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Running head: CREATIVITY
Developing Creativity and Encouraging Alternative Solutions
Kay Steinhour
Walden University
EDUC-6625-T1004
Habits of the Mind: Thinking Skills to Promote Self-Directed Learning
January 26, 2007Developing Creativity and Encouraging Alternative Solutions
Developing creativity and encouraging students to search for problem solving solutions is important for a childs educational development. Too many times, teachers encourage students to complete a task one way or look for only one answer to a problem. Sometimes teachers are so anxious for students to find correct answers that they omit discussions of the processes, strategies, and steps that produce the answer (Costa & Kallick, 2000, p. 80-81). Activities that encourage divergent and creative thinking will help students become more effective problem solvers.
This Monday, our school celebrated the one hundredth day of school. In recognition of this day, many classes did activities that are based around the number one hundred. I chose to do a sorting and classifying exercise with the students. Sorting, classifying, and graphing are all a part of our third grade math curriculum. I put one hundred items that I found from home in a plastic grocery bag. The items included things such as different types of candy, coins, magnets, pictures of family members, a spoon, a fork, a shoe, cotton balls, dental floss, and the like. Before the exercise began, I asked the students to tell me ways that things can be classified. They brainstormed ideas and I wrote them on the board. I then divided the students into groups of six and gave them a bag full of items. I told them to sort and classify. Most of the students started asking me questions about how to classify all these strange items that seemingly did not go together. I told them to sort and classify, and no other directions. At first several of the students were very frustrated, but they started sorting the items and started to figure out how they could be arranged. One group classified all one hundred items in about four minutes, and I asked them how they classified them. All of the items were sorted by color. The students thought they were done. I asked them to put all of the things together and sort them another way. At first, they gave me a blank look like they did not understand, but then they started classifying the items according to use. Within a time span of about twenty minutes, all three groups classified this odd assortment of items at least five different ways. One group struggled to find five ways these very strange items could be arranged. Finally, they created two piles: edible and non-edible. That was a viable solution to the classification problem. This simple, yet fun and creative activity allowed the students to work together in cooperative groups and learn from one another. I would hear things like, hey, thats a good idea, or wait, that doesnt go in that group because. Students were encouraged to think that there was not only one correct answer or method to solve this classifying activity, and to search out ideas from one another and use different strategies to figure out how to solve the problem. This exercise also provided an opportunity for metacognition. The students had to think about how to solve the problem in multiple ways and figure out what items belonged together and why, and why others did not. At the end of the lesson, I had the students return to their desks and we discussed why we did this activity. I had a lot of interesting answers, but had one student finally say that there is more than one right answer to this problem. I then redirected the class by asking is two plus three always five. The students answered yes, and then I asked what we could glean from this lesson if there is only one right answer to a problem. Thomas, one of my gifted students, immediately said that there may only be one right answer, but there may be more than one way to solve it. I was impressed and thought that this was a lesson that was worth the time that it took.
Many of the activities we do in school require the students to answer a question that has only one correct response. Too many times, teachers focus their energies on teaching content and how to perform on a test instead of how to think about a problem and figure out different ways to solve it. I have been guilty of saying that curriculum is so fast paced, that there is no time to do anything creative or fun. All we have time to do is teach to the test along with teaching effective test taking skills. James Moran (1997) offers this thought on creativity:
Creativity is essentially a form of problem-solving. But it is a special type of problem-solving--one that involves problems for which there are no easy answers: that is, problems for which popular or conventional responses do not work. Creativity involves adaptability and flexibility of thought.
My students will remember this activity because it was fun and different from what we usually do. I think they will also remember the object of the lesson was to encourage them to be creative in their thinking and realize that there is not always one right answer or only one way to solve it.
References
Costa, A.L., & Kallick, B. (2000) Activating & engaging habits of mind. Alexandria. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Moran, J. (1997). Creativity in young children. Kid Source on Line. Retrieved January, 26, 2007 from HYPERLINK "http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content2/Creativity_in_kids.html" http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content2/Creativity_in_kids.html
Creativity PAGE 6
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