When are Students Creative?

The students in my room have determined that they are the most creative during recess and during Friday Free Choice.  Academically, they are the most creative in math.  Based on our curriculum and what I know of my kids, neither of these answers surprise me.

Every day after recess, my five and six-year old students share with me the stories of what they did while they were outside.  They create variations on Tag, pretend to be superheroes, princesses, and fish, and make up other games.  They get the wild ideas to try to go across the monkey bars backwards or while spinning in a circle on each bar.  During this time, they are unrestricted and free to play like the little kids that they are. The same is true for free choice time.  Shortly after pulling out a bin of dinosaurs, puppets, cars (and the city map rug that goes along with it), polydrons, or blank paper and crayons, the kids are creating again.  They organize their own play and create both independently and as part of a group.  They make sound effects, solve problems, and tell stories to one another.  They are engineers when they build castles and farms out of blocks.

It is no surprise that kids feel more creative in math than reading.  Our math curriculum and best practices support creativity.  Through the use of our Habits of Mind and Habits of Interaction and purposeful questioning, students create their own understandings of math, building number sense, patterns, and problem solving strategies.  They are encouraged to find multiple ways to do something and have to explain their thinking to one another.  In Kindergarten, kids learn to read and write, which is a huge accomplishment and a creative process, but when we talked about it, the kids didn’t think it was.  Our current reading doesn’t inspire creativity in them; it’s procedure and fact around the grammar rules of English.

When I put our two iPads in front of the kids and asked them how they thought we could use them to be more creative in our learning, they talked about watching videos.  Unsurprisingly, they didn’t think that they could create their own digital content.  The students in my class have very little access to technology, with all of them coming from very low socioeconomic homes.   As our district completes our digital conversion, it is apparent to me that I will need to find ways to incorporate digital media and technology into the lives of my students so that students know that they can create through another medium.  We can start with student-friendly web-based applications and move on to creating paper slide videos.  I’m anticipating that most digital content created will be a whole class activity, as opposed to students working in independent groups.  There are a lot of prerequisite skills needed (technologically, academically, and socially) before students can work in independent groups.  However, like all things in kindergarten, it’s a starting point for more complex skills in older grades.  My job will be to introduce and practice these basic skills to my students, allowing them to be creative in all subjects, not just math and free time.

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