2016 Everyartist Live! Huge Success!

Last week's national event, Everyartist Live! on Thursday, October 27th, was a roaring success! We are still computing numbers of national participants, and awaiting more uploads of the artworks produced, BUT, so far amazing examples of highly creative thinking and art production of inventions (this year's theme) are fascinating to look at on our online gallery.

We are noticing wonderful trends: all levels of students from preschool through High School are participating. Also, many classes produced not only a drawing, but step-by-step blueprints for production. Possible problem-solving tips often were included with diagrams similar to a handbook for use. Many classes included photos of students working in small groups with a selection of random materials to experiment in the planning stages with 3-D construction to help solve problems and extend thinking, but to also improve group dynamics and give everyone a part in the process. As my Grandmother always said, "Two brains are better than one!"

Fat-Sucking Machines, Nail Polishing Machines, Instant Hair-Do machines are personal care inventions that show that today's creative youth are interested in the way they look.

Of course, several childhood nemeses: homework, chores, and studying, just might be able to be removed from society with the Homework Solving Machine, the Homework Pen/Pencil, The Automatic Bed-Maker, the Childhood Chore Chopper, or the Telepathic Study Buds.

Michael's Air Jordan's have nothing on the Flying Sky High Shoes or the Super Quiet Elevator Shoes.  

I encourage you to upload your student's works as soon as possible so everyone in America and around the world can share in the amazing thinking produced. You can share other students' ideas with your classes too just by looking in the galleries.

We at Everyartist are already thinking about our next creativity challenge topic. If you have a terrific idea, please let me know here in the comments or email me at pat@everyartist.me.


The Vanishing Commodity. Creativity: Use It or Lose It!

Recalling an anti-aging, brain research mantra from the 1990s, “Use it or lose it”, I ask, “How do I use my creativity and not lose it?”  This is definitely a source of concern for 21st Century learners and educators because research shows that elaboration, flexibility and originality scores have all been declining since 1984, with elaboration showing the earliest decline. 

This article, the fifth in the six-part series, “Creativity in the Classroom” will enumerate and briefly explore research-proven strategies and techniques for daily classroom use to stimulate fluency, flexibility, and originality, three essential components of creative thinking. Emeritus Professor of Art from Goshen College and master potter, Marvin Bartel, stresses daily rituals, like these strategies, are necessary to stimulate original thinking, and therefore, creativity. 

Most of the strategies can be very short, easily incorporated into any discipline, but especially those like science, writing, and art that are process-based, and can produce dynamic results in stimulating creative thinking plus individual and/or group productivity.

In the past ten years brain-based research shows that Intelligence Quotients, or IQs, can be raised, and recent research is currently pointing to the same for creativity. So, this article will explore 20 mental exercises and techniques to raise your Creativity Quotient, or CQ.

Let Thinking Strategies “Pump Up” Your Creative Thinking

(For lack of a better way to organize the following strategies, they will appear alphabetically)

Brainstorming, one of easiest techniques to build fluency, flexibility, and originality in a classroom, is a broad group of thinking techniques where students try to spontaneously contribute ideas for a solution to a problem. The term brainstorming was popularized in a 1953 book, Applied Imagination by a Madison Avenue advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborne.  Reintroduced in the 1970s by San Diego State University writing gurus Leif Fearn and Nancy Parnum, brainstorming to create a list of many, varied and unusual ideas prior to writing cemented its place in creative thinking and creative writing.  

Since then, researchers have made many improvements to the original technique. Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages students to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy and definitely “out-of-the-box”. Some of these ideas can then be crafted into original solution for the problem, while others can spark even more ideas. This helps to get students unstuck by jolting them out of their normal ways of thinking, making unusual associations or connections, and by often improving class dynamics. The old adage, “Two brains are better than one”, surely applies to all brainstorming activities.

During brainstorming sessions, teachers and students should avoid criticizing or rewarding ideas because the point is to open up possibilities and break down incorrect assumptions about the problem’s limits. Judgment, analysis and labeling at this stage tend to stunt idea generation and can deter group dynamics.

Taking Your Brainstorming To a Higher Altitude

When using brainstorming in your classroom don’t be disappointed if the first attempt is less than stellar, but don’t think it won’t work. Repeated use, like any exercise for stiff, unused joints or muscles increases range slowly, improves lubrication to the areas and increases circulation and future success. 

But, if after repeated use, you are not getting enough quality ideas, try using some of the further articulated brainstorming approaches below to increase the number of ideas (fluency), the different ideas (flexibility) and the more unusual ideas (originality). After all, variety is one of the components of creativity.

