9 clever ways to teach creativity

Child coloring an illustration with crayons

Just like geometry, creativity is a skill that can be learned. Here are some unique ways you can teach creativity within the classroom.

In Ken Robinson’s TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? the author and speaker talks about the importance of interweaving creativity into the education system, stating that education “takes us into this future that we can’t grasp,” and thus creativity is an essential part of problem-solving for the future.

While many believe that creativity is an inherent trait that a select few are born with, neuroscience suggests the opposite. Research indicates that creativity is a learned behavior, that can be taught and improved on. This research also suggests that creativity thrives when it is socially-engaged—which makes the classroom a perfect breeding ground for innovative and creative teaching.

The idea of developing creative thinking in children is not a new idea either. Pablo Picasso is famously quoted for saying that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Below, we share nine ways you can teach and encourage creativity in the classroom.

Set time aside for journaling

Scientists, writers, and artists often carry small journals with them to document thoughts and ideas as they strike.

By encouraging students to document their emotions and thoughts you are providing them with an avenue for expression. This also helps students to dissect ideas and communicate their emotions with ease.

Participate in five minutes of mindfulness each day

While it may be hard to get students to understand the concept of mindfulness to begin with, it will become a valuable tool that they can take into their adult lives.

Research from Harvard University has shown that regular meditation not only mitigates stress but also helps participants develop the ability to switch off their fight-or-flight responses and engage in a more thoughtful, creative mode of thinking. This is known as divergent thinking.

Build brainstorming sessions

As the idea of dictation becomes less popular amongst teachers, why not opt for collaborative learning through short and sharp brainstorming sessions?

Not only does brainstorming improve critical thinking skills, but it also encourages individuals to navigate different perspectives and opinions in order to come to achieve a common goal—a skill that is never too early to learn.

While brainstorming, you can encourage students to mood board their ideas. Here’s why creating mood boards is made for so much more than just inspiration.

Use gamification to encourage participation

Gamification can be defined as the application of gaming principles to a project. This includes elements like point scoring, prizes, and rules in the hopes of increasing attention and participation levels.

In a study conducted by Michigan State University, researchers found a correlation between students who play video games and higher creativity levels.

While there is an expansive range of educational video games available, it’s also easy to apply gamification principles to regular learning tasks.

In a previous article on Learn, game designer Katie Salen says a good designer thinks about the same things that a good teacher thinks about:

“When you begin to see how games work, you can begin to see how a classroom might work more effectively. The framework of how video games work can also be used to design class participation.”

Encourage risk taking

Often, the most successful ideas are those that are considered too risky to begin with. History has proven this idea too. This was the case for Thomas Edison when he invented the lightbulb, and with the Wright brothers when they were working on the first airplane.

In fact, you could argue that risk-taking is part of the equation when it comes to developing groundbreaking ideas.

One way to facilitate risk-taking ideation is to set up a “consistent-learning zone” within the classroom. This way, students are less focussed on the idea of being right, and more interested in the idea of creating new ideas. This zone also consolidates the idea that we are always learning and growing.

Leave the classroom more often

Much like the office, staying in one setting for a long period of time can hinder your creative flow.

Research from the University of Kansas has found that participants in a study experienced a 50 percent boost in creativity after being surrounded by nature for a few days.

Creativity relies on a stimulation of the senses, and it’s worth teaching students to immerse themselves in new surroundings when they are required to call upon their creative thinking.

Allow students to teach

A study published in the academic journal of Memory & Cognition found that students who taught others performed better when tested.

Aside from a potential boost in their grades, asking students to teach their peers requires them to creatively assess how they are going to take information and present it in an interesting way.

The study also showed that simply telling learners that they would later teach another student changed the student’s mindset enough so that they engaged in more effective approaches to learning than their peers who simply expected a test.

Use visual aids

“You can transform the world when you approach it with the goal of imagining and creating solutions,” write the creators of Design Thinking for Educators. Instead of asking your students to present an assignment in the usual format of an essay, you can ask them to experiment with new mediums and present them in a creative manner of their own choosing.

Encourage questions

With a full learning schedule, children's’ burning questions can go unanswered and forgotten. Part of creative problem-solving is noticing a problem and asking ”why are things like this?” and “can this be done better?”

To encourage questions, you can give your students a dedicated wall to write their questions on in their own time. This can inform you of the common themes to address in class, or students can work on research projects that will answer some of these questions.