Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Creativity in the Classroom

Creativity in the classroom. What does that mean to you? Do you feel nervous when you have to 'be creative' or is it something that comes so naturally to you that in a way, you don't really know what it entails because you have never had to think about it?

For you in your classroom, does 'creativity' mean art, craft and drama, or is it more than that - a way of thinking.

I have had the discussion of 'creativity in the classroom' so many times this year, and for some reason it is a topic that just keeps coming up. When I thought about doing a blog post on nurturing creativity, I was first excited, then a bit worried, a few days of confusion, and then little moments of anxiety began to creep in. Until I realised that there is just too much to cover in one post. So I intend to do a series of posts on 'creativity in the classroom'. It will nicely encompass a few little projects I am working on and give me the opportunity to discuss something that I love. 

The irony is that as teachers, we have been regularly told, in recent years, that our goal should be to have 'creative' students who are prepared to work in jobs that may not have yet been invented, or in jobs they will need to invent themselves. How that is achieved exactly,  may be interpreted in many - shall I say - creative ways. It sounds like such a huge feat. It sounds daunting. There is no correct answer. There is no syllabus outlining the steps we need to take. 


I feel excited about it. Not worried. Take a look around the teacher-blogging community. WE are all doing jobs that were not invented when we were at school. We are using equipment and techniques that are new. Many of us are 'inventing' new career paths as we go along. Somehow or other, we managed to gain the skills needed to be creative in the workforce, and I have confidence that our current students will be the same.

What is creativity to you? For me, it is deeply complex. If I had to simplify it, it would be the process of 'doing' or 'making' and it would involve inventiveness or the emergence of an idea.

In saying that, it is also for me, something that is intrinsically relaxed. I don't believe 'creativity' and 'stress' go together. Having strict rules and rigid opinions on creativity is going to get you absolutely nowhere. I think the beauty of nurturing creativity in your classroom is that, if you foster consistent messages and activities with your students, 'creativity' will naturally happen. 

As someone deeply invested in the early years of education I also see 'creativity' as involving the learning of practical skills. For the most part, it is when the colourful paper and crayons emerge out of the cupboard or when we 'dramatise' a story with role play.  This is because in the early years, creativity largely has to be 'seen' by my students, they are moving and transitioning from a time of real and concrete to the beginnings of abstract thought. Their world experience is vastly different from ours, and they learn most effectively with hands-on activities and play. 

 I have resisted for many years, listening to people that suggest that doing certain activities will 'ruin students' creativity'. I have so much more faith in the children I teach. Children have such brilliant little minds, and in my personal experience, they can certainly understand the difference between a purely 'creative' experience that is open ended or 'free choice' and a more structured activity that aims to build and develop skills. There is room for both in the early-years classroom, and I think they are both essential. 

The first suggestion I have for nurturing creativity in your early-years classroom, is to foster a creative attitude in your students. Here are just a few ideas.

1. Be encouraging in your comments to students when they demonstrate creativity or a differing opinion

2. Be specific with comments about creativity - tell students exactly what part of their work you think is creative. This will help them begin to understand that creativity is something unique and different in each child. 

3. Allow students opportunities to discuss their feelings and opinions openly. Be careful with your responses and how you facilitate your discussions, so students know that different ideas are valuable. 

4. Use mind maps and other visuals when you 'brainstorm' - showing students that lots of ideas exist and are appreciated

5. Model the acceptance of two differing opinions. We want students to believe that alternative opinions make for interesting discussions and that they can coexist in the same well-functioning classroom. 

6. Take a look at your classroom practise. Do you have times where your students are allowed to make choices and take a project in a direction of their own liking. The whole week cannot be like this, but even one experience each week, is enough to help students grow in creative confidence and attitude. 

Click on the image below to download a FREE poster to display in your classroom. Positive messages about difference will help foster a 'creative' attitude!

I would love to know your ideas for fostering a creative attitude in the classroom. Please leave some comments below and let me know how you encourage it in the classroom. There is more 'classroom creativity' coming soon. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Stefanie Galvin said...

Such a wonderful post, Mel! I try to foster creativity in the classroom all the time and I think it's very much like you said - it's incredibly complex, and at times, kind of hard to pinpoint.

If I take a step back from the 'creative' activities and teaching practices I use, I'm also very big on students solving those practical, every day problems independently and in creative ways. If something's not working for them we go through their thoughts on how they can turn the situation/problem/issue around (rather than go for the simplest solution which is to tell them). They go pretty quickly from "What do I do...?" to "Maybe I can do this..."

Miss Galvin Learns

Bec Perry said...

I LOVE this poster Mel! I know a couple of my ex-Mum's who have poppets on the Spectrum would adore this too- I've sent it to them :)

I completely agree with you about creativity- I am a huge art fan and lover of art history and have always included lessons from artists such as Pollock in my classroom to show we don't have to fit inside a 'box'. For the bigger kids I love a van Gogh lesson to show it's ok to work through a bit of crazy too :).

What I have found really frustrating this year has been moving to a new school and seeing the emphasis placed more on conformity rather than creativity.

Thanks for the inspiring post!
Books, Bugs and Boxes

Melisa Marzett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melisa Marzett said...

I guess we should have some more classes to raise blog
children`s creativity. In most of the senses our creativity - is the way we live.