The more time I spend teaching and researching creativity in the classroom, the more I am exposed to the true meaning of creativity. I now know that being creative is much more than being able to sketch something. It is a true ability to use your understanding to take it a step further and apply this understanding to a different context.
There are several ways that teachers can incorporate and encourage creativity in their classrooms.
Free exploration is something that is often thought of when teachers think of a preschool classroom. You imagine students rotating through centers where they are able to try out different things. I know that in my classroom, I love to have free time where I encourage my students to explore and build with things as simple as math manipulatives. It is amazing, that even during a 20-minute block of time, that they come up with some great creations!
A few weeks ago, I gave a group of my first graders a set of attribute blocks and asked them to create anything they wanted… within a few minutes, one scholar created an excavator out of the attribute blocks! When given a set of pattern blocks, another scholar created a picture of a boy walking a dog!
Occasionally, when they are given “free exploration time”, I will ask my scholars to write about what they've created and how they created it or I will have them write a story incorporating their creation. Some of the stories that they come up with is awesome.
I think that it is imperative that teachers expect their students to create. This creating doesn't have to be cookie cutter. What one child creates might, and should, be very different from the next student. When we set the expectation that students will create and think outside the box, the students understand the importance of this creativity in being successful
A great way to incorporate creativity to academics is to use interdisciplinary units. An example of an interdisciplinary unit is a "geometry and art" unit. Within this unit, students can use their understanding of geometry (two- and three-dimensional shapes) to create works of art. Scholars can also examine pieces of well-known art for examples of specific geometric shapes and patterns that they found.
There are specific programs that can be used to help students build creative thinking skills. One of those programs is Odyssey of the Mind. While participating in OM, students are required to use their creative thinking skills to solve spontaneous problems that are given to them on the day of competition. They also have to find a creative way to present a 7-minute solution to a "problem" that allows them to draw on their acting skills as well.
Another model for building creative thinking skills is the Parnes-Osborne Creative Problem Solving Model. With CPS, students are given a global problem to solve. They then generate ideas for solving the problem and come together to create a solution for this problem.
Thinking about integrating creativity into lessons is something that involves some creativity on the part of the teacher. It can also require a good deal of planning and preparation, but when things fall into place it is a wonderful thing.
Raegan Cassady is a first grade Learning Immersion teacher at Shamrock Gardens Elementary. Mrs. Cassady believes that all of us are lifelong learners and that the only way to get better at what you do is to learn more about it. Mrs. Cassady has a Masters Degree in Reading and is working towards her AIG Certification.