One of the biggest issues I hear from first year teachers (and veteran teachers) is the argument that because of the need to prepare students for State Mandated Testing, there is no time to incorporate creativity in the lesson plans. And where I’ll agree, there are many hoops we have to jump through in the classroom in an effort to prepare our students for assessment tests, there should always be room for creativity. Either by hook or by crook, we need to allow students to hone their creativity skills so that critical thinking and inquiry can blossom.
A great way to include creativity in our lesson plans is to design activities that allow students the opportunity to use their strengths to complete the learning task. In other words, incorporate open-ended projects.
If I’m teaching a unit on the civil war in Social Studies and I want the students to recreate the battle at Gettysburg and include specific facts about the battle, then I can simply give the students a list of the items I require via rubric, but let them decide how they present them. The artistic students might paint a mural of the battle and list facts OR they may act out the battle in play like fashion and include the battle facts in their dialog. My more tech savvy students might create a documentary that included the facts via interviews with historians and battle reenactment scenes. Some students may even write a song about the battle and includes the answers to the facts required.
If I’m teaching Science, and I need my students to create a model of the solar system, I can simply state on my rubric: design a product that represents the solar system, includes the planets, the Sun, distances, and planet facts. My students can then create the old faithful “go to” model with wire, string, and Styrofoam balls OR they can create an animated short that depicts the planets going around the sun and a voiceover that details the required facts I’ve requested. Just as impressive, a group of students can design and make t-shirts that have a rendering of planets on them (each student gets a different planet/sun/moon) and they can stand in front of the class…in order…and give the required facts about their planet (shirt).
Another great way to include creativity in the classroom is to initiate daily or weekly warm-ups. I’ve written about the “Thinking Outside-The-Box Drills” that I’ve created, but there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of ways to include short warm-ups or exit ticket activities that spur creativity.
In English, I might project 2 items on my screen and ask student to create a half-page short story that includes the two items. For example, I may have a hippopotamus and a roller coaster on the screen. Students then have to create a short story in the last 5-10 minutes of class as their exit ticket. I can even share some of the more imaginative stories the following day.
What are some ways you’ve incorporated creativity into your lessons? Let me know.
These types of activities don’t have to be done daily, but students need to be allowed to tap into their creative talents often. They need to have time to hone their critical thinking skills and let their creative juices flow. If not by us then by who? If not now, then when?