  • Brainwriting is a variation on brainstorming that allows everyone in the class to participate in a non-threatening way by having the class simply write down their ideas on slips of paper, note pads, group idea pages, chalkboards, etc. I utilize this strategy in class when I need to poll the class’s ideas prior to beginning a unit of study.  Once written down on sticky notes the ideas are easily categorized by similar concepts to help with my analysis of the areas I need to cover, with student ideas often spurring ideas of my own.
  • Reverse Brainstorming helps a class solve stated problems by combining brainstorming and the reversal technique, describing an idea, concept or a problem by what it is not. Instead of “How would you describe creativity?”, the teacher might ask. “What is creativity not?”
  • Rolestorming encourages students to take on other people’s identities while brainstorming. The theory is that if you pretend to be someone else, you will feel more comfortable putting your ideas forward, and because you may come up with more ideas if you look at a problem from someone else’s perspective. Rolestorming, play-acting with a problem-solving purpose, is freeing and fun.  What would Benjamin Franklin, Pablo Picasso or Einstein do?    

Starbursting focuses on generating questions rather than answers. Webbing questions help students to look at a problem from different perspectives.

“Hole”-Brain Drawing features a hole cut out of a piece of blank paper. Students must use the hole to be an integral part of a detailed drawing.
*Denotes my own strategy title that I have used for over 15 years.

“I’m Positive It Is a…” Strategy is a companion activity to the “Hole”-Brain Drawing above. Students select a random positive shape (cut from the papers for the above activity), glue it on their papers, and then must use it as a component in a detailed drawing.  The students may outline the shape and embellish it with details, also.

Magic Doodles (Sensational Scribbles) is a creative strategy I have used for years to prompt quick, fluent, flexible and creative images. Students are asked to transform an odd number of random lines into a complex drawing of related or interrelated objects.

Metaphorical Thinking, in language arts, is a descriptive technique that is highly useful in making connections between seemingly disparate items or concepts, and often creates a clearer understanding than simple similes that state what something is like.  Since making connections is essential to creative thinking, metaphors are a great tool to utilize.  Learn more about metaphorical thinking.

““Time is money” is a metaphor. By thinking about time as money, you can create powerful images. Time wasted is money down the drain. Time well spent is an investment. The seconds are ticking away.” 

Mind mapping is a lobed or webbed drawing used to visually organize information, ideas and opinions. A mind map is usually organized around a single, broad concept in the center, with major related ideas/concepts branching out from that center.  Supporting and/or different ideas branch out further from those lobes.  Many creative thinkers love mind mapping for its artistic possibilities, often including the illustration of concepts or ideas included to create truly descriptive works of art.  The mind map below on creative intelligence is one of many available online at mindmapart.com and is designed by Emily and Alan Burton.

Mnemonic (or Acronym) Sentences is a strategy that each of the five letters in a five-letter word must be used in order to begin five words to make a complete sentence.  It seems that with the advent of TABS in 1984, the state of Texas and modern education is in love with acronyms, so I started using this thinking warm up in class as students are getting supplies.  Once they are trained on the procedure, students look for the word of the day on the board as they come in.
For example, if color is the word, the letters are: c, o, l, o, r. When made into a sentence of five words beginning with each of those letters in order the results could be: Criminals often loosen our rules, or Caterpillars originally loved opening roses.

Patterning Prose/Poetry Selections: Poetry and simple prose formats can assist young students to create complex descriptions and messages by not having to create the actual syntactical format of the writing, words or phrases. One of my favorite prose selections to pattern, or follow its format, produces a step-by-step description of a process. “My Rules” by Shel Silverstein in Where the Sidewalk Ends originally is about a demanding girl’s requirements for marriage, but its format can be used with different concepts in so many ways.   

”If you want to be (creative, an artist, a scientist, the president…), or
If you want to (paint, think, write, experiment, type…), here’s what you have
to do:

This is only one of the over seventy-five poetry and prose selections to pattern that are included in Super Kids Publishing Company by author Deborah Robertson.  Intended to be used in a variety of ways: a center approach on cards, an individual writer’s studio, or as a full class lesson, these prose and poetry formats provide confidence in young students and encourage fluent, flexible, and original thinking and writing.  Creating a product often helps to further validate brainstormed ideas.

Poetry Formulas, similarly found in Super Kids, like the cinquain, the diamante, the alternator, vertical and five-sense, are simply stated, line-by-line requirements for including brainstormed ideas in a poem. Again, producing a product cements the fluency, flexibility and creativity spurred by the idea gathering process of brainstorming.

