Between the pressure of keeping up with the school curriculum, meeting with parents and running daily classes, it can be hard to make time for creativity in the classroom. With such little time to spare, it can be easy to think – does it really make a difference?
The short answer is: absolutely. Creative classrooms don’t just look different, they feel different. They provide an environment where students are more likely to express their ideas, think outside the box, challenge problems with innovative solutions and most importantly – learn faster and more effectively.
Here at Canva we speak to hundreds of schools every day and are constantly amazed by the ways they incorporate creative thinking and learning into their classrooms. To help share some of these lessons, we put together this list of 19 unique ways to add more color, creativity and passion to your classroom.
01. Make room for visual reflection
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.
This 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.
Even outside of the classroom this technique is well as a creative learning technique. Pictured above is the bulletin board from a TEDxSummit.
02. Integrate more hands-on learning
Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Hands-on learning is a great way to apply a creative twist to traditional course content and engage students on a deeper level.
Try this Black and Green Inspirational Quote Poster template on Canva.
Here are three ideas for inspiration:
- English: Rather than asking students to read class texts at home, incorporate a group reading session into each class. Ensure that every student is selected as the daily reader at least once.
- Media/design: If students are learning about a “real world application” wherever possible skip the theory and get them to dive into the real thing. For example, rather than teaching students about the basics of web design in a media class, encourage them to create a site for something they’re passionate about.
- Maths: Taken from this list of excellent practical maths ideas, one way to teach velocity is to ask students to build paper airplanes and use calculations to predict their speed. What better way to iterate on their calculations by testing them out in real life?
03. Keep your classroom layout flexible
Within your school term, your students will be working between group projects, completing solo assessments, listening to presentations as well as many other activities. In order to keep the creativity flowing between these learning set ups, 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 disruptions other students in the class.
Feel free to experiment with different arrangements, but always make sure that your classroom is setup to accommodate for a range of learning activities and work styles.
04. Introduce unconventional learning materials
Text books and timeless lesson plans are a great staple in your teacher tool kit, but introducing more unconventional learning materials 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.
- Ted talks: Leaders and role models play an important role in the creative development of your students. What better way to bring some of the world’s most inspiring leaders right into your classroom than by incorporating TED talks into your curriculum. On the TED website you’ll find thousands of videos on a range of topics – making them suitable for all classes.
- Innovative lesson plans: In the world of the Internet and social media, teaching visual communication is as important as any other type of literacy. Graphic design platform Canva has created lesson plans on various topics which enhance students understanding of a topic through visual communication on their platform.
- Podcasts: Think of just about any subject or topic and chances are there’ll be a podcast covering it. As a starting point, browse through this list of 50 educational podcasts filled with ideas and inspiration for lesson plans.
05. Encourage discussion
Avoiding chatter and meaningless conversation can be a difficult task as a teacher. But on the other hand, channeling meaningful discussions can provide students with an arena to express new ideas and voice their opinions.
Some other reasons why discussion can be productive include:
- It gets students thinking more critically about the material.
- It challenges them to listen to other students’ opinions and think critically about their contributions and ideas.
- It gives them the opportunity to challenge each other intelligently and build off of each other’s ideas.
This could take the shape of a reflective session 10 minutes before the end of a session, or by asking one member of a group to present their ideas to the class. Download the useful list below and place it in your classroom to help guide meaningful conversation:
06. Replace hierarchy with collaborative learning spaces
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.
07. Encourage more color
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.
08. Don’t limit assignments to one format
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 the book “No Sugar” 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.
Getting your students to create a poster on sensible topics can be helpful to open a discussion. Try this Human Rights Poster.
Ask your students to create a menu for a special occasion. Working on both the content and the design makes the assignment more entertaining (and instructive). Have a go with this Thanksgiving Menu.
Keep your students happy by speaking their language. Add some flair to your worksheets using this Pet Writing Prompt Worksheet.
09. Incorporate humour into your classroom
Humour 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.
In this blog article, Laura Davis also talks about how you can use humour in a team building environment to encourage students to laugh with each other, not at each other, and make light of small failures.
10. Rewards & recognition are key to motivating your students
Having achievements recognized is an important part of the creative learning process. Rewarding achievement visually in your classroom gives students an incentive to continue doing great work as well as gaining a sense of pride.
11. Film a classroom video diary
A key creativity mindset is 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.
Some ideas for questions you could ask your students in the video are:
- What are you most excited about right now?
- What seems like the most challenging thing you need to do right now?
- Who has helped you learn something this week?
This also adds an emotional element to the process – allowing them to become more invested and connected with their learning journey.
12. Visualize goals with timelines
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.
13. Pin up motivational posters
Using inspiration quotes and posters around your classroom is a great way encourage your students to unleash their creative potential. Browse this awesome list of 50 inspirational posters and print them out for your classroom today, or simply edit one of the templates below: Celebrate learning or Put mistakes in perspective.
14. Team building exercises
The most important thing about team building exercises is that there aren’t right or wrong answers – just strategies. Cooperative games allow students to work together to make decisions based on creative thinking, communication, and 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.
15. Use design thinking
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 enhances their creative thinking abilities, making them ready to understand and solve complex problems later in life.
16. Explore different cultures.
Developing students’ ability to consider multiple perspectives is an important part of thinking outside the box.
Some ideas to incorporate cultural awareness into your classroom are:
- Label things in your classroom in different language.
- Celebrate different cultural holidays and the original behind them.
- Provide reading materials that explain cultural differences.
If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, this list of resources for teaching cultural diversity should be your first stop.
17. Pair struggling learners with students who excel
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.
18. Challenge advanced students with extension projects
Allowing advanced students to participate in more creative extension projects helps them to:
- Learn at faster rates.
- Find, solve and act on problems more readily.
- Manipulate abstract ideas and make connections to an advanced degree.
Extension tasks are more open ended than regular tasks, meaning the project task sheet will include the goal, but relies of the students’ creative and critical thinking ability to come up with a process.
Consider this example from the New South Wales (Australia) curriculum: 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.
19. Celebrate wins with ceremonies
Allowing students to feel a great pride in their achievements will encourage them 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 or anything in between.
Make your classroom more creative today.
The classroom is the centre of every student’s learning journey. Ensuring that it is brimming with creativity – both physically and through the activities taught in it – is one of the many privileges of being a teacher.