As Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. And as such I think creativity should be an important aspect of teaching and learning. However, it depends on us that creativity finds a place in our classrooms.
Some perceived barriers to creativity are routine, close-ended tasks, fear of being wrong or making mistakes, tight rules and the perception that fun is not conducive to learning. So varying what we do in the classroom, going for open-ended tasks, creating a safe environment for risk taking, having flexible rules according to aims and allowing for experimentation are some ways of creating an atmosphere where creativity can arise more easily.
Although my teaching background is mostly with teenagers, the ideas in this article can be used with all age groups. In my teaching practice, I have experimented with different ways of bringing my students’ creativity to life. I have found different ways of stimulating creativity and these are some practical ideas that have worked for me:
Allow for open ended tasks so that students have room for choice
Choice is a natural partner of creativity. If you limit your students’ work by providing stiff guidelines, it will be harder for creativity to arise. Open ended tasks in general and providing choices within tasks can deeply influence creativity from the very beginning.
Allow them to be exposed to different uses of language
Course books are generally filled with narrative and informative texts. Explore different genres and creative expressions. What about shape poems, haikus, classics with alternative endings, literal videos? You can then ask your students to try writing their own. Here are some suggestions:
- Word Whirls and other shape poems collected by John Foster is a delightful collection of shape poems that can show students an alternative way of writing poetry.
- Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes by Michael Rosen is a collection of well-known tales with alternative endings.
- Wicked World by Benjamin Zephaniah is a collection of poems on very interesting topics. You can also find videos of Benjamin Zephaniah himself reciting the poems.
- The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and other stories by Tim Burton is a fantastic collection of poems aligned with the film director’s wacky style. There are also videos extending the stories in his poems.
- Literal Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Trailer is an example of alternative narrative in modern times. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVZNif6sd2s
Allow them to express who they are in different ways
Find new ways of doing the getting-to-know-you kind of activities. Let them talk about or show their interests and talents. For example, you can use Wordle to have your students create a word art poster about themselves and then use it in a variety of ways (see the image above).
Another option is using Glogster for students to create interactive posters about themselves.
Allow them to become somebody else
Provide alternatives through creative writing, drama, digital storytelling. For example, you can ask them to research a time and place of their choice and then write a diary entry about a typical day in their life pretending they are somebody from that period. You will be amazed at who they choose to be: a samurai, a Native American, a Jew in Nazi Germany, a hippie, a Beatle-maniac, a 9-11 witness!
Allow them to explore literature in different ways
Let them choose how to respond to a reading. Promote new ways of doing book reports. For example, when we read an abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I suggested a list of possible options including making a video, writing character diaries, comparing different versions, doing character analysis, creating the stage setting and costume design, acting out a scene, among others. Here are some of my students productions: http://isfa.wikispaces.com/A+Midsummer+Night%C2%B4s+Dream
Promoting creativity in the classroom calls for an open-minded teacher. Think of different ways of doing the things you usually do. Be open to suggestions from your own students and guide them as to how they can achieve what they want to do. You will discover your students are a rich source of creative power that they can unleash under your mindful guidance.
Burton, T. 1997. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. New York: Harper Entertainment
Foster, J. (comp.) 1998. Word Whirls and Other Shape Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Saumell, V. (2015) Ways of promoting creativity in the classroom in Pattinson, T. (Ed.). 2015. IATEFL 2014 Harrogate Conference Selections. Kent: IATEFL.
Zephaniah, B. 2000. Wicked World! London: Puffin.