Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How Can I Help My Students Be Creative?

From his blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity Wes Fryer shares a wonderful video of John Clese talking at the World Creativity Forum in Belgium in his post Creativity, Interruptions, Boundaries and Leadership. It is only about ten minutes so if you get a chance, it is well worth watching. Wes makes good points in his post about the video also.

John Clese said some things that made me see how it relates to our students too. I am going to paraphrase some of his points and show how I think my students can benefit from this.

Sleeping on the problems can help you come up with solutions. I know this is true because this has happened to me many times. Sometimes when I get frustrated that I can’t solve a problem, I give up and then the next day, the solution is so easy. I don’t know if I’ve overwhelmed my brain with too much information the first day or if it was just tired but either way, the solution is easier if I have slept on it and come back to it. If this is so, why should I insist that my students keep trying over and over to get a concept that day? When they get frustrated at something, it is okay to put it down and come back to it. Many of my lessons are individualized according to their needs so if they don’t do the assignment now and finish it later, that is okay as long as it gets completed. I like to give the students a choice about which assignment they want to complete first because this makes them feel like they have some control over their lives.

Interruptions can mess up creativity. I know this also happens to me when I’m writing. If I’m in the middle of a thought and my husband starts to talk to me, I have to tell him to wait until I finish my thought. I try to signal my class that in 5 minutes, I will interrupt them so they need to finish their thoughts or whatever they are working on. I set the timer and when they hear the bell, they know they have 5 minutes. This has really helped the students come to conclusions on their work instead of getting frustrated and stuffing it in their bags.

Trying to do too many things at one time can mess with creativity. I feel we do this to our students when they have so many different subjects with so many different assignments. When I was the main teacher of core subjects, I liked to do projects that assessed all subjects at one time. This was so much easier to grade and the students stayed motivated and engaged in learning. When I taught English to my classes, I would try to team up with the Science or Social Studies teachers so we could do joint projects to cover the same topic. This really helped the students see the relevance of learning both subjects as well as helped them not be overwhelmed with too many assignments.

Egotistical people discourage creativity in others. Many of my special education students are very creative. In fact, they are able to think more outside the box than I am. Yet, most educational systems want them to fit the mold. The ones in power want these students to be like everyone else and do everything the same as all the other students. The problem is that this will never happen and both administration and students end up frustrated. Students are labeled problem students and then they give up. I can’t tell you how many times I have run into a problem and run it by my students. I allow them time to brainstorm in order to help me solve this problem and they love the thought that I am listening to them. More often than not, someone will come up with a viable solution and it amazes me that I was unable to see this for myself. Their self esteem rises tremendously when they see that their ideas were valued and actually helped an adult. We don’t take advantage of this often enough.

I believe if I can encourage my students to be creative, they will be more successful when they encounter the world after high school. The ones who are able to think outside the box will be the survivors during these hard economic times. How do you help your students be more creative?

Original image: 'Just Full Of Ideas' http://www.flickr.com/photos/17731548@N00/981372736 by: Bart

13 comments:

Kobus van Wyk said...

It is a pity that the education system does not encourage creativity, in the way you describe in your posting. It calls for innovative thinking and creativity on the part of individual educators - perhaps that is where the whole thing falls down at times.

Grace Kat said...

You are so good at expressing your thoughts. What a great post. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

mwacker said...

That is so true that we interrupt creativity far too often in school, I teach 6th grade and we have so much on our plates, it feels like we're running form subject to subject, lesson to lesson, far too often.
Thanks for making me stop and think this morning. :)

loonyhiker said...

Kobus: I totally agree. And what is worse, is that if you see it and I see it, why doesn't the people in charge see it?!

loonyhiker said...

Grace: You are so good for my ego! Thanks for reading!

loonyhiker said...

mwacker: Plus it is hard enough to be in 6th grade without thinking about having to wear roller skates to go, go, go! Thanks for your comment.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for the 5 minute warning idea.

Will use that in presentations as well.

Thank you for sharing this post. I needed to hear it.

loonyhiker said...

Jennifer: Glad I can offer a useful suggestion. Hope it works for you.

Mr. McGuire said...

I was lucky enough to hear Wesley Fryer give the keynote speech at the Ohio eTech Conference. His ideas for integrating technology into the educational process, instead of just for the sake of technology were excellent. I posted about how his ideas relate to what I am trying to do here. Listening to him was interesting and motivational.

Penny Ryder said...

I think we need to recognize creativity when we see it. Allow it and celebrate it. This means giving students some room for self expression. It means letting students change the parameters of a task from time to time. It means accepting that there can be more than one answer and more than one approach.

loonyhiker said...

Mr. McGuire: Thanks for the link. It seems like you have incorporated real life experiences with using the tools. That is great! This is exactly what our students need.

loonyhiker said...

Penny Ryder: You are so right! Too many teachers want the students to arrive at an answer only the way they taught it. That is ridiculous since real life doesn't happen that way!

Ava said...

When creativity is introduced the students become more engaged. Thankfully I work at a high school where I have complete control over my classroom, the things I teach, and the way I teach. When my students are allowed to choose how to represent their knowledge of whatever we are studying they are much more involved. It is very unfortunate that many schools are too focused on testing and do not allow for such creativity!