with independence AND at their individual level of readiness.
- Anchor Activities: Creative thinking activities are a great resource for my fast finishers! I give each student a “Brain Food” packet and if they finish early, they can pull it out and be actively engaged.
5. Make time to share! Not only do students love to share their original creations, but it also supports and promotes further creative thought. Seeing other ideas and perspectives can help students to approach their own work in different ways. In addition, students are more likely to be purposefully engaged and challenge themselves if they know their work will have an audience.
6. Create a safe environment that encourages students to take creative risks. Creative thinking needs to be shared and validated by others in a supportive atmosphere. Nothing squashes enthusiasm and a willingness to try like negative remarks and criticism.
Here are some thoughts to get you started! Let me know what questions you have; I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for checking in!