- Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad
5 strategies for kickstarting classroom creativity this year
Creativity is not only essential to school, but essential to a fulfilling life. Creativity is the ability to connect previously disconnected thoughts and ideas together in new more powerful ways. It allows us to fully express the joy, awe, and wonder in the world around us. Sir Ken Robinson, a leading education expert, shares that schools should be focusing on creativity as much as they focus on literacy.
No matter what subject or grade level you teach, you can turn your classroom into an environment that promotes creative flow states for your students. Flow is that incredible sense of being “in the zone,” when someone is completely focused, engaged and in control. Get started today with these strategies to enhance the creative capacities of your students.
1. LEAVE THE CLASSROOM
Sometimes getting away from the classroom or the school building is the best catalyst to creativity. Take your class outside to a park, a local museum, a nature trail, etc. Or take advantage of the latest in Virtual Reality (VR). Use Google Cardboard or other virtual reality content created for education to take students to distant or fantastic locales. Compelling places challenge comfortable perspectives, make us see and feel things in unexpected ways, and can help get those creative juices flowing. Don’t forget to take phones or tablets so students can capture videos and photos of their experiences.
Creativity is about connecting dots and hidden within that definition is the explanation of how developing collaboration skills can also help develop creativity skills. Collaboration is a relational activity. It requires dialogue and emotional intelligence, that is, being able read body language or detect meaning during interactions. When we collaborate we actively listen and create mental models of what’s going on in another person’s brain. This connection of dots between someone else’s experiences is great way to exercise creativity. Like creativity, collaboration is one of those essential skills that students must continually develop, refine and practice in order to be successful in today’s world of shared collaborative projects and team-based problem solving.
3. CELEBRATE MISTAKES
Even though our education mantras continue to tout the embracing of failures and mistakes, we still tend to stigmatize mistakes in the classroom. We often put a lot of emphasis toward highlighting accuracy/inaccuracy and right/wrong answers. As the old saying goes, “we learn from our mistakes.” What that really means is that mistakes provide us with the opportunity and the information needed to make our work better. It helps develop a mindset that the best creative work may require many iterations and improvements, and may always be in a state of evolving. This is an important area of assessments and feedback that teachers must always strive to improve.
4. BE MESSY
We teach our students early on to keep a clean area around their desk and to be organized with their belongings. But we must be careful not to send a message that it’s not okay to make a mess when we’re in our creative flow. The central tenant of creativity is to take something that already exists and tweak it, or even completely disassemble it to create something new. Sometimes, the more we break something down or the more pieces we make, the more ideas are spawned that lead to something unique.
5. EMPOWER STUDENT VOICE
Creativity is a medium for vocalizing, authoring, or transcribing our own experiences. We take input from the world and create unique output that reflects our singular perspective. Creativity is not reserved for designers, artists or musicians, but a capacity each of us has that can help us think deeper, problem solve better, and find more awe and wonder in the world around us. We must remind our students of this and constantly reinforce it through activities that provide opportunities for students to express their individuality. A powerful way of reflection of our own life experiences is authoring our story through video creation, poetry, painting, writing, blogging etc.
Creativity is not something that just “happens.” It is a foundational skill that must be developed and honed. As teachers, we need to learn to recognize creativity in all its forms, and help our students unlock the creativity within them. Creativity is vital to helping our students express themselves, providing a conduit through which internal ideas can be brought out into the world. It is a cornerstone for success in our dynamically changing world.