"Creativity is contagious... Pass it On!" -Albert Einstein
Teachers who are practitioners of creative thinking, are the best inspiration for students to be more creative. Students are on a creativity continuum that is unending, bending and twisting with each new discovery, each assimilation, each new experience or connection made.
In this newsletter we cover the need to set the tone for the beginning of school. Defining what you and your students think is the meaning of creativity. What follows are suggested activities to accomplish this essential step.
Students can call out descriptors in single words or phrases, called brainstorming, and capture them on the board. Alternately or in addition, use sticky notes so that shyer students will participate; brainwriting. Have the students place their “stickies” on the board for your first room display.
If your school has a particular learning theme, the notes can be shaped to match, making a visual hook. Students can pattern a simple poem like Blue by Mary O’Neill, or pattern a simple prose selection, such as Shel Silverstein’s “My Rules” from Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Students can also describe what creativity is NOT, a method called reversal. Research shows that if students have a block coming up with descriptors, they can often more easily think of opposites or antonyms.
For older students, third grade and above, have them write a one-sentence line that explains what the essence of creativity is to them, no stress on spelling or form…just get the idea down!
Collect all the responses and make:
(1) a bulletin board for the hall
(2) a “Wordle” from wordle.com to illustrate the most frequently used words and phrases
(3) graphs and charts
(4) a radial display from a brain
(5) whatever graphic organizer you like to best show a compilation of ideas.
Share and discuss these over the next two to three days of class. By Friday of the first week, you and your classes will have set a fairly clear description of what Creativity is! I often repeat this process at the end of school to see the changes and growth in the shared vision from the class.
Once you have a working definition of Creativity, several practices can help cement the importance that you place on creative ideas in your class. You can share a creative quote a day, such as the title above by Albert Einstein. Discuss the meaning and how it can be a positive to be "contagious"... ( possibly introduce connotation and literal meanings). Why would you want it to be contagious? In any search engine you can type “quotes on creativity” and find page after page of timely, emotional, intellectually-stimulating quotes that can lead to amazing discussions.
Try a simple layered brainstorming process. Such as listing ways to do some simple classroom function like sharpening a pencil. After first thought ideas are listed, ask for more, varied and unique ideas. See how the infection of thinking creatively spreads through class. List the initial ideas, link them to the next idea, to make a graphic of the discussion, soon a great web of creative thinking will be evident. Post the web outside your door with the creative problem or quote of the day for everyone to see your class’s creative thinking patterns.
As your students get more excited about having the freedom and permission to be creative, more creative responses will be offered. This is a skill that cannot be done once to reap extended benefits. You must practice brainstorming often to keep creative minds lubricated.
When students brainstorm on paper, ask them to circle their best idea, their worst idea, and their most unique or weirdest. Then pair share, group share, or write their three ideas on sticky notes and place them on the board. As a class group, categorize or link like ideas. Connections are necessary for creative thinking. When you add such a visual and/or kinesthetic layer to simple brainstorming, the ideas are stickier in young minds.
In the first two weeks of school, your class can use the definition of creativity they agreed to, to write a Creativity Constitution. This will enumerate the rights and responsibilities of a creative student and a creative teacher. Since you will already be defining many class procedures and a few rules, it makes sense to show the importance of creativity in your room by posting this Creative Constitution(i.e. We have the right to speak our minds creatively...but we have the responsibility to not make disparaging comments or hurt others' feelings). See more about this Creativity Constitution in this month’s newsletter.
Now the stage is set for a shared community of creative minds. They have created rights and responsibilities that should help them grow over the year to share, recognize and celebrate each other's creativity. They will truly engage in the 21st century skill of collaborative creative problem-solving.
If you have ideas on how to validate creative ideas, create a community of creatives in your classroom, or even "infect" students with creativity, pass it on in the comment section below