Randomness is a thinking strategy that tries to make sense of the unrelated. I have adapted this technique and call it “Thinking Outside of the Box”. I write pairs of unrelated words on small slips of paper, place in a small box, and select random students to draw out a pair for the day. Students then draw in their thinking journal, sketch book, on doodle pages, or in margins of paper, their ideas on how the two are related.  For example, the pair “happy and scary” produced an image of a mummy enjoying himself at the carnival, Frankenstein riding a merry-go-round while “sticky and furry” produced a mouse in glue, a bear drinking honey from a bee hive, and a Velcro fastener on a model’s fur coat.

Reversal Strategy can be used to define hard-to-describe terms and concepts by basically describing what the term or concept is NOT. When students in my classes had trouble coming up with a succinct list of descriptors for creativity or creative thinking, I had them list what it is not.  That list, an elaborated description of critical thinking, then was reversed to produce a concrete list of descriptors for creative thinking.

SCAMPER is a mnemonic that stands for: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate, and Reverse. While Alex Osborn, credited as the originator of brainstorming, originally came up with many of the questions used in this technique, Bob Eberle, and education administrator and author, organized the questions into the SCAMPER mnemonic.  French artist Benoit Philippe utilizes several of these techniques in his free e-book, Creative Exercises for Artists and Everyone Else.

Transformational Drawing exercises fluency, flexibility and originality by asking a student to change a shape, an icon, a symbol into part of something else.

Visual Comparisons/Contrasts utilize art prints, actual objects (objet d’art) to allow students to observe and draw comparisons and contrasts, like visual Venn diagrams, that show the individual (contrasting) characteristics of the items, as well as the common (comparing) characteristics. Author Bob Raczka’s book, Unlikely Pairs, is one of my favorite sources for visual comparisons and contrasts.

“What Ifs” Game is a drawing warm-up game where students are asked to draw fantastic changes by asking the question, “What if….?”  Thinking that is parallel to the SCAMPER technique is used when students possibly have to substitute, change, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate or reverse an idea in order to come up with a solution.

Wordles, or Word Clouds are teacher/student produced graphic designs using an online computer site like www.wordle.net. that take the class’s composite list of descriptors, statements, or questions and analyzes them for repeated word content. The program then produces a full color graphic that, by size, color, position and font, shows the most common ideas stated by all the class, while also including all the many, varied and unusual ideas. The following example is about Wordles themselves from www.wordle.net online.
If you and your students try this highly varied list of creativity-building exercises, one a day, as an everyday ritual, your collective creative strengths and endurance will improve. Remember, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”  Albert Einstein


Marvin Bartel, Art Rituals in the Classroom, 1993, 2001, 2012.
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, Newsweek, “The Creativity Crisis”, July, 10, 2010.

Emily and Alan Burton, “Creative Intelligence”, a mind map on mindmapart.com

Benoit Phillipe, Creative Exercises for Artists and Everyone Else, free online at: http://myfrencheasel.blogspot.com/p/creative-exercises-for-artists.html

Bob Raczka, Unlikely Pairs, Millbrook Press, 2005.

Deborah Roberston and Patricia Barry, Super Kids Publishing Company, Teacher Idea Press, 1990.

Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Harper and Row Publishers, 1974.

Robert Evan Wilson, Psychology Today, “Play the ‘What If? Game’, September 10. 2012

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia https://en.widipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map






Martin Elementary Sneak Peek for Everyartist Live! 2016

Creativity is something that must be nurtured, can be taught, is a flexible process, and is absolutely essential to the 21st century learners in your classroom. It is always inspiring to talk with those who spark creativity in others.

 I recently spoke with one of our Everyartist Local Champions, Kim Rogers, in the art room of Martin Elementary, Alief ISD, about her second year of participation in Everyartist Live!, this year on October 27th.

 When asked about last year’s school-wide Everyartist Live! event and what she learned from the experience, Kim replied, “I think I felt a sense of importance finally. ART MATTERED, not just to me, but to the entire school and all the classroom teachers. The other teachers loved it, and the Everyartist celebration opened their eyes to what I do everyday!”  Kim says she always talks to her classes about the importance of creativity and about what inspiration means, and searching oneself to learn about yourself and others, but having a school wide Everyartist celebration of creativity really cemented her place as an essential part of the school staff.

 Kim didn’t even hesitate to think when I asked her about the most important concept she believes the students gleaned from their first year as Eveyartist Live! participants. “Art is not just art, but it connects to all other subjects, and the teachers of those subjects now see the connections of art with their subjects.”

