Friday, December 28, 2012

Five on Friday: Creativity Counts!

I had a "wee hours" brainstorm when my feline friend woke me frightens me that the first thing I think about when awakened at 3:00 in the morning is my blog but...I think I might try a "Five on Friday" posting on Fridays...a list of 5 "somethings" that are worth thinking about...worth looking into...worth trying in your classroom...or worth doing for yourself.  So--we'll see if I can follow through!

Today's "Five on Friday" focuses on creativity, something I really and truly believe we have consistently avoided addressing in the schools as a critical component of teaching and learning.  In order to truly prepare our students for a world we cannot even imagine, we need problem solvers and creative thinkers...not just number crunchers and formula followers.  Let's set a collective goal to be more mindful of pushing students beyond the expected--and it might mean WE need to change how we ask questions, what activities we ask students to do, and how we spend our minutes during the day.

Below are five of the MANY different ways people can try to work more opportunities for creative thought into their classrooms.  Please feel free to add on via comments!

Five on Friday:  Creativity Counts!
1.  Have students "write from a word".  This is one of my favorite ways to spend a half hour!  Simply think of a word or phrase that is particularly meaningful to your class or events happening in their lives.  For example, last week we had a blizzard and on the day before the storm was expected to hit, we wrote from the word "SNOW!".  Students wrote about everything from how to build a snowman, what they would do on a snow day from school, about how much they loved to play in the snow, and even a poem about snow.  I give students 15 - 20 minutes to write--but the key part of this activity is taking 10-15 minutes to share as a class all the wonderful ways writers "tackled" the challenge.  This is a time for you to point out all the ways students approached the task.  I often ask them to brainstorm other ways that they could have written about the word...sometimes they come up with really creative ideas that they just didn't feel "safe" writing about!  Other words I have used this year very successfully..."mad"..."math"..."Shredderman" (from a read aloud)..."family"..."cursive"...

2.  My second way to encourage creativity continues from above...."brainstorming".  Brainstorming and list making are wonderful ways to involve ALL the students in your class--not just those who always have the right answer!  Remember to teach the expectations about brainstorming...that there are no "bad" answers...that we just keep adding to the list...that everyone needs to listen to other ideas because it might trigger new ideas!  We have brainstormed everything from problem solving a recess problem to what we wanted to learn about the skeletal system to books we have loved that others might want to read.  The sky is the limit--and you can get a TON of "bang for the buck" in only 10-15 minutes!

3.  I am an art teacher at heart, so I am always looking for ways to incorporate art and visuals into my teaching which leads me into the next two creativity explorations.  Number three is "Squigglestorming"--I's a form of brainstorming.  (See how creativity begets more creativity?!)  This is one of my students' favorites and this blog post has reminded me that we haven't done it for a lonnnnnnng time.  Squigglestorming   simply asks students to take a squiggle (can be generated on a reproducible, drawn by another student, or anything!) and turn the squiggle into something!  I have included a sample below...after you give the students 10-15 minutes to draw, have them leave their masterpieces on their desks and do a "gallery walk" to see all the different and creative ways their classmates tackled the squiggle.  This is a GREAT time to remind students about how to give compliments...."I loved how Taylor made the background..." or "It was such a good idea to..."

4.  Another version of squigglestorming is a "Think outside the box" activity.  I have posted an example below in case my explanation is too wordy or obtuse.  Give students a copy of a sheet filled with blank circles--or so they THINK!  Ask them what they see on the page.  Most likely they will say "20 circles" or "dots" or something along those lines.  Give some wait time...and more...don't jump in.  I like to pause and say, "Really?  I don't see that at all..."  Hopefully SOMEONE will get the activity rolling by saying, "Well, it COULD be a snowball." or "It COULD be an eyeball." Simply smile and nod.  Give them time to fly--see how far they can step outside the box.  If your class simply can't get started, you may need to be "that person" who nudges with one of the suggestions above.  Sit back and be prepared to be wow'ed.  I am always thrilled to see some students who might not always be the most successful at academic challenges take off on this.

Don't judge...I didn't have any student samples so I did my own.  The students will do better.  I promise.

5.  If you are still with me...WOW!  Thanks for sticking with my first "Five on Friday"!  I may need to rethink this idea if they are all going to get this long!  My final idea for incorporating more creativity into the classroom is simply "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."  What do I mean?  We know that modeling for students is critical.  It's hard to write a quality opinion piece without seeing quality opinion pieces.  That being said, have you ever walked outside an art room or a classroom and looked at 24 absolutely identical projects and wondered why they all had to be exactly the same?  Make sure that sprinkled in with all your great modeling, that you DO provide times for students to work without models.  My favorite example--which sets the tone for the rest of the year--happens in my first week of school when we decorate our writers' notebooks.  I ask students to bring in fun papers, stickers, magazine photos, family photos, images printed off the computers, and so on--and they "create" covers for their notebooks.  The only rules?  They must have their name clearly visible, and they must make sure their "stuff" doesn't hang off the edges so I can cover the covers with contact paper.  We take an hour and the kids work together, work alone, share ideas, experiment, and--then--celebrate their beautiful handiwork.  The kids are so proud of their work that they don't even want to turn them in to be covered!  No rules.  No format.  No uniformity.  Lots of pride.

And there we have it--my first "Five on Friday!  Sorry for the length...apparently I had more to say about this topic than I thought!  Have a wonderful day--and think outside the box a little yourself today!  :)  


  1. Hi Meg!

    I'm so glad that I found your great blog as a result of Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper passing on a RACK {Random Acts of Christmas Kindness} to you from the RACK linky party I am hosting. I'm your newest follower and am excited to pass on your blog to some of my upper elementary teaching buddies!

    I would be so honored if you joined my linky party and passed on the RACK to 2 blogs that you are grateful for! RACK Linky Party

    First Grade in Foxwell Forest

    1. Thanks, Becca! I'll go visit your blog to check it out!

  2. Hi Meg,

    Love this idea! We actually did the circle (think outside the box) activity for a PD day :) (teachers that is) And, believe it or not, I do the "write from a word" as well (great minds and all that) Did my first one in October with the word 'orange'. It totally floored them all - no directions, just a word. "But what should I write?" "Where are our guidelines?" "What type of orange - the one you eat or the color?" and so on. I just smirked at them and eventually they started to write - I got poems, descriptions, stories. It was fabulous - I must resolve to do it more often this term. Plus the squiggle idea - that's cute!!

    1. Thanks, Lynn! Love all our similarities! Try the's fun to watch the first time...they get better and better!

  3. Love the ideas. I am always trying to incorporate creativity and critical thinking skills into my teaching. Sometimes the simplest things are the best (I teach my students about Occam's Razor). I am your newest follower...hope you will follow back! Thanks again for linking up and for posting the LINKY PARTY!

    1. I am one of your followers, Ms. M! Glad to be a part of the party! :)

  4. I just love these ideas. I am so glad that you shared this post! I hope you don't mind, but I blogged about your post over on my blog because I just kept thinking about the ideas you gave and wondering what other activities I could use as well. Thank you again!

    1. Miss Martin--you MADE my day! Thank you so much for your kind words. I went over and visited and followed your blog, and I am very moved that you found my post meaningful. Come back often!

  5. I am glad I found it as well! I put your blog button on my "Teaching Blogs I Love" tab on my blog so that I will never lose the link. I will be back to visit again :)