This post features ideas and words from author, experienced educator and cross-cultural storyteller
Before we go on, the story of the story of Imagine Song as a backdrop for this post.
Recently, Melissa A. Campesi and I engaged in a bucket list adventure. Melissa had written a story and she was looking for an illustrator (cue dreamy music). Inspired by her family’s own stories of immigration, and intertwined with her value on creativity, she had a memoir in the form of a children’s book. Her words needed visuals. Lifted by her gorgeous tale, illustrations started to flow. Melissa and I spent the summer of 2022 fueled by each other’s words (visual, textual and musical!) and produced this book.
We both share a common family journey of immigration (hers from Cuba, mine from Russia), with grandparents who had big dreams, and who valued the magic that comes with taking a leap to imagining more. The story, and our book, is intentionally seeking to have all readers see their diverse selves in a story about leaning in to creative magic.1
Making Big Ideas Usable
Using Imagine Song as a prompt, Melissa and I recently co-hosted (truth: she hosted and I tried to learn quickly & improvise!) a twitter chat to collect insights into diverse places for creativity. This post shares several takeaways from the conversation.
1. Creative input is needed for creative product.
Modeling modes of creativity during instruction aids in opening student creative channels. A question Melissa asks: “What creative inputs am I implementing into my lesson to enhance learning and have it accessible for every student?”
The more students are exposed to a multimodal creative approach, the more confident they will be in using their creativity because it will be mirrored in instruction.
2. Authentic assessment breeds creativity.
Melissa recommends that grading rubrics and standards must NOT be binding, but boundaryless. Students should not feel constrained to show their learning. This causes stress and anxiety to please the teacher in exchange for a “good” grade. More here.
Student projects should be encouraged to look, be shared, and assessed differently from everyone else in the class.
3. Words matter.
Language we use can hinder creative magic or free it. How we speak and respond to our students becomes a voice recording in their mind that plays over and over. Here are some phrases to flourish creativity in the classroom:
4. Flexible guidelines allow for improvization.
Making guidelines for projects and assignments more flexible, open and iterative allows lessons to go to unexpected, but no less rigorous, places.
Examples: Instead of encouraging learners to copy or memorize facts, suggest they present a variation on a theme. Reimagine a historical scene if events had gone differently, recreate a famous painting from a different vantage point, or write a story from the perspective of a minor character. Same learning standards, unique, creative and sometimes improvised perspective.
A3: In math, when we have projects, ask S’s to put their personalities into the project. In the design project, 1 S might have a sports theme, a 2nd a drama theme, a 3rd a heritage theme, a 4th a music theme. In problem-solving, let S’s use their favorite strategies.
5. Questioning Skills are a Door to Creativity.
We all tend to make a pedagogical mistake by emphasizing the answering and not the asking of questions. It’s less about right answers, and more about right questions. Make questioning a part of the daily classroom exchange. It is more important for students to learn what questions to ask – and how – than to learn the answers.
Q1: What are some ways you encourage your students to use their creative magic across content areas? #CrazyPLN https://t.co/LsNdv7wemi
6. Representing your own creativity matters.
When teachers express the desire to learn alongside students, they open pathways for young people to share theirs.
Six Ways to Bring out the Creativity in Schools, by educators around the country
Creative input is needed for creative output.
Authentic assessment breeds creativity
Flexible guidelines allow for improvization.
Questioning skills are a door to creativity.
Representing your own creativity matters.
What would you add?
Looking for More?
Here are two previous School of Thought posts that are great complements.
Let us Get Rid of Traditional Art Class *don’t worry, not in the way you think
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Would you like to read more? Another Big Idea and how to Make It Usable is here.