It’s long since been debunked that creativity is just about paints and pencils: this mode of thinking is thought to be as critical for those working in STEM industries as much as it is for those employed in the arts sector. One study even highlighted creativity as one of the most desirable traits for an employee amongst 1500 CEOs. As such, success depends on how much exposure we’ve had to creative styles of thinking and learning — making the classroom the perfect place to begin.
In the article, we look at 19 innovative classroom ideas to promote creativity.
Creative classrooms focused on developing creativity in students builds long term success for life in the areas of expression, problem solving, innovation, as well as faster and more effective learning.
“Specifically, creativity involves cognitive processes that transform one’s understanding of, or relationship to, the world,” writes Liane Gabora, Associate Professor of Psychology and Creative Studies, University of British Columbia. “There may be adaptive value to the seemingly mixed messages that teachers send about creativity. Creativity is the novelty-generating component of cultural evolution. As in any kind of evolutionary process, novelty must be balanced by preservation.”
Creativity isn’t an action you perform, it’s a mode of thinking you apply and when you consider how many tasks in life require us to think differently about an existing concept, it seems inextricable from everything we do.
Even if nothing ‘results’ from our creativity, it’s still a beneficial approach to apply to learning. Engaging creatively with tasks is proven to be stimulating and exciting, creating an energizing environment, forcing us to focus on what’s at hand. You’ll know from personal experience: engaging with knowledge in a creative way is far more fun than writing lines and lines of text in a notebook.
As the guide to your students learning, it’s up to you as the teacher to inject some creativity into your classroom environment. Here are 19 ways you can work on developing creativity with your students.
You’re going to have a tricky time building a creative classroom if you don’t foster a general environment of creativity. As your student’s guide to creativity, you’re in the position to cultivate it through encouragement, rewards and scaffolding skills with structured approaches. For example, when encouraging creative discussion, don’t just facilitate or mediate, teach your students to incorporate these skills into their discussions themselves: have each student paste the below questions into their workbook or stick them to the wall in a poster form. Or, value the varied pursuits of woodworking, bread baking at home or other open-ended projects that enhance a different skill set.
Reflective activities provide students with an opportunity to absorb information more deeply—enhancing their creative and contextual understanding of the content. When reflective learning exercises are displayed visually in the classroom, they become of benefit not only to those who share them but to every student in your class.
A board of mindset moments is one example of this principle in action. By encouraging students to pin their learnings or “shifted mindsets” to the board, this provides a great opportunity for guided reflection. Try this technique by using a customizable template to reflect some newly explored ideas pinning them to your wall.
Within your school term, your students will be working in many different configurations, from group projects to completing solo assessments and listening to presentations as a group along with many other activities. In order to keep the creativity flowing between these learning setups, the key is to keep your classroom layout adaptable and allow it to be easily reorganized.
Teach Thought provides an interesting solution to support this flexibility while still maintaining an area for focus. All four layouts are designing for either group or independent work, but they all have an interesting common element: a group table. This table would allow students to meet on a need basis without disruptive behavior from other students in the class.
Feel free to experiment with different arrangements, but always make sure that your classroom is set up to accommodate a range of learning activities and work styles.
Textbooks and timeless lesson plans are a great staple in your teacher tool kit but introducing more unconventional learning materials (and getting creative yourself!) can help your students think outside the box and engage more deeply with the lesson.
Get inspiration from the ideas below, or check out this list of interesting ideas you can start using today.
Benjamin Franklin once said: Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. Hands-on learning and channeling meaningful discussions can provide students with an arena to express new ideas, think critically and voice their opinions, engaging them on a deeper level.
Here are three ideas for inspiration:
Make record-making as fun and engaging as the tasks themselves by incorporating some custom worksheets into your lesson. Canva templates such as Simple Writing Prompt Worksheet or Baby Pink Sentence Starters Writing Prompt Worksheet.
Collaborative working spaces help students see themselves as co-constructors of knowledge, rather than “subjects” of teachers. Without hierarchical front to back row seating, every seat is the best seat in the class, and students are always at the center of learning.
Maintain structure in less traditional ways by creating “zones” for different parts of the learning process, such as reflection and brainstorming. For ideas and inspiration for your classroom, watch the video Flexible Learning Environments as several teachers who have tried this mode of learning share their challenges and triumphs.
Related article: 20 inspiring classroom poster designs
Color in the classroom doesn’t only need to be for early primary school. Challenge yourself to use color in creative and unconventional ways, such as displaying inspiration posters or creating themed “mood” corners.
Color can also be an incredibly powerful tool to aid students with absorbing information and learning new content. Encourage your students to use more color as a staple when taking notes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they start absorbing new information.
This can be incorporated in any resource, too—make everything from class rules to maths principles seem approachable and exciting through bold, customized templates.
Allowing students to choose the format of their own assignments allows them to explore the task using a format they enjoy the most, making them more naturally inclined to draw on their creativity.
