How do we stimulate creativity in students when so many of them are trapped in a world of computer animation?
How do we stimulate creativity in students when so many of them are trapped in a world of computer animation? by Toni Galbraith
I do understand that this computer generated world is inevitable, but my eleven year old son still has a vivid imagination, even though every available second would be spent sat in front of a computer screen; if I let him. However, inside the classroom I have found that the most practical way to stimulate the imagination and boost creativity is to read, read, read and play word games. These simplistic little things help to boost students self-esteem and often gives them the motivation they need to be creative. This is because most students struggle to put pen to paper when faced with any writing task. I do feel students should want to share their own artificial world, that is illustrated and brought to life through their writing, but lack the confidence to do so!
I feel really passionate about creative writing in children as it helps to stimulate the child’s mind and helps to increase their concentration levels. This is due to the fact that children can get absorbed into their own artificial world they have created; which is fantastic. Personally, I love watching children’s faces light up when they realise the possibilities are endless, with regards, to their writing and imagination. The students seem surprised to find that their imagination and their writing can be entwined together, so they are able to be as spontaneous as possible throughout their creative process.
For example, in my Key Stage 3 classes, I introduced the students to creative writing through the use of drama games. I wanted to encourage the students to develop deeper into their imaginations and discover their own creative thought process through words. We all sat around in a circle and I blind-folded each student and placed an item into their hands. This item could be anything from a button, a banana or even a key. The student had to describe the item in detail to the other students without actually saying what the item was. The students found this task hard, but extremely funny! The students then had to remove the blind-fold and create a detailed mind-map using all different adjectives to describe the weight, texture and colour of the item. The mind-map had the name of the item in the centre with numerous adjectives scattered around it. An example of this is illustrated below:
This brief example helps the students to visualise how one item can be described using different words. The students often worked in pairs for this exercise; which gave them the chance of seeing the object from another child’s perspective. This example is usually displayed on the white board to illustrate how one item can be described in detail.
The students were then given a short sentence on a piece of paper with an image on it. The students had to rewrite each sentence to ‘show not tell’ the reader what they meant. An example of this was presented onto the white-board:
‘I talked quietly’ becomes ‘I whispered’
‘I shouted loudly’ becomes ‘I screamed’
‘I ran becomes ‘I sprinted’
‘The woman was upset’ becomes ‘The woman cried with loud uncontrollable sobs’
The students needed to realise the new sentence showed the reader the same information. Eventually, the students discovered that they were able to illustrate the characters emotions and feelings through words. However, I have noticed that the majority of Key Stage 3 students lack confidence and need constant reassurance and positive praise about their own creative ability. If this happens; then persistent positive praise is needed and guidance should be used with the lower ability students. To differentiate with regards to ability in a class, then this should be made to the child individually, either through simple sentences or asking them lots of open ended questions. This helps to encourage the child to carry on writing and to feel more confidant in their own ability. I really believe these writing prompts will help to boost the students confidence and help to encourage individual learning.
I display the following on the board and talk about the importance of sensory language in descriptive language. I ask the students to think about the importance of the five senses and we have a group discussion about how this sensory language will help in descriptive language.
The 20 minute writing task:
Although this is the main task of the lesson; it is often criticised by students. This is because these students are not engaged with the lesson or just lack clarity with the task. However, students who understand the task in hand are often the students who do not have writers block. I believe that each student needs to be given guidance which can take the form of a sentence. This sentence could be the start of a story or even the end sentence.
The following work was completed by a Year 9 student at the Hopewell centre. Although his original draft lacked confidence; the student has managed to redraft his work and it may look complete, but his tenses are a bit confusing. Nevertheless, the student has made an excellent attempt at writing a story from the following title:
Write a story, using first person, with the ending ‘there was no chance I could pass the examination now.‘
Below is an image of Charlie’s work
Do students enjoy reading poetry? Probably not! However, we try and illustrate to the student, how easy it is to read and interpret poetry. The technical stuff and the terminology will become clear to the student over a short period of time.