Steve Jobs would concur with Kim’s students at Martin Elementary. "Creativity is just connecting things”, and “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

 To piggyback on that idea, Kim continued to explain why her entire school is participating again this October 27th. “We as people need to be well-rounded. Through art we make connections to show a more complete, holistic way of looking at the world. These connections are key to success in any walk of life.”

 Dr. Ting Sha, principal of Martin Elementary School, is one of Kim’s biggest fans, and provides year-round support for the arts. “She (Sha) is really a huge part of the success of our Everyartist Live! art day celebration. She supports the arts and all her staff to do more.” Her open attitude encourages us to “do more and allows us to be creative when it comes to ideas we have for students.”

 This year Everyartist Live! is encouraging the theme, “Draw Your Own Invention”. I asked Kim if she could give us a sneak peek at the details of Martin Elementary School’s celebration plans. Rogers’s effervescence bubbled up and her eyes sparkled as she described school-wide exciting plans for student and staff engagement on October 27-28.  The science, social studies, math and art teachers are lead staff this year, making it a true STEAM event. Each teacher can choose the medium they prefer to use for the artworks for each student. Each student will actually make two or three products, individually and in small groups, on the Everyartist Live! national day of art-making, October 27th.

 Students will be making both individual and group banners or flags that represent their classes. National and community pride, passions for their class ‘country’, and the rights and responsibilities of belonging to a community as an individual will be social studies TEKS touched on in instruction and production time.

 Once a class, student, and/or student groups are represented by emblems, each student, small group or class will then construct a catapult-like invention. Blueprints for construction will be sketched first. Descriptions in prose or poetry will be written, while in Science, teachers will lead exploration of force, trajectory, flight path and flight time utilizing scientific hypothesis, experimentation, and research while mathematical equations for applied forces, measurement of distances, etc. will be reinforced by math teachers in class.  By the end of the day, each Martin Elementary student will have a flag to represent them, a catapult-like invention, a blueprint description, and will be looking forward to the next day’s Catapult Competition.

 Kim Rogers acknowledged that her students, like many others often miss school on Fridays, but Friday, October 28th, is a state ADA “snapshot day”. Therefore, attendance is highly important. So, Kim’s two-day celebration culminates on Friday with a school-wide class catapult competition with parents, friends and family invited.  Each class will have made a cup castle comprised of row after row of plastic cups. For the Everyartist Live! grand finale, each class in each grade level will assault the towers with their catapults to see who wins! Students are already making trophies for the winners. Kim’s Martin Art webpage, Twitter feed and Instagram accounts will keep those unable to attend up-to-date with media posts.

 With this year’s event still over three weeks away, Kim Rogers is already making plans for next year. “Next year, all the materials we will use for the celebration will be recycled!” she enthused.

 So join Kim Rogers, Dr. Ting Sha and all of Martin Elementary School on October 27th, 2016, to celebrate creativity in this year’s Everyartist Live! event, and make sure to let us know here at everyartist.me about your plans and how they turn out!

Creativity IS a Process!

Many things in school are taught as a process, with sequential steps that may or may not be linear, but can be branched, looping, repeating in sets, etc. The scientific method is a process with clearly defined steps, as is the writing process, both stressed in education.  Most American classrooms have posters and diagrams that illustrate these processes prominently displayed in a central, easy-to-find place. However, a totally essential process for the 21st Century Learner is frequently not displayed, or even taught, for that matter...CREATIVITY!

Many educators still believe the myth that creativity cannot be taught; you are either born with it or you are not. Up-to-date research on the brain and creativity proves that is not true!  So I am challenging all classroom teachers that are focusing on creative thought in their teaching to decide how to illustrate the process by which you create. Students AND many adults alike do much better in application and analysis situations with an illustration or concrete representation of a concept to refer to and to follow.  Please upload a picture in your comment or response. Great minds love to be stimulated by others' ideas!

For the past ten years I had yearly developed a display of what I thought the creative process was and displayed it in my room. Originally I had a linear display (partly because I had very limited cabinet door space to display it on), but primarily because that was how I saw it in my head. Only after researching, analyzing, and synthesizing other information from other teachers and sources did I start to change my visual idea of what the creative process looked like to me. Now I have a creative process that is multi-lobed, looped or circular, that can be displayed with both the writing process model and the scientific process. You can look in any search engine for graphics for the writing process or the scientific process that can be used generally for free.  Many school supply stores will have pre-printed, full-color posters for the writing process and the scientific process, but very rarely will you find the creative process.