Thursday, April 16, 2015

10 Ways to Foster Creativity in the Classroom part 1

Testing season is upon us which means more stress and less time to post. It also means kids are flopping under the weight of standardized tests. I always feel so bad for my students during this time of year, all the students have to sit still and quiet for hours on end bubbling in these bubble, worrying about if they are choosing the exactly right answer. It is enough to squash anyone's creativity. So to counteract all the b-o-r-i-n-g I have come up with 10 ways to help foster creativity in your classroom and get kids excited about learning during this very boring time.
I am breaking this post into two parts to last the two weeks of testing. Enjoy the first 5 ways to foster creativity and then tune in next week for part two!

Create a safe environment

The first thing you must do foster creativity is to create a safe environment. Students will not be willing to express themselves if they are worried about being made fun of laughed at. They need to feel very very safe in order to be creative. 

-teach good audience behavior

 If you are doing any in class performances you must teach audience behavior. Everyone knows how scary it is to get up in front of people. If those people are your friends, and they are not being respectful, learning shuts down completely. I plan on writing a whole post about teaching audience behavior but for now I will just say this. Students should be seated, still, quiet, and always applaud afterwards. No talking and No teasing are musts!

-do not allow rude behavior

If students are rude to each other they will not be creative. If students are worried about being made fun of they will not be willing to try new things. Shut down rude behavior quickly and effectively at the beginning of the year. In my class rudeness (including boo-ing is automatic time out). Typically it only takes one or two examples for a class to get the picture that rudeness will not be tolerated.

-no sarcasm

This is directed primarily at teachers! I know that I can be guilty of it sometimes. When we interact with our friends we use sarcasm. Sometimes that sarcasm can leak out into our classroom. Unfortunately students do not understand sarcasm.  Try not to use sarcasm with your students. They take it as you being mean and it can make them afraid to try new things.

No wrong ideas

-try to make all reasonable suggestions work

At the beginning students will give probably weak answers. Accept and encourage students. They are trying out to see if answering is safe. If you automatically shut down an answer because it isn't that creative or its a little silly, kids wont try again.  Accept and encourage all responses.

-encourage students to go farther

We play a ton of creativity games in my class. During these games students are encouraged to push the boundaries of creativity. Once kids get used to being creative encourage them to go farther. Don't just accept the first answer, have them try again. You can check out a few great creativity games here. I love the silly statues!

Don't give an example/answer

- set the ground rules then step back

One of the hardest things that I struggle with as a teacher is letting go of control. However, if we want our students to become more creative they have to have control of their learning. When you are ready for your students to get really creative, give them an assignment, tell them the rules and then step back and let them work it out for themselves. Don't explain every detail of the project. It is ok if doesn't turn out exactly like you plan. This happens a lot to me when we do improvisation. Students know the basic rules but they are free to create within the rules. I can promise you that the way I think an improv will turn out is almost never what actually happens and that's ok!

- don't give the exact same supplies and materials to everyone. 0ffer some choice

This suggestion will lead to some amazing projects. I do this when we create our puppets and make up designs in class. Every student gets the same basic supplies but the specifics are up to the individual. When creating our puppets students first must create an original character, after they have a character they have a huge variety of supplies to choose from. Then end results turn out spectacular. 
As you can see from the picture, the puppets are all the same but each child got a ton of choice in the actual creation. Check out how to create these puppets here!

Offer problems that have multiple solutions

When creating projects, allows for students to have multiple solutions. Try not to have only one right answer. One of my favorite projects is go divide students into groups and allow them each to block the same scene.  When then get together and talk about how everyone had different interpretations of how to present a scene and why each idea was valid. Helping the students get comfortable not "Copying" off of each other is a huge struggle. Encourage and praise students who find new and different solutions to the project. If you want to start encouraging students to find multiple solutions, give them an adaptation of the  circle test from the torrents gifted test. In this test students are given a page of circles and told them to turn it into something. Having students find as many different solutions as possible will really help stretch their creativity. The game "What could it be" Is great for this!

Let the groups struggle

Group work allows students to be more creative then you ever thought possible. When you set up group assignments make sure that you give very specific guidelines and rules. You want to eliminate arguments about procedural items.  Once the groups get started try not to settle arguments regarding the creation or implementation of the project (obviously settle any disagreements regarding rule breaking or meanness). Encourage students to compromise (I hate the complaint- "They are doing my idea" ). Having students find a way to incorporate all ideas will help foster creativity. 

Well I hope you enjoyed part one of my 10 ways to foster creativity. Make sure you stop by next week for my last five ideas! What are some ways you use to foster creativity? Leave me a comment and maybe you will see your idea on the next post!

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