I remember when I first started teaching; I used a lot more imaginative strategies back then than I do now. For awhile there was a giant push to get away from encouraging students to use their imagination. I work in a very conservative state where many believed that using the imagination was wrong.
When I was growing up we used our imagination a lot with huge refrigerator or washing machine boxes. We made buildings and created towns so we used our imagination tremendously without spending any money. I had a basic Lego set that I created my own things and there were no directions or pictures to build something specific. One day I could create cars with special powers or furniture for a miniature house. Things could be whatever I wanted it to be. An old discarded rug could be a magic carpet that could take you anywhere your mind wanted to go. We used to dress up and pretend to be lots of different characters and really developed social skills.
Now it seems like children watch a lot of TV and lots of toys are marketed on these TV shows that children watch. Lego now come in sets that build something specific. I don’t see a lot of teachers encouraging students to use their imaginations because they are so concerned with increasing test scores. Students are taught to make certain things or expected to arrive at certain outcomes.
I feel that developing a child’s imagination will help problem solving as well as critical thinking skills. Successful students are the ones who know how to think outside the box. I think this will also build collaborative skills among the students. Here are some suggestions to encourage students to use their imagination. Students could write, draw pictures, or make a video of any of their answers.
1. If you had a magic carpet, tell where you would go and why.
2. If you could be any occupation (fireman, teacher, astronaut, etc.), what would you be and why?
3. Give students a group of objects and tell them to create something new. Then present it to the class and tell what its function is.
4. If students could have any super power, what would it be? What could they do?
5. If you had a billion dollars, what would you do with it?
6. If you were President of the US (or head of whatever country you live in), what would you want to do to help the country?
7. If you were stranded on an island with no electric power, what 10 things would you want to have stranded with you and why?
8. If you could be any animal, what would you want to be and why?
Do you feel that imagination is important in the classroom? If so, what kinds of things do you do in the classroom to stimulate a student’s imagination?
Original image: 'magic carpet' http://www.flickr.com/photos/68848647@N00/2157471844 by: Rod McLatchy