5 Tips to Foster Student Creativity

This is school:

  • Right and wrong
  • Passive learning
  • Worksheet packets
  • Memorization
  • Objective tests
  • Pop quizzes
  • Pre-tests and post-tests
  • Predetermined learning outcomes
  • White walls
  • Boredom
  • Bells
  • Busywork
  • Routine

Shall I continue?

While employers want workers to be creative problem-solvers, school supports the opposite by implementing state standards and standardized tests.

How do we foster student creativity in mediocre educational environments?

We start by implementing creativity in our own classrooms.

Here are 5 ways to create conditions in the classroom that foster student creativity:

1. Time

When I start a creative project, I begin by thinking it will only take me an hour. After an hour, I look at the clock and think, “Just one more hour.” Soon, my one hour project has turned into an all day project. And that’s okay.

Creative projects require time and energy.

This summer I made my mom a sign. At first it was just going to say our last name. After I painted base coats and put the name on it, I decided to add a poem. Needless to say, my simple sign turned into a heartfelt and creative piece of art that made my mom cry (in a good way).

IMG_1843It was worth the time.

2. Structure Less

I recently read an article about designing writing assignments that said teachers should:

Try to be as clear and specific in your description as you can. Most assignments, Linda Flower says, are written so ambiguously that they can wind up looking like Rorschach blots.”

Why are teachers obsessed with predefining writing criteria?


Teachers want control because they are comfortable being in control. In all reality, why wouldn’t people want power?

However, I am least creative when I am given a set criteria, rubric, checklist, and any other creative constraint. Too often we put students in boxes and don’t let them design their own learning. It IS possible for students to explore their passions while meeting the prescribed standards. It’s called passion-based learning.

3. Raise Expectations

The Teaching Channel featured a teacher that gives efficient directions by raising her expectations and giving students control. When students ask her about what she exactly wants them to do for the activity she says, That’s all I’m going to say.”

It drives students nuts. They want paint-by-numbers directions because it’s easier. Yet, when they are forced to THINK they become innovative and creative. That’s when they solve problems.

Educators cannot underestimate the intelligence of students and spoon feed answers. Students know the answers; they are capable of more than they get credit for.

4. Practice

Creativity is like differentiation. It’s not a pedagogy. It’s something you do. Of course I have more creative moments depending on how I’m feeling. But I’ll never not consider myself creative. My creative moments may come and go but I will never not be a creative person.

Everything I do reflects my drive to be more creative. I’m not actively creative in one aspect of my life. I’m creative all the time. My life choices support creativity and The more I create, the easier it is to be creative.

Creativity first and everything else will follow.

5. Positivity

Failure is inevitable when being creative. BUT failure isn’t wrong. Teachers support students with their creative endeavors. Students encourage teachers to be more creative.

Focus on the process, not the product.

Creative adventures can begin without knowing where to end up. Being creative is unpredictable and uncontrollable. It’s like puberty all over again.

Celebrate victories and reflect on improvements. Set goals but don’t become discouraged if you don’t meet them.

To have a classroom that brims with creativity, showcase creativity. Make creativity a BIG deal. Have student work clutter shelves, walls, and even the ceiling. Line your walls with colorful posters. Incorporate cross-curricular elements: play music, have drumming circles, paint, color, draw, move, play.

Educate people into creativity.