Imagination: It’s a Muscle, Too

I know I’ve referenced this gentleman before, but I find that Marvin Bartel (a professor of art in the United States) has quite a lot of excellent ideas for teaching creativity in schools.

Teaching creativity, you say?  Is that even possible, you say?

Why yes!  Yes indeed it is!

Something I noticed when I was in school – especially in art class – was that when teachers were going through their lessons, they often wanted us to be creative, but they never really taught us how to go about it.  I didn’t mind as much, because I am a creative person.  But even I had trouble coming up with things to draw or write or paint, and when confronted with that problem from me and my classmates, teachers would often simply say, “Well…I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

…Which was not as helpful as I would have liked, incidentally.

Until I read Marvin’s article,“The Secrets of Generating Art Ideas: an Inside Out Art Curriculum,” I don’t think I realized that this was actually a problem for a lot of people.  A lot of students have trouble coming up with ideas for art projects and writing.  One of the ways Mr. Bartel suggests teachers combat this is through the use of the Conversation Game.  If you were in my EAES 201 class, you played this game with me, but I just wanted to elaborate on it a little further.

The rules are simple.  You divide your class into groups, and make sure that each member of the group has a piece of paper and a pencil.  Then they go around to every member of the group and ask each other ‘getting to know you’ questions.  Each student writes down each question and their answer to it, but they don’t have to share their answers unless they want to.  After a certain amount of time has passed, the groups stop and tell everyone in the class what their questions were.  For every question they have that no other group has, the students get a point, and the group with the most points wins.

However, this is not a game you play once and then forget about.  This is a game you keep playing and keep playing, and over time the questions will evolve from the level of, “What is your favourite television show?” to  the level of, “If you could choose any superpower, what would it be?” As time goes on, students learn to ask critical, insightful, creative questions, and they can use those questions or their answers as inspiration for writing, for art projects, for drama – essentially any creative exercise.

I like the idea of being able to teach creativity and develop that skill like a muscle, through constant use.  How about you?

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Love and Literature in School

Tech Task #7: a podcast from yours truly!

The examples I use in there relate specifically to teaching English literature, but I feel the principle is the same for any subject.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson poem at the end can be found here, along with the rest of his work.  The group of writings entitled ‘Conduct of Life,’ from which ‘Beauty’ originates, can be found here (‘Beauty’ is in part 8).

Enjoy!

Murderers!

(I like exclamation marks.  Can you tell?)

I have found that I quite like this gentleman, Marvin Bartel, Ed. D.  I intend to be an Art/English teacher in the future, and he has some very interesting ideas on creative teaching.  His writing on the subject is prolific, but one thing of his that I thought was really instructive was his list of Ten Classroom Creativity Killers.  In the article he expands on each one and tells how to NOT kill creativity in the classroom.  I would encourage all of you to read it, because his ideas are excellent, but for those without the time or inclination, here is the basic list:

I kill creativity in the classroom when…

1. I encourage renting (borrowing) instead of owning ideas.

2. I assign grades without providing informative feedback.

3. I see a lot of cliché symbols instead of original or observed representation of experience.

4. I demonstrate instead of having students practice.

5. I show an example instead of defining a problem.

6. I praise neatness and conformity more than expressive original work.

7. I give freedom without focus.

8. I make suggestions instead of asking open questions.

9. I give an answer instead of teaching problem solving experimentation methods.

10. I allow students to copy other artists rather than learning to read their minds.

Reading through this list, I have to say that I’ve experience all of these problems with my teachers at one time or another – and heck, I’ve probably been guilty of a few of them, even with the limited amount of teaching I’ve done.  Probably numbers 4, 5, 6, and 10 are the areas in which I can most improve.

4. I am training to teach in the subjects I love, which is wonderful and fantastic.  The only problem with it is that when I love something, I want to do it.  I like demonstrating.  Oh, I hate watching demonstrations – but that’s double standards for you.  I know I’ll have to kill my urge to demonstrate all the time.  A lot of students like to do hands-on work, which means that the more time I spend showing, the less time they get to spend doing.

5. Much of the time, I find that I understand a problem in my head, but I don’t know how to vocalize it so that everyone else will understand.  So when I find an example of a similar problem/solution, I’ll use that instead of trying to say what’s in my head.  That doesn’t mean it will be helpful to everyone else, of course.  While an example may fit into the network of puzzle pieces in my brain, it won’t necessarily fit everyone else.  Instead of using examples, then, I should think of ways to explain things simply and effectively in my own words.  I already practice doing this – anytime I encounter a particularly complex idea, I try to distill it down to its most basic forms so that anyone can understand it.

6. I am the sort of person who likes structure, realistic work, and well-executed ideas.  I sometimes have difficulty judging or understanding more experimental, expressive, or abstract work.  As a teacher, however, I need to be able to look beyond my own personal preferences to judge the actual worth of any piece I am given to mark.  Not everyone thinks or creates in the same way, and I believe it is essential for teachers to be open to all forms of creativity in their classrooms.  That is what I aspire to.

Can you see anything on the list that you think is or will be an issue for you, as future teachers?