January 18, 2018

How to Spark Student Creativity in the New Year

Contributed by Katia Podtynov

Usually, when you think of the month of January, things like holiday recovery, New Year’s resolutions and going back to school come to mind. Well, surprise! It also happens to be International Creativity Month, a time to celebrate creativity all around the world.

Creativity is beneficial to all ages as a way to relieve stress and improve mood, but it is especially important for K-12 students because it helps develop brain function. Not only that, but it’s a chance to have some fun!

The current generation moving through K-12 classrooms, commonly referred to as Generation Z, has grown up with various technologies at their fingertips and is thought to be more “creative” and “smart” than past generations. A study conducted by Adobe found that for Generation Z students, technology and creativity have become associated with one another. Because of this, parents and teachers shouldn’t be afraid of incorporating technology into learning as long as it is used in a productive manner.

Here are some ways teachers and parents can spark creativity both inside and outside the classroom to keep students motivated and encourage them to extend their thoughts beyond that which they think they know.

Creativity Inside the Classroom

1) Hands on is better than hands off.
Most classrooms are moving away from the old-fashioned lecture style of teaching due to the lack of understanding that often results among students. By providing hands-on projects that motivate students to design and create, kids are able to use creativity while truly grasping the concepts at hand. We often see this kind of learning take place in subjects like science where even if the students aren’t involved in creating the activity, the process of working with the materials to achieve a result helps them see how the concepts they learned in class present themselves in reality. For subjects outside of science, challenge students to own a topic and design an interactive way for their classmates to learn about it.

2) When it comes to classroom materials, go unconventional.
Due to the fact that everyone learns a little differently, bringing in outside material or providing new spaces to learn can help kids think about topics in new ways. This can be done through showing more educational videos, such as TED Talks, and utilizing interactive sites for learning such as BrainPop. Another effective way to engage students is with game-based learning platforms like Kahoot. Teachers can turn review sessions into fun quizzes but, more importantly, students can also create quizzes for themselves or their peers. Not only is gamifying education engaging, but it allows students to take charge of their learning in a creative fashion.

3) Allow students to pursue their passion.
Passion projects allow for students to explore topics that interest them that aren’t necessarily in the standard curriculum. This encourages self-expression and makes learning more enjoyable, which can ultimately lead students to explore topics in more creative ways than ever before. For older grades, this can look like allowing students to research anything they want as long as they produce a report that meets certain criteria. For younger grades, this can look like reading or writing about something that interests them, and then presenting what they learned or created to the class. Give students the flexibility to customize their presentations to them, whether that means bringing in an item that relates to their passion or expressing their topic through an art piece.

4) Tools that put creativity back into reports.
Free classroom tools, like Adobe Spark, incorporate education technology with traditional classroom assignments in a way that enhances student work while minimizing distraction and procrastination. Adobe Spark takes previously dull papers or Powerpoints, and allows students to give them new life. Students can easily create beautiful posters and reports, embellished gracefully with photos and pull quotes. Spark takes those favorite teacher phrases like “museum quality” or “publish worthy” to a whole new level, and the best part is teachers can use it to make creative assignments or classroom decorations as well.

Creativity Outside the Classroom

1) Don’t be afraid of the tablet.
Instead of using a tablet for watching videos or playing mobile games, use it for fun programs like Osmo, which allows kids to take their experience “beyond the screen.” Osmo encourages kids to problem solve with creative solutions as well as gives them the freedom to create things on their own. Designed as a game, Osmo pushes children to start thinking flexibly at a young age, with programs appropriate for ages 4-12. While this program is currently only available for iPads and iPhones, the company is planning to expand to other devices soon.

2) Break the routine.
While having a routine can help create stability in a child’s daily life, it can lead to minimal active thinking. As students’ brains continue to develop, switching things up and keeping them on their toes is more likely to result in gaining new skills and knowledge. Whether it’s taking a new route with them to the store or slightly changing the rules of an activity you do together (cooking, playing games, etc.), it helps spark new connections and enriches their way of thinking.

3) Encourage self-expression.
One of the best ways to encourage kids to channel their creative side is to give them the freedom to do so. This means making sure kids aren’t afraid to fail and to show support for their ideas. Creativity requires taking risks and not being afraid to think in new ways, so the earlier this can be encouraged, the better. Examples of this can include letting the child be in charge of an activity, turning to the child for a solution to a problem, or asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions.

4) Involve the arts.
Arts education — which includes visual arts and crafts, theatre, music, etc. — is a great way for kids to play around with their creative expression. They are taught that there are many ways to approach a situation and are given the freedom to brainstorm creative approaches to a variety of tasks.

Tackling something with creativity allow students to learn how to think differently  and approach learning in new ways. In honor of International Creativity Month, try new activities with your students, explore the worlds your children create and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

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