Poetry is something I feel really passionate about. I believe poetry illustrates to the students another creative process that uses words. Poetry is usually stignmatised for being boring. This is because students usually have misconceptions about poetry and feel poetry is full of love or Shakespeare language that they don’t understand. However, getting rid of these negative beliefs is hard, but reading children’s poetry illustrates to the students that poetry can take numerous forms, but most importantly, poetry can be fun and exciting!
The following example below is of Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem. The poem is found in his poetry collection titled ‘Quick, let’s get out of here.’
I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.
Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime and sit in the
corner of the playground
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it
and there’s that other kind of icing in
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
I thought of.
I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?
It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door
there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?
Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
it’s all crumbly.
So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into my mouth
Look at the cake again.
That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?
Take the knife
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.
A whole slice this time,
into the mouth.
Oh the icing on top
and the icing in the middle
ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.
I can’t stop myself.
I just take any old slice at it
and I’ve got this great big chunk
and I’m cramming it in
what a greedy pig
but it’s so nice,
and there’s another
and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips
and I’m stuffing myself with it
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.
I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
What shall I do?
I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife
and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?
So I do that
and creep creep creep
back to bed
licking my lips
with a lovely feeling in my belly.
In the morning I get up,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.
‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’
I’m still not breathing,
and she’s looking at me very closely now.
She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.
‘What’s that there?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate cake is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know? You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole
chocolate cake or not?
When? When did you eat it?’
So I told her.
and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
Now go. Get out.
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.
I always read this poem slowly, then re-read it, but with more pace. This is to show the students how poetry sounds when speaking slowly and more quickly. The students response is often mixed, but most of them enjoy listening to the poem. Nevertheless, the majority of students seem surprised when they realise this piece of writing is actually a poem. After I have read this poem out I often asked the students questions like:
Did you enjoy this poem? Why?
How did it make you feel? Why?
Did the poem sound different when I read it a second time? Why?
Would you know that this piece of writing was a piece of poetry; if I hadn’t have told you?
When I told you that we would be looking at a piece of poetry today; what did you think?
Have you changed your opinion on poetry? Why?
We then talk about the poem as a group and answer any questions the students may have.
I then display the following on the white board and give the students a copy to fill in with their own definition. I do this to find out what the students know and don’t know.
I give the students between 10-15 minutes to complete the table. For those students who are more able, I give them a copy of the completed table and let them compare their answers whilst we wait for the other students to catch up.
Recently, my Year 8 class have been working on the poem ‘Search for my tongue’ which is written by Sujata Bhatt. Originally, my class was disinterested by this poem, but after reading it as a group and discussing it, I found the students were engaged and seemed confident about voicing their own opinions and thoughts about the text. Therefore, I feel this is down to the students understanding the concept of PEE statements in their answers. Once the students grasp this notion; then they realise that their own opinion is crucial to everything and anything they want to say. My year 8 students have finally grasped that their personal thoughts and feelings towards a text is more important in their answers, as it illustrates to the reader, how the student has understood and interpreted the text. Therefore, I feel this confidence comes down to understanding the concepts of poetry and creative writing and students being given the opportunity to be heard.
Therefore, I have found that students need to believe in their own creative ability. I think that finding and inventing new practical ways to stimulate the imagination and boost creativity in students, can be achieved, if the teachers are willing to be as unique, creative and take chances in their lessons as the students need to be in their writing. I believe that students will develop a better understanding of the creative world around them if they are shown that interpretation of any text is about opinion and textual evidence to support this. Fundamentally, students communication skills will improve as they will feel confident when voicing their own opinions and they will feel able to take chances in their writing when faced with a new creative challenge. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but breaking away from the shackles of a computer generated world is crucial; to inspiring students to be creative thinkers in all aspects of their school life.