About Lightning Strikes

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Rejuvenation: Creativity

I always end the school year and thinking about how various aspects of the school year went, and especially what I might want to do differently next year. This year I made a list of things I want to either think about or explore this summer. My list includes possibly tweaking the writing curriculum, reviewing the pilot year for class blogging, and thinking about ways to include more creative opportunities and problem solving in the curriculum.

A few years ago I read The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. I highly recommend this book in which Wagner identifies and discusses seven essential skills for the 21st century, based on conversation he had with business leaders. The seven skills are problem solving and critical thinking, collaboration, adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination. As a 4th grade teacher, I thought the skills that I could most readily incorporate into my classroom were problem solving/critical thinking, communication skills, collaboration, and curiosity/imagination. We also work with some of the other areas, but developmentally, 4th graders are most ready to work with these four. Also, it's always a good idea not to take on too much change at once.

While my partner and I have been regularly incorporating these skills into our teaching in 4th grade, I am interested in doing more. A high school classmate of mine happened to post a list of the best books on creativity on a popular online social site. I looked it over and decided to read one of them, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. It was a good choice. The Kelley brothers are partners at IDEO, a design firm, and their book is written with a business audience in mind, though the ideas can easily be applied or adapted for education and other areas. They have also written a Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit, which is available on their website for free. The Toolkit is written to guide teachers and administrators through creative problem-solving,.

I really like Creative Confidence because it is encouraging, upbeat, and full of ideas. The Kelleys believe that everyone can be creative and that everyone should be part of the creative process. As I read, I found many activities that I want to try with my class, including quick design challenges, like how would you make lunch better? There are activities to be done in a short time frame and ones that take longer. I could see ways to use these ideas in writing, social studies and math. My students will have the chance to work collaboratively, to work in divergent ways, and to mess around with materials. They will be encouraged to become risk-takers in a safe environment. We have a new STEAM program in the middle school, and these types of creative, problem-solving opportunities will help prepare upper elementary students for STEAM.

I also like Creative Confidence because it opened up new ideas and tools for me to use. So not only can I use the ideas to set up learning experiences for my students, but I can use these concepts myself. For example, there is a short section on using simple drawing to communicate, which I can use to communicate while teaching. I also particularly like the strategy "to think like a traveler," using fresh eyes rather than jumping to "I already know..."

I plan to post about Creative Confidence strategies once school is back in session. Meanwhile I'll be exploring writing curricula, mindfulness, and more on design and creativity.


  1. ....great post. Thrilled to read about design thinking and design challenges becoming part of the 4th grade learning experience. Ben

  2. Thanks! I'm excited about this way of approaching problem-finding and solving.