C is for Creativity (Part 3)
.snoitulos dna saedi evitavonni dna ,snoitcennoc wen ,sevitcepsrep tnereffid ,detcepxenu eht segaruocne ytivitaerC.
Take a moment to reflect how you feel about the first sentence. Some students would not enjoy the task at all and give up quickly. Some students would work harder. Creatively gifted students would embrace the challenge and enjoy the opportunity to think differently. The more all of our students are asked to push their creative problem solving ability, the more persistent and flexible they become in their thinking. Our world needs students to develop and strengthen their creative thinking superpower.
Creativity is one of the five areas of identification for gifted programming. Creative students may or may not be tops academically, but their creative energy has the potential to change our world. Creativity, like any other skill, can be taught, whether you are creatively gifted or just willing to keep an open, creative mindset. Everyone has the capacity to become more creative. Unfortunately, creativity does not receive the emphasis it deserves in our classrooms. Generating multiple ideas from multiple view points, connecting seemingly abstract concepts, inventing original possibilities, and elaborating and improving the status quo should be a goal in all of our subject areas. How else can we grow and improve as a society?
Here are some things parents and teachers can do to teach and strengthen creativity:
- Create a safe environment where novelty in thinking is celebrated. Voicing creative thoughts and ideas can be a scary venture. No one enjoys having their ideas scoffed at or dismissed. Encourage and acknowledge creative responses, nonconformity and strangeness. The more accepted students feel, the more risks they are willing to take. Once you nurture their creative energy, great things happen! You will be amazed!
- Ask followup questions if you don’t see connections. Sometimes students offer an answer that seems like it came from far left field. Do not politely dismiss the idea. Ask follow up questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that”, “What do you mean by that?”, “How does that connect to our conversation?”… I have been floored by some of the unexpected, deeply creative connections my students and my own children make once I dig a little deeper into their responses. As a result, their insights inspire and encourage my own divergent thinking. Once they are convinced you are really curious about their seemingly outlandish ideas, you will hear them much more often. It’s invigorating!
- Explicitly teach skills that enhance creativity:
- fluency – generate as many ideas or solutions as possible
- flexibility – ask students to see a problem from different perspectives or to make new connections between existing ideas
- originality – create new and unusual ideas
- elaboration – add details to expand on an existing idea See Grow Creativity by Candice Shively for excellent ideas on how these skills can be integrated into our curriculum.
- Remind students to apply these skills to problem-solving situations until it becomes a habit. Give students many opportunities to think fluently, flexibly, originally, and elaborately. Actually use these four words so students fully understand the role of each skill and become able to apply them to any given situation, in and out of school. Creativity is a superpower that can improve our health! Studies show that creative people have less stress and anxiety in their lives because they are better able to adapt their thinking when problems and novel situations develop. Researchers also found that creativity decreases the risk of mortality, possibly due to the variety of neural networks creative thinking utilizes in our brains. Plus, creativity energizes and delights children, teachers and parents. The amount of laughter and aha moments that occur when children are involved in the creative process is good for the soul.
- Give students sufficient time to think. Teachers and parents need to be patient and increase wait time, the time between asking a question and expecting answers. I have found their fifth or tenth answers/solutions to be much more creative than their first or second. It may also be beneficial to pose a problem one day and give students several days to ruminate on solutions.
- Give multiple chances. Children need to learn that failure is part of the learning process, That includes creativity. Their first few attempts may fail, but they will learn from those failures. This new information can then be applied to adapt or change ideas that may or may not be more successful. The emphasis should not solely be placed on the success of their final solution, but on the learning that occurs throughout the process. That is where the growth happens.
- Share their ideas and thoughts. Creativity is contagious. Students need to share their innovative thinking. Many times, their ideas will spark deeper connections for others who will then be able to elaborate and add richness to the original idea. This process encourages collaboration. Employers are looking for creative, innovative thinkers who can successfully collaborate with team members to produce the best possible solutions, products, and processes.
- Ask them to create. If we produce unique thoughts and do not act on them, then we are imaginative, not creative. Children need to test their ideas and solutions. They need to be given opportunities to improve on their results. Brainstorming, project based learning, problem solving, open-ended questions, application of new knowledge, opportunities in creative writing, poetry, art, and music are a few examples of activities ideal for enhancing creative abilities.
- Remember that still waters run deep. There are students who are super reflective, super quiet. They take things in, observe their surroundings and contemplate deeply about the world around them. These students may need gentle coaxing and nurturing in order for them to risk sharing their powerful inner thoughts and ideas. Be sure to encourage creative thinking and sharing from all of your children. Maybe some would feel more comfortable writing their thoughts in a journal at first. When ready to share their journal, supportive feedback may encourage them to open up and share more in class. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones that surprise me the most!
- Believe in their creative powers. Believe that our children can and will accomplish amazing things. Listen to them. Ask questions. Support them. encourage them to push the boundaries, take risks, and experiment. Build their confidence. Tell them you believe in them.
Creativity innovates, surprises, solves problems, and improves health, and changes our world. Creativity truly is a SUPERPOWER! Nurture it!