by Benna Crawford
As the adage goes, the creative classroom is an engaged classroom.
All teachers want their students to be enthused, awake and participating when it comes to learning in the classroom. And, regardless of how you decide to implement creativity – whether through project-based learning, collaborative brainstorming, testing ideas, reporting on outcomes, reconfiguring and tackling a tough dilemma, or a combination of these – creative learning can help students master subjects.
Here are five tips to help your students becoming independent, imaginative risk-takers:
Small Steps, No Limits
Young children live and breathe creativity, and encouraging this creativity leads to real learning.
According to Head Start adapting the Reggio Emilia educational system – which proposes visually appealing workspaces with materials that visually appeal to children – helps build skills and deep, reflective listening.
For instance, if you work in an elementary classroom, try using a birdbath as a way to start encouraging student ideas and discussion. Allow the students to choose where the conversation goes — maybe a device that delivers captured rainwater into the birdbath. Then, under your supervision, help them to gather materials to make the design and encourage their explanations of what they are doing and why it does—or doesn't—work. There are no mistakes, just experiments. Young designers might scavenge building materials, repurpose and recycle, assemble, test, redesign and try again, while collaborating with each other, articulating concepts and thinking outside the box. The learning is as nonstop and deep as the enthusiasm.
Book in a Bag
Reading and understanding are critical to learning and thinking. Education World suggests getting kids excited about book reports with Book-in-a-Bag.
The basic idea behind is this: Allow students to select a “container” for their book report — any kind of bag is easy, but a tin can, a shoebox, a small cage or a manila envelope will also do. Then, instruct the students to decorate the “container” to show the title, theme and key information about the book. Then the container is filled with 10 questions about the book, five actual things connected to the story and a 10-word vocabulary list of unfamiliar or unusual words. Students present their Book-in-a-Bag to the entire class, explaining characters, setting, main storyline, conflict and climax.
Green the Commons
Going green can not only benefit your school, but can also be applied to many different subjects including science, math, English, reading and art.
The premise is simple. Start by selecting a scruffy or neglected public space in the school buildings or on the grounds. Then, brainstorm with the students several projects to improve the selected space—a reading nook in the corner of the playground, landscaping the entrance to the school with drought-proof native flora, or painting a mural on a dingy hall or cafeteria wall. Even if you don’t have the funds necessary to “green” the common area, you can still use this exercise to talk with students about green spaces, how they can affect the environment around them and how they make the people who use them feel. Greening the commons is real-life problem-solving that benefits a community and teaches skills across the curriculum.
The Mapmaker's Journal
Middle school students will soak in a historical period with this project that depends on creative interpretation.
To start: Each student selects a historical incident, achievement or discovery, and adopts a persona central to the time. Then, students make timelines of their character’s life. They keep a daily journal as the character, recounting significant developments and adding personal details of daily life, learned through their reading about the period. This journal can also serve as an outline for a map, which illustrates the character’s journey and significant historical events.
Lights! Camera! Science!
High school students get creative about absorbing science through experience and filtering it back through the medium of movies.
Start by letting students pick from a range of science topics. Then, either as individuals or small groups outline a story arc, create storyboards, shoot raw footage, edit it and add music, special effects, subtitles or scrolled text—whatever will enhance the presentation of the material and make for a gripping film. The final phase of the project is a screening—over several class periods or scheduled as a special marathon event. Student directors can introduce their films, and the class can watch and then vote for award winners. The project requires creative thinking, start to finish, and reinforces subject matter for viewers as well as the filmmakers.
References & Resources
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has worked in executive management for global advertising and marketing firms, in finance industry regulation and as head of her own successful small business for 15 years.