Produce Creativity In Your Class

Getting your students to give creative responses to questions can feel like pulling teeth. Even the shiest, quietest kid sitting in the back of the classroom has it within them to come up with unique insights and mind-blowing ideas. 

Sara NighborSo why don’t they?  Why does it feel like such a battle getting your students to do something as simple as make up a couple of sentences in a story?

It’s because creativity is something that needs to be fostered, encouraged, nurtured, and allowed to grow in the right environment.  The problem is that a lot of schools and teachers don’t know how to turn their classrooms into an environment that brings out the creativity.  Here are a few ways to produce creativity in your classroom and draw out your students’ unique insights and personalities.

Create a Classroom Where it’s Okay To Be Wrong

Nothing shuts down creativity like fear of being wrong.  However, most students are taught that there is a certain answer the teacher is looking for and that giving the wrong one means losing points, or at the very least looking stupid and feeling embarrassed.  The truth is that being wrong, making mistakes, and failing are the absolute best ways to learn.  Having an environment where it is safe to risk being wrong or making a mistake is the cornerstone of creativity.

[contextly_sidebar id=”oiGx4QPR36XadxEyiO5zMYyhHmDh89YG”]Plan activities where there is more than one right answer, where students have the chance to use English spontaneously without worrying if their grammar or pronunciation is right or wrong, or where the point is the thought-process used to solve a problem and not the solution itself.

It’s unavoidable that sometimes there will be right answers and wrong answers – for example, when you are teaching verb conjugations or spelling. Pay attention to how you react when a student misspells a word or writes the wrong verb tense on the board.  Make sure that the signal you are sending them is that getting the wrong answer is nothing to feel bad about, just another chance to learn.

Focus on Active Learning and Relevant Situations

The more your students connect personally and emotionally to what they are learning about, the more their creativity will come out.  Try to incorporate as much real life into your lessons as you can – for example, let them choose subjects and issues that they are interested in as the focus for a writing assignment or a project.

Keeping lessons active and hands-on is great, too.  It not only keeps students more engaged, it also breaks the normal routine of desk-based learning that most of them are used to.  When their routines and expectations are broken, so are their normal thought patterns, and creative thought is more likely to come out.

Give your Students More Control and Ownership Over the Class

If your students feel like an idea is theirs, they are going to care about it a lot more, and are going to put in a lot more effort to make it into something great.  Maybe that means letting a musically-inclined student write a song instead of an essay for their final assignment. Maybe it means letting the class as a whole plan, write, cast, and perform their own play.

For a lot of teachers, it can be difficult to step back and let the students have that kind of control.  But as long as you are able to guide things and make sure that whatever they are doing is relevant and is giving everyone a chance to learn and stay engaged, this is a great way to encourage creativity in your classroom.

Cultivate Students’ Unique Talents

Think of your class as a team, where each person brings their own unique talents and contributions.  Your role as the teacher/leader is identifying what those talents are and making sure that they have a chance to shine.

Some students are brilliant artists, others come alive when they are the center of attention while still others are at their best in quiet problem-solving activities.  You never know what sort of activity will light a spark in one of your students, so keep it varied and diverse.

Do art projects, songs, active games, problem-solving activities, story-telling. When you see something take hold and catch for a particular student, or for the class as a whole, be ready to run with it and encourage it.

Don’t Make Creativity a Requirement

Don’t tell students their grade for a certain project or activity is based on creativity, or that they are expected to make one unique statement each class. Telling someone to try to be creative is like telling someone not to think about purple elephants.  The harder you try, the harder it gets.

Make creativity the norm in your classroom, not the requirement, and don’t penalize students for not being as creative as others.  Creativity builds on itself, and the more you encourage it, the more your entire class will start to get the vibe.

It should be fun and intrinsically rewarding to come up with new ideas, not just another hoop your students have to jump through to get a good grade.

Show Enthusiasm for your Students’ Ideas

Creative energy doesn’t need a grade or a gold star.  What it needs is to be fed – with enthusiasm, with your own creative energy as a teacher, and with the ideas of classmates.  When a student comes up with an idea that just completely knocks your socks off, let them know how much you love it by encouraging the train of thought to continue, encouraging classmates to get involved, and getting excited about the new idea yourself. That’s the best kind of positive reinforcement that you can give to a student’s creative thoughts.

By creating an environment in your classroom where your students have the freedom to be wrong, the freedom to be themselves, and the opportunity to come up with and pursue their own ideas for projects and assignments, you’ll find that their creativity naturally starts coming out.

And of course, let your own creativity and personality shine through.  Students will follow your example, and you’ll quickly find that the more energy and creativity that you bring to lessons, the more your students will start to pick up on it and let their own creativity shine.

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