The essence of creativity is to produce something new through experimentation aided by imagination.
It is often considered the domain of arts educators or practitioners, and may even be dismissed as the leisurely part of a lesson or the reward for working hard.
However, approaching creativity in this way is a fallacy that can be detrimental to teaching practice, disengaging students and depriving them of valuable self-discovery.
Creativity can be fun, but it should be something we regularly encourage in students and not an afterthought. Arguably, creativity has a place in every subject.
Educational activities with a creative element can be messy, and this may be a determining factor for teachers who share classrooms.
However there are ways to ignite creativity in students that are practical, and require minimal resources.
Igniting creativity does not have to involve expensive musical instruments or a plethora of art supplies. Even simple additions to your existing lesson plans can cultivate creative thinking.
What does pedagogy that promotes creativity look like? Here is the A to E of igniting creativity.
Allow imaginative play
Desk-bound students can quickly disconnect, but movement exercises that require imaginative play are precursors to creativity.
Playing in the classroom can involve games, dance, sketch, re-enactments, self-devised presentations, and improvisations that use only the body, the imagination, and interactions with peers.
The best way to teach play is via demonstration, therefore activities such as these will require a modicum of courage on your part.
Psychologist Erik Erikson encourages imaginative play, “… for in play a child says things without uttering a word,” goes his famous quote.
Maintaining a youthful sense of play as adult professionals is important when encouraging creativity in your students.
Model good practice, ice-breaker activities are a good place to start.
As an example, people can introduce themselves and come up with an adjective describing them that starts with the same letter as their first name, or tell others a fact about themselves presented in rhyming couplets.
Too much content, packed school calendars and limited lesson time are all challenges for the modern teacher.
Regardless, make time in your lessons for students to work in solitude, be mindful and dare I say, daydream!
All of these traits are common to great artists and innovators according to research by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire.
Their book Wired to Create is a fantastic resource. Great thinkers such as Aristotle and Henry David Thoreau spent time in quiet environments regularly.
An example of this would be to take your class outdoors to sit among the trees and just observe their environment.
They could journal or sketch their observations but the aim is to be still and mindful. Some of the best learning happens through observation, and this is likely to spark creativity, or at the very least, create a sense of calm.
In a world filled with noise, this is not only great for creativity but also for general wellness.
Think of what motivates you and learn about what interests your students.
Not only does this increase your rapport with them, but it gives you valuable insight into how to differentiate elements of your activities to suit their interests.
As a choir director, I have curated many musical pieces, but also asked my students about the artists they listened to.
Some students even contributed to the musical arrangements or the choreography that accompanied their performance.
Generally student-directed activities, guided by the teacher, empower students and give them a sense of responsibility and ownership over the work.
DISCOVER MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS
Problem solving relies on creative thinking. Trial and error approaches can be discouraged in classrooms, particularly in a culture which may focus on rote learning and test results.
However collaborating with others introduces new perspectives. Physician and lateral thinking expert, Edward de Bono, devised a system involving six thinking hats of different colours.
Among the colours is a green hat which focuses on creativity and seeking new ideas. Applying the Six Thinking Hats method during group tasks in the classroom is a systematic way to inspire students to consider alternative viewpoints.
Courage and risk-taking are essential in the pursuit of new ways of thinking. Creativity belongs to those brave enough to step away from the norm and reinvent existing structures.
Conformity is a hurdle to creativity, and openness to experience is the gateway to compassion and self-acceptance.
Writer Jack Kerouac said that “the best teacher is experience”, therefore as teachers we need to immerse students in as many new experiences as possible.