For example, imagine students were required to read Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” as part of a social studies curriculum. Rather than taking the typical approach of writing an essay, provide students with a range of formats they can use to explore the concept of racism and social acceptance, such as a presentation, documentary or speech, allowing them to choose the format that suits their learning and exploration style.
Humor is an important part of creating a positive environment in which creativity can flourish. Draw on pop culture references, use puns and find relevant jokes that make light of the learning process. Choose designs for resources that embrace this supportive and lighthearted approach to ensure students understand that learning can be fun and experimental, rather than just something that falls into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ silos.
In this blog article, Laura Davis also talks about how you can use humor in a team building environment to encourage students to laugh with each other, not at each other, and make light of small failures, further consolidating a supportive creative environment
Everyone does better with encouragement and the ultimate encouragement is a reward. Rewarding achievement visually in your classroom gives students an incentive to continue doing great work as well as gaining a sense of pride. It also helps them to know that creativity and experimentation is a good thing separate from right or wrong answers. Create specialized certificates that reflect the specific creative achievements of your students to drive their efforts.
Try creative and colorful templates such as Blue Orange Illustrated Supplies Award School Certificate or Yellow and Blue Preschool Diploma Certificate for your class.
A key mindset for cultivating and developing the creativity of students is to reiterate that the learning process is never ending. Help students look retrospectively on their own learning processes by filming a video diary throughout the course or year to encourage ongoing critical thinking.
Some ideas for questions you could ask your students in the video are:
This also adds an emotional element to the process—allowing them to become more invested and connected with their learning journey.
Empowering students to set their own goals is an incredible motivator. Goals can be decided on a project or term basis and should always be achievable. By giving students a clear vision for where they want their learning to take them, they become naturally more inclined to find creative solutions to get them there.
Don’t just get them to jot it down on any old piece of paper, either: have your students take pride in these goals by designating customized worksheets and posters to the process to get them excited to return to them again and again.
Goals are far more likely to be achieved when written; harness this unique power with templates from Canva such as Brown and Pink Weekly Goal GIFs or Text Interactive Instagram Story or Gray Simple Rectangle Mind Map.
Using inspirational quotes and posters around your classroom is a great way to encourage your students to unleash their creative potential and show them how you’re embracing yours. Browse this awesome list of 50 inspirational posters and print them out for your classroom today, or simply edit the template below: Celebrate learning.
The most important thing about team building exercises is that there aren’t right or wrong answers – just the strategies that allow teams to thrive and think together. Cooperative games allow students to work together to make decisions based on creative thinking, communication, and collaboration, creating a solid base for creative thinking in the context of collaboration.
Throughout the process, students build better relationships with other team members as they struggle, deal with failure, and eventually work to master the problem presented. Check out this list of 10 team building games that can be used for students of all ages.
The Design Thinking process is a framework for creativity and innovation taught in schools and universities all around the world. It allows students to break down complex problems based on various stages.
Try incorporating design thinking into any project or exercise. Some useful points of reflection after the exercise might be to ask students where the biggest challenges or difficulties were, and at what point they achieved the most process or success. Encouraging students to think critically about their work and how to solve problems enhances their creative thinking abilities, making them ready to understand and solve more complex problems later in life.
Developing students’ ability to consider multiple perspectives is an important part of thinking outside the box. It’s likely you’ll have students from multiple cultural backgrounds, so celebrate these differences, while also learning from them: invite their unique perspectives into discussions, encourage students to be curious and allow them the space to bring their own cultural context into tasks in order to diversify the responses to tasks.
You can also implement some more concrete strategies such as:
If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, this list of resources for teaching cultural diversity should be your first stop.
Empowering creativity through leadership is an extremely effective learning strategy. For students who have mastered the content, being tasked with teaching a peer encourages them to come up with creative ways to reframe the content.
It also fosters a supportive environment where students understand their role as supporters to their peers when it comes to learning, effectively extending the teacher role far beyond your capabilities. Peers offer a different perspective to problems than teachers do and that diversity of opinion and support can be endless encouraging.
Not all your students will learn at the same rate or in the same way and you should celebrate that. Allowing advanced students to participate in more creative extension projects helps them to:
Extension tasks are more open-ended than regular tasks, meaning the project task sheet will include the goal but relies on the students’ creative and critical thinking ability to come up with a process. You give them the end goal but leave the journey up to them: it’s the perfect breeding ground for creative thinking.
Students know what they need to achieve, but by allowing them the freedom to manage their own timeline, decide on their book genre, and essentially self publish a book, the sense of achievement and creative reward for students who complete the task is immense.
Instilling a great sense of pride in their achievements encourages students to learn faster and more rigorously in the future. Rather than simply use report cards or certificates to celebrate their wins, allow students to plan a victory ceremony when they plan their goals.
Think outside the box – you could snap a crazy photo and put it in your yearbook in a special awards section, try a Greek-style smashing of the plates ritual, a dress-up party, or anything in between.