Creativity is on-par with any traditional skill. It can be used in learning, it can be taught, and it can be assessed. It can certainly be honed in on, even in a setting with numerous students who naturally possess varying levels of creativity. Some students present high levels of creativity that they fluidly use both in and out of the classroom, while others will only reach for creative thinking when urged to.
In any case, to truly understand the basis of creativity, we first need to understand two primary ways of thinking. The first of these ways is divergent thinking. This way of thinking uses a wide array of approaches to problem-solving. Divergent thinkers are very abstract by nature, but divergent thinking can be applied in academic processes. For instance, free writing and brainstorming are two commonly used research methods that rely on divergent thinking. Divergent thinkers tend to come up with several ideas from just a single thought.
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a more analytical type of thinking that systematically narrows down information to something specific. Convergent thinkers typically come up with a single correct answer based on their ability to narrow down results. There are several methods that tap into convergent thinking, such as multiple choice and standardized tests. Convergent thinking is the most common style sought after in traditional school settings, although the need for learning that caters to various learning styles is becoming a more popular topic.
Creatives can be either convergent or divergent, although natural creativity is found in highly divergent thinkers. The beautiful thing is that you’ve got the power to teach both sides in a creative classroom. Knowing your students’ ways of thinking and leveraging that information is important to help broaden their creative horizons.
While knowing whether your students are convergent or divergent thinkers is important, so is knowing them in general. Seeing your students for the individuals that they are is only going to help you immerse them even more into creativity. For instance, knowing things about them like their likes and dislikes can be used to spark imagination.
Many people believe that creativity always translates to abstract ideas, but the truth in teaching creativity is that a framework needs to be followed. Structure in teaching creativity is needed! Structure means using a curriculum, framework, or guideline, and it means implementing listening, comprehension, reading, and writing. All of these things are critical to successfully teaching creativity.
As you read further, you’ll discover seven steps to take in order to create an essential framework for teaching creativity. All of these steps are designed to take your students to the next level in their creativity, whether they are divergent thinkers, convergent thinkers, highly imaginative, or highly practical.
1 - Set the Foundation
Teaching creativity can feel overwhelming. Of course, the first step is to learn how to teach it. You’ll need to create the groundwork for teaching creativity. This can be done through a process of choosing and/or becoming familiar with an appropriate curriculum, creating lesson plans, gathering materials, and simply setting up your classroom. We all know that setting up a classroom considers quite a bit of thought, so you’ll need to spend time considering what setup is going to be best for your students.
Another key component to setting the foundation for teaching creativity is scheduling. Yes, many people think teaching creativity is a free-thinking, abstract thing, but that’s just not the case. Using creativity and learning creativity are different ideas. Teaching creativity entails structure, and you’ll need to set a foundation that offers routine and consistency to ensure that your students get the most out of your efforts to teach creativity.
2 - Get to Know Your Students
If you can get to know your students ahead of the first day of class, then, by all means, take advantage of that opportunity! If you don’t already know your students on day one, then take the time to listen and learn about them. In your own notebook, keep track of details such as your students’ favorite colors and the names of their siblings.
The first day of class is a great time to have students introduce themselves to one another, and you can take notes while they are orienting themselves. Or, you could possibly have them complete a brief questionnaire to get the details you’re looking for. The details you glean in those first meetings can be used to help break through to the next level of creativity for a student.
3 - Encourage Creative Journalling
Everyone can benefit from expressing themselves, and self-expression always entails creativity. Therefore, everyone can share something they’re feeling creatively. If you give each student a notebook and ask them to express something they are feeling on one of the pages, you’ll be surprised to see a vast medley of responses using various techniques. Some students will write a few sentences describing how they feel, while others will doodle something regarding their mood. You’ll see various colors, shapes, drawings, words, and abstract ideas, thus proving that everyone is creative!
Many professionals through the ages have kept journals or notebooks. Interestingly enough, these records have commonly contained a blend of words and illustrations.
Encouraging creative journaling lets your students express themselves while exploring individual creativity. Give you students access to pens and pencils of varying colors and textures, offer them paint and markers, and let them have a few minutes of free time for creative journaling, this time will help ignite creative growth before your eyes.
