As a teacher, you have to stick to a curriculum. The expectations are the same for everyone. You do have a personalized approach to each, but they still have to learn the same things. They have to take the same standardized exams after all.
There’s one thing many teachers worry about: students losing their natural creativity somewhere along the attempts to comply with the norms. All those worksheets and tests don’t leave much space for creative growth. As a teacher, you have a responsibility to nurture the seed of creativity in each student in your classroom. You must find time and energy for that.
What approach should you take? When you’re trying to promote creativity, you have to think of an unusual method.
We’ll suggest six strategies that will help you encourage the creative processes in the classroom.
Assign Open-Ended Projects
According to Mario Simons, an educational expert, forcing students to maintain the 5-paragraph essay structure is suffocating their creativity. “Yes, they need to learn how to write properly structured essays. However, the teacher has to explain that academic content is not only about structure. It’s mostly about essence. That’s why I find open-ended projects so useful. You assign just a topic, and you allow the students to express their creativity in any way they prefer.”
Let’s say you assign an exciting topic: pop music in the ‘90s. That’s where you’ll limit your instructions. They can choose to complete any project on that topic. Some of them will write essays. Others will go further – they will write mini-research papers. Some will even film videos or record podcasts. Others will create a collage of famous pop artists, or they will craft a great PowerPoint presentation. Some of your students may even explore blogging. Everything is allowed.
Assign these open-ended projects from time to time, but remind them they can’t keep choosing the same format over and over again. They should explore different ways of expressing their creativity. That’s what you should focus on when giving points on these assignments: creativity.
Create an Inspiring Classroom Decor
Ask any teacher what influences the success of their students, and you’ll get the same response: the curriculum, teaching methods, and outside influences. Well, there’s something else we keep forgetting: the way the classroom looks.
Your students spend many hours of their day in that classroom. It mustn’t feel like a sterile, completely uncreative place. A study showed that the design of the classroom could affect the student’s progress over the course of an academic year for 25%.
The surroundings play a huge role in emotion, communication, productivity, and learning. When someone wants to calm down, they go to a quiet room, preferably without much furniture. When we want to sleep, we don’t need a room with red tones and aggressive design. When we want to be creative, however, vibrant colors can make a positive difference.
The furniture in the classroom is chosen for its functionality and durability. You can’t change much in that aspect. However, you can allow your students to make the classroom a better place by showcasing their art and allowing them to decorate it in the most creative way they can think of.
When Halloween is approaching, for example, you can pick a scary theme. There will be monsters all over the place, and you’ll all be trying to “convert” them and make them good people by teaching them important things.
The design of the classroom should stimulate participation. However, it should also maximize information retention, and that means you don’t need too many distractions. When you encourage your students to decorate, do it with an educational purpose in mind.
Use the Divergent Thinking Method
When you ask your students to solve a problem, they will implement one of these two methods:
- Convergent Thinking – That’s when they are trying to provide a well-defined, correct, and straightforward answer. This kind of thinking is good and preferred for standardized tests, but it’s not the approach you’re after when trying to encourage creativity.
- Divergent Thinking – This is the approach that explores many possible answers, solutions, and outcomes to an abstract problem. For example, when you ask your students to imagine the ideal society for 2050, you’re encouraging divergent thinking that will lead to many creative solutions.
Have a TED Talks Day in the Classroom
TED talks can awaken that creative spark in each one of your students. This is an unusual strategy, but it works. Think about it: you may recommend them to watch TED talks at home, but how many of them will do that extra homework assignment? When you play the talks in the classroom, however, they will prefer them over a lecture.
These are talks from some highly creative and inspiring people. They explain what creativity is all about and how everyone can improve that inner potential.
Ken Robinson’s speech “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is particularly interesting. That one is for you, the teacher.
Let Them Work on Something They Care About
The curriculum doesn’t allow you to explore many freestyle activities, but do this whenever you find the space: enable the students to explore a topic they are passionate about. Some of them want to save whales. Others want to become carpenters. Some want to be scientists. Some students like cooking.
Encourage each of them to explore a passion and create a presentation. They will be so excited to work on something they care for that they won’t even notice it’s an assignment. They won’t be bothered by a limiting format; you’ll allow them to present their research in any form they like.
Let Them Work in Teams
Your students can inspire each other. When you let them work together, they bond. They are no longer grade-driven. They start having fun and try to make contributions to the collaborative environment. Once the spark of creativity is there, they will build on it.
Set the tone with a fun assignment, and make sure to check how they are making progress. Keep asking for feedback, so you’ll know all teams are staying on track.
Give them enough time for the team project. When the deadline is close, tell them to organize a presentation. You can feature all projects on the blog of your class, so every team will see what the others accomplished.
The responsibility of a teacher is vast. You’re not there with the sole purpose to teach the things that are in the textbooks. You’re there to support their intellectual growth, but you must also maintain the spark of creativity as active as possible. Hopefully, the six methods we described above will help you do that.
Feel free to share your practices and walk us through to your experiences as a teacher! Kindly leave your comments and opinions in the comment box.