How can teachers develop a practice of creativity and stay inspired in their classrooms?
During a recent webinar, HP Teaching Fellows Brent Christensen, Vickie Morgado, Teena Hine, and Amanda Brace shared tips for igniting creativity in their teaching and learning practice. The webinar, hosted by Digital Promise as part of HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom initiative, highlights four strategies for encouraging creativity in students and how they stay creative in their own work:
Brent Christensen, a seventh grade teacher in Spokane, Washington, didn’t think of himself as “creative” until he realized that creativity involves taking multiple pathways to a solution. As a math teacher, he realized he had been fostering creativity in his students by encouraging them to try different ways of solving problems and share with the class what they learned, regardless of outcome. Students learned from each other’s efforts while they practiced presentation skills and empathy in addition to math. In middle schoolers, this can be especially valuable, as many of them face their own limiting beliefs.
Christensen recognizes that helping students build their confidence is essential to them being willing and able to share. He reassures students that “failure is how you learn,” when asking them to share their work in one of a number of ways—whether through group work, a Minecraft demonstration, or a verbal lesson.
Elementary guidance learning teacher Vickie Morgado in Mississauga, Ontario, also recognizes the importance in supporting students as they build their confidence in themselves through self-talks. She encourages students to “treat ourselves like a best friend” and emphasizes that failure is the first attempt at learning.
Morgado also finds herself having similar conversations with adults who may need encouragement in trying new things. She acknowledges that sometimes people take less risks as they get older. She adds that middle schoolers are sometimes concerned about getting a good grade and are afraid to try new methods. To combat this, Morgado offers grades on process instead of the outcome.
For adults who may struggle with considering themselves creative, Morgado emphasizes the importance of modeling a growth mindset. She frames creativity as a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. Reminding learners of all ages, “We can’t do something yet,” she encourages students and educators to embrace trying new avenues to finding a solution.
Amanda Brace is a student achievement coordinator in Regina Public Schools, Saskatchewan, and uses digital storytelling tools like Toontastic, Puppet Pals, or Book Creator to empower students to create, rather than consume.
In her own professional development, she connects with her peers, engaging in communities of practice and reading clubs to combat her own fatigue and burnout. Their latest reading is Rebound, Grades K-12: A Playbook for Rebuilding Agency, Accelerating Learning Recovery, and Rethinking Schools (Corwin Literacy). The book, written during the pandemic, dismisses the idea we should return to pre-COVID systems. Instead, it asks, how we can reshape our classrooms, learning from all the tools we have and make a shift toward the next new normal.
Teena Hine, a technology coach in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, engages three specific strategies in igniting creativity in her students.
The first is the shift from consumption to creation. “Virtual reality tools are amazing, but let’s take it to the next level,” Hine said. By collaborating with an English teacher at her school, she supported students’ creation of virtual reality book reports on a Merge Cube. This technology empowered students to recreate scenes from the novel and demonstrate their understanding of the story in a specific and engaging way.
Hine also believes in the power of “failing forward,” which she models by sharing her own learning as a coder. By demonstrating her learning for students, she shows vulnerability and that even educators are still capable of both failing and learning. This is important for students to see, she says, as they need to know that failure is a part of everyone’s learning.
Her final advice is to support choice and scaffolded decision making. “Students are used to step-by-step instructions,” she said when describing a STEM assignment for third graders. “They ask for instructions and steps for the project but instead I give them the materials and a description of the end product, which will help them understand the end goal of it being however many centimeters tall or wide. And then can make it however they see fit.” She continued, “When we give students more autonomy, we’re going to have more invested students and then you have more engaged students and more successful students.”