4 - Explore the World
Self-exploration and self-expression certainly inspire creativity, but there’s something about exploring the world around us that seems to naturally awaken our creative sides. The same goes for your students. It truly doesn’t matter if you’re teaching young children or college students, exploring the world is one way to indulge all the senses and ignite creativity.
Teaching creativity means exposing students to new experiences. This could be as simple as discovering textures with younger students. On the other hand, one way to explore the world with older students might be to try exotic foods. Videos and virtual reality can also be helpful for discovering something that you can’t tangibly get to. Hands-on, first-person experiences are always preferred, however. While you might be able to mimic these on some level, the experience of stimulating all the senses is one of the best ways to tap into creativity.
5 - Find Balance in Your Classroom
Throughout this guide, you’ve found a few common themes. For instance, you now understand why it’s important to know your students for the individuals they are. You also recognize that some students will have natural creative skills, while others will need to have their creativity nurtured a bit.
While you’ll find that the creativity of some students seemingly knows no bounds (you might even feel as if you are reeling them in at times), some students are going to need a bit of nudging to tap into creativity. Some students are going to need more explanation or demonstration than others, and that’s ok. Spending an extra few moments with those students can pay off tremendously for them in the long-term.
You will undoubtedly come across some students who need little persuasion in creative thinking, but those could be the same ones who struggle with critical thinking in another classroom. Give them the freedom to take their creativity to the next level.
On the other hand, you might find that your struggling student is doing great in all other areas. In this case, give this student the opportunity to explore and grow, but be prepared to be there when he or she needs help.
6 - Take Advantage of a Flexible Learning Environment
In language classes, students typically learn from writing and listening. In lab, students must spend a certain amount of time doing hands-on experiments. In creativity, students get to toy with numerous styles of learning.
Exploring learning styles can be fun for you and highly beneficial for your students. As you learn more about your students, you will probably pick up on their preferred learning styles. Some students will be more hands-on, while others will enjoy listening for instruction. Consider this: do some students tap into their creativity better when moving? Talking? Snacking? With music on? Do students benefit from digital references, such as videos? How about books? Do they prefer images? Audio?
One of the most exciting parts of teaching creativity is that you have the wonderful opportunity to use an eclectic blend of teaching and learning styles in your lessons. This approach means that you’re going to help students hone in on creativity with styles that they prefer while also getting the chance to try new experiences. This is a great way to reach your students while helping them grow as individuals.
7 - Dig Into Emotions
Some of the most powerful artistic masterpieces and musical pieces were inspired by deep emotion: love, anger, and happiness, to name a few. Our last tip for creating the essential framework for teaching creativity is to always be mindful of emotions.
Emotions are very dynamic, and they appear and disappear as quickly as the tide rolling in. If you have a student who is struggling with creativity, start by asking how they feel. Remember creative journaling? Our recommendation was to have the student express themselves by sharing how they felt. That’s because emotional connections are powerful!
You can use emotions to build trust with your student. This could be the first step to getting him or her to truly open up to their creative side. Then, you can use emotions to have your student express themselves. After they have mastered that, you can have students consider the emotions of those around them to spark creativity.
Emotions are one of the most often misunderstood yet fascinating components of the human experience, and it makes perfect sense that we’d include them while teaching creativity!
Teaching creativity is one of the most rewarding, yet sonetimes challenging, things you will do. At times, your students will seem confused, and you might feel overwhelmed, but sticking to a framework is the key to continuing along the path of creative success. It’s natural to hit a bump or two in the road along the way, but it’s important to remember to never give up. Show your students that you’re prepared to take them along a remarkable journey that they’ll never forget, and commit yourself to providing an experience that helps them open the door to creative freedom.
Some students will be hesitant, and you might not ever truly conquer the minds and hearts of some of the students in your midst, but there’s one thing for certain: with the right framework, you will leave an impact on their lives. Using the structure recommended in this guide is going to help you teach creativity in the best, most effective way possible.
You might be teaching preschoolers, highschoolers, college students, or adults, but the framework is much the same for all of them, especially if they’ve never been formally exposed to this way of thinking. Teach them the basics of creativity and work with them along the way to see growth that could very easily continue throughout the rest of a lifetime.
No matter if you’ve just begun teaching or have been in your area of expertise for years, we hope this guide helps you to better grow the creative skills of your students!