Every person is born with creativity that tends to show during childhood. However, instead of being allowed to grow with us, traditional schooling often limits the creative spirit, eventually causing it to disappear.
As educators, we need to thwart this pattern and foster creativity in our classrooms, starting with these steps.
One of the most subtle but impactful ways to silence a child’s creativity is when their questions are ignored. To maintain a creative learning environment, encourage your students to keep asking questions, and give honest answers whenever you can. Help them develop the habit of questioning ideas, information, and beliefs that are normally taken for granted.
A common classroom scenario is when there is a student who keeps asking questions, much to the annoyance of the teacher and the rest of the class, so the student gets cut off. When this happens, instead of dissuading the child from asking, reward the questioning to promote openness, so everyone in the class would feel less afraid to speak up. Encouraging this behavior may require a lot of time and patience, but it fosters the childlike sense of wonder that your students can maintain as they grow.
Have you heard of Google’s “Genius Hour”? It’s a technique of allowing engineers to dedicate 20% of their time to work on any pet project they want. By allowing employees to work on something that interests them, their productivity and the originality of their ideas improve. Do the same for your class.
Each week, set aside an hour for student-led and inquiry-based learning. Every Genius Hour, students would “teach” their classmates about something they like, whether it is about dinosaurs, tennis, or how to bake brownies. You may also allow the kids to group themselves to work on a month-long project of their choosing, which they will share with the rest of the class during the fourth week. The project can be anything. Students can invent a new contraption, design clothes, or even write and publish a book online. There are many ways to do Genius Hour, and you can come up with a unique method for your class.
Use the Jigsaw Classroom Method
Let students work on a project on their own when you assign classroom activities. Individual work prevents groupthink, and facilitates student participation, helping them see and value their peers’ strengths. For example, you can assign a project on Europe, where each kid has to research and share interesting stories and facts about different European countries.
Encourage new skills
Focusing on a singular field is great, whether it is math, creative writing, or chemistry. To expand their perspective and foster new ideas, however, you should encourage them to learn skills unrelated to their field. A child who likes doing scientific experiments, for example, can take guitar lessons. Learning different subjects, and practicing new skills engages different parts of a child’s brain, and inspires the cross-pollination of ideas from one field to another.
Creativity is an asset that is important in our daily lives, even well into adulthood. It is needed to solve problems no matter how complex. But to harness it to its fullest, the creative soul has to be nurtured early on. As they say, the creative adult is the child who survived, and a child’s survival is every teacher’s duty.