Revive Your Creativity

When I was in elementary school, I played outside almost every day with my next door neighbor. We created elaborate play schemes, including an outdoor “kitchen”, complete with mud pies. We also had fun reenacting one of our favorite books, Harriet the Spy. It was always an adventure and we had no trouble at all tapping into our imaginations. We played outside until dark, when our mothers called us inside. Then….somewhere, in the pre-teen angst of middle school, it all stopped. I moved away, and being cool with my peers was of far greater importance than playing. Self-consciousness ruled the day and “let’s pretend” was no longer ok.

As a veteran kindergarten teacher, I have always loved how quickly my students slip into “let’s pretend”.  I loved their conversations in the housekeeping center (also quite revealing into their home lives), I loved watching them create elaborate structures with blocks or legos and hearing their rich conversations as they did so. It also saddens me how too often in education, we “teach” away their creativity. We push for conformity rather than creativity. We silence the multiple voices and ideas, seeking only the “correct” one.

But, what if we didn’t? What if, instead, we dug deep into our own memories of play, let’s pretend, and creation and experienced those feelings again? What if, we let our feelings of self-consciousness go? What if we grabbed a box of crayons and colored again…or drew our own pictures? What if we silenced the voices that say, “I can’t draw, sing, play a musical instrument, etc…” What if we did it anyway? We tell our students to say “I will try” instead of “I can’t”. Why aren’t we doing the same?

In my last post, I talked about encouraging young children to create. The truth is, they need very little encouragement. They simply need the opportunities.  This post is aimed at YOU…yes, you. When was the last time you created something? I know, I know…you don’t have time. Who does? Do it anyway. You can even create something your students can use so that you kill two birds, so to speak.  I shared the four student-creation books in my last post. In this post, I am sharing a free, multi-touch book I created in iBooks Author. It’s an emergent reader, called Spinning Spiders, in the iBook Store. It also has some teacher resources at the end of the book in case you want to create your own. (See what I did there???)

I’ve written other posts about creating “Just Right Books” for your students. You can see them here, here, and here.  Creating books for your students engages them as readers and allows you to meet them right where they are.

So, as you are gearing up for a new school year, remember, everyone can create-even YOU!

Everyone Can and Should Create

I must admit, I’ve been in a creative desert for a long time, which has been reflected in my lack of blog posts this past year. I think we can all relate to that feeling of “I got nothin’…” Recently, I was able to spend the week in Austin, Texas  with Apple Distinguished Educators from around the world and our theme for the week was “Everyone Can Create”. We were immersed in creative activities involving photography, drawing, video, and music. It was, without a doubt, a much needed kick in the creative pants!

I’ve always been a firm believer that our children should be content creators and not content consumers. I’ve seen first hand the creativity of the kindergarten students I taught and was amazed at their seemingly endless well of imagination. However, my own creation abilities had layers of dust heaped upon them and needed to be unearthed and energized. The new creation tools in Apple’s Pages and Keynote on the iPad make creation easy for even the most creativity-challenged individual. Using tracing of opaque images and shapes, and adding detail, bring ordinary pictures to life. Here are a couple of my attempts. 

I uploaded a picture of my dog Coco into Keynote, lowered the opacity, traced around her and added the detail. Then pulled the original photo out, which can be deleted. In the second photo, in Keynote, I added the barn shape and the chicken shape. I traced around them, deleted the original shape, and added detail. With Keynote, I can then animate the shapes if I choose.

By incorporating creativity in student learning, we are activating their deeper learning pathways and bringing meaning to their learning. Apple is developing a comprehensive curriculum for creating and it should be available sometime this fall.

As part of my time in Austin, we were tasked to create a project around the Everyone Can Create theme. I teamed up with my good friend and fellow kindergarten teacher, Marc Faulder from the UK.  In our discussions over the years, we found so many people interested in doing some of the more elaborate projects we were doing with our young students but they had not done a lot of the scaffolding necessary to get to that point. Their responses were, “My students can’t do that.” So, our project became the creation of four guides for the teachers of younger children in the areas of photography, drawing, video, and music. These guides serve as a road map and they are divided into activities for the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year. These activities are adaptable to all grade levels in elementary school and to the particular context of your classroom thematic units. You can access each of the four, free books in the iBook Store or click on the links below:

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Video

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Music Making

You will notice there are some of the same activities across all of the books. This is intentional and is meant to show how the same activity can incorporate a variety of methods of creativity.

So if you are in a creative desert, I encourage you to find the nearest oasis and try your hand at creating. Regardless of our adult shortcomings, kids never seem to tire of creating. We need to tap that source and encourage and develop it so they don’t wander in the wilderness with the rest of us!

Let’s get creative!