Children need time to learn and practice creative thinking skills, just like they learn and practice other academic skills. Time spent building creativity is time well spent.
Studies have shown that students benefit from learning activities that include opportunities to generate creative ideas, analyze the effectiveness of their ideas, and communicate their creative ideas in a way that makes sense to others.
As we educate our kids with their future in mind, we know they need to confidently read, write, communicate, think mathematically, use technology, and understand history, geography and scientific ideas. Our modern world also needs people who can think creatively to generate solutions to big problems.
Even large companies like Google now encourage employees to spend 20% of their time each day on creative pursuits and other activities that they’re passionate about. They’ve found it actually makes them more productive!
While we know that reading skills are best taught using a direct and systematic approach, we can still incorporate creative activities into literacy practice for all ages! Younger children are generally exposed to literacy in creative ways. Puppet shows, picture books and multisensory activities like building scenes from stories with play dough or acting out events with action figures are common in early childhood classrooms. Unfortunately, once kids can read and write independently, literacy activities in most classrooms begin to shift to paper-and-pencil assignments like writing pieces from specific genres, completing reading logs, memorizing lists of spelling and vocabulary words, and answering multiple choice questions. Some of these activities could include creativity, but many do not.
Around the same time they learn to read and write independently, kids aged 8-10 also start to become more aware of how they are perceived by peers. As a result, they may be naturally inclined to take fewer creative risks for fear of making mistakes or feeling judged. Teaching creative thinking skills throughout elementary school and beyond, and providing regular practice with open-ended, creative activities can help kids learn to value creativity and see that mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process, individualism is cool, and everyone is capable of finding innovative solutions.
Additionally, for reluctant readers and writers, opportunities to build, to move, and to make art to reinforce structured literacy instruction can help boost motivation and make real-life literacy connections. And motivation is key for literacy success!
Want to add more creativity into your home literacy time? It’s easy!
You can start by simply incorporating open-ended creative discussion topics into your dinnertime routine, your drive to school, or before bedtime. Ask questions that require critical thinking, connect ideas in interesting ways, make analogies, represent ideas visually, think of alternative solutions to problems… All of these ways of thinking help us learn to flex our creative muscles.
If you want to take it step further, just gather some supplies for creative expression. (You probably already have them!) Then invite your kiddos to stretch their minds with fun creative thinking challenges.
Here’s a list of possible supplies to help you set up a creative literacy challenges at home or at school: (This list includes affiliate links.)
- A collection of interesting reading material like picture books, nonfiction books, magazines, and comics.
- Building materials like blocks, Lego Bricks, play dough, Wikki Stix, Colorforms, pattern blocks, and pipe cleaners.
- Doodling and art materials like heavy paper, pencils, black fine-tip markers, colored markers, colored pencils, crayons, and a clipboard.
- Dramatic play materials like action figures, dolls, paper dolls, popsicle stick dolls, puppets, and other pretend play toys.
- Creative Literacy Challenge ideas. You can create your own challenges to inspire creative thinking and reinforce whatever your child is learning. (You may want to write challenges on index cards, Laminate them for durability. And attach with a binder clip to keep them organized.) Ideas: Make your spelling words with Wikki Stix or play dough, act out a scene to show the most exciting part of the book you’re reading, build something with blocks to represent the meaning of a vocabulary word, doodle the ideas you plan to write about…
For more challenges, click here to subscribe and get my free Creativity + Literacy handbook which features a list of 26 creative literacy challenges, from A to Z!
Or, grab this huge pack of creative literacy printables. (You can download a preview here to learn more.)
Organize Your Space
Consider setting up a station for creative literacy. Working in a specifically designated creative space can prompt our brains to snap into creative thinking mode more quickly. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just pick a place where kids can move around, build, play, write on a table or a clipboard, and read comfortably.
Place materials & challenges in binders, plastic tubs or bins, so kids can access them easily.
Establish the time and guidelines for using the creativity + literacy station. At home, you may want to pick a specific time during the day, or just keep it flexible and incorporate it into regular play. If you’re using these materials in the classroom, this station may be available during literacy center time, after kids have finished other work, or when working with a parent volunteer.
Want to read more? Check out these resources on creativity and learning:
Creative Thinking in the Classroom, by Robert J. Sternberg
Do Schools Kill Creativity? (TED Conference 2006) Ken Robinson
Encouraging Creativity Through Performance Literacy, by Brett Dillingham and Stacy Reeves and Performance Literacy Through Storytelling, by Nile Stanley and Brett Dillingham
Is Creativity the Next Essential Literacy, by Chad Segersten
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, by Edward De Bono
Making Stories Come Alive, by Annie Murphy Paul
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, by Sir Ken Robinson
We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity, by John Spencer
Why Creativity in the Classroom Matters More Than Ever, by Kristen Hicks