Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Every Child Is Creative (They Just Need a Little Help)

How many times have you heard the criticism, “He doesn’t have a creative bone in his body”? Have you ever wondered how it is that these supposed experts are able to make such a bold claim? Creativity, by its very nature, is difficult to define, categorize, or quantify because it is totally subjective. And yet, almost anyone can tell the difference between an idea that is inventive and one that has been done a million times. So while you may at first be stumped when it comes time to expand the young minds of your students and inspire them to innovate, you can start by taking a closer look at what motivates them (and you).
Every child is different. Their interests vary and it takes time to figure out what might motivate one or another. And while any curriculum requires that children learn certain things, the way you teach your lessons, and how you choose to engage your students in the subject matter, could have a huge effect on how much they learn and retain. If your goal is to get them thinking outside the box, the simplest way to start is by using some common sense. What are you really trying to teach students? What is at the heart of every lesson, from math and science to reading and writing? You want to prepare your students not only for their exams and for the next grade level, but also for life. All learning, at its core, is designed to help kids develop the knowledge and skills they will need to function beyond their schooling. So begin with practical applications

Are you teaching them about the Civil War? Have them take on the persona of members of the Union and the Confederacy, then discuss the problems they are facing with the war. This will allow them to get into the head space of another person, one whose challenges were vastly different from the ones they face today. Understanding history, from a personal perspective, will make it a lot more interesting and easy to remember. You’re also allowing them to express their own feelings and ideas through a character, a creative expression that will help them grow mentally and emotionally. You can also change up delivery methods for reports. Instead of having students write reports and read them to the class, they can create a video, a song, a blog, or represent their ideas pictorially. All of these activities will access and engage various areas of the brain, expanding their ability to think in different ways.

Another way to foster creativity is through a change of venue. While you may not have the resources to take your students on regular outings, you can still work outside the restrictions of a classroom. Move all the desks to the wall and have students sit in a circle for class discussions. Or take it outside when the weather is nice so kids can enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and open space. If you’re studying the rotation of the planets, bring out some sidewalk chalk to mark the path that different planets will take. Then have the kids walk it out. They’re sure to appreciate the lesson a lot more when it involves multiple sensory inputs. Just be sure that every student gets involved.

Finally, get feedback. Go straight to the source and ask the kids what they like and dislike about different lessons. You can use their comments constructively to help you determine new and interesting ways to teach other lessons. Spicing up your class by trying something new, incorporating their interests, and allowing them to participate in the process is only going to improve their ability to navigate the world in creative ways. You want them to be flexible, innovative, and confident, so take the time to really listen to them. Everyone has the potential to be creative if their unique talents are adequately nurtured.

Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Universities, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

1 comment:

Felicia said...

I agree with your post. I think the education system is so hung up on standardized testing, it is hindering students’ creativity. There is so much pressure on teachers because of testing, we are being forced to do less and less authentic learning. I’m currently taking a graduate course focused on technology, and we are discussing the importance of project based learning. I think incorporating PBL into the classroom will enable students to become problem solvers, and enhance creativity (not to mention higher level thinking skills).