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Share Your Creative Strategies

What instructional strategies do you use to encourage creativity in your students?

This discussion post is part of the Adobe Education Exchange Professional Development workshop, Creativity in Today’s Classrooms: Implementing Creativity in the Classroom.

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Jenifer Pickens

Posted on 2/2/15 5:50:24 PM Permalink

In the Library: The library is not quiet, it does not stay constant, everything changes, and we have a "creative" station with paper, markers, little tools for play, etc.

Vickey Bolling-Witt

Posted on 1/23/15 9:03:32 PM Permalink

A few of the instructional strategies that I used to encourage creativity and my students are as follows;

• In the creative process – whether they are sketching out ideas for conceptual thinking course or for their illustration or design projects, I agree with the quantity, lack of criticism, utilizing the unusual, or combining imagery. I tell my students that they cannot be in the room with creativity and judgment at the same time. That they really cannot exist. First you must be creative without judging what you create. Once you have all those ideas out in the room, you can now move to judging whether those ideas have value and merit for the problem you're trying to solve.

• In order to achieve this I require 50 to 100 sketches, that they cannot judge this work – and the students support each other in this one which is great, utilizing the unusual can be working with metaphors, size and scale, unexpected imagery, and so on. And lastly combining imagery, which could be using apart from one object and placing it with another. So, for example – in my advanced drawing class which is for illustration and animation majors at the college, their first assignment is to create a figure that is one third human, one third animal/reptile/fish/whatever, and one third machine. This will result in unexpected imagery, That has gone through a hefty round of sketches in order to make it work.

• Working with metaphors is another great way to encourage creativity. This one is fun to do with digital imagery, and I have had my students research and bring to class at least 20 different metaphors that they found online. Then they have to turn one of those metaphors into a visual image. For example, she has two left feet. The visual image for this would be a woman dancing, but she has two left feet. This could then turn into an ad for dance studio. And the opportunities go on and on with this approach.

• Some of the classes go on for hours, so I will take my students out of the classroom, And using sidewalk chalk, we go out onto the parking deck and do mind mapping there on the pavement. There is a childlike, playful element to this – that seems to allow the students to be freer and more playful with their ideation. Sometimes just moving them out of the classroom and into a different space helps tremendously.

Dorothy Yu

Posted on 1/22/15 12:37:58 AM Permalink

Graphic Organizers

A one-page pictorial chart to organize information or ideas. A Fishbone map (also called a herringbone map) is used to explore the many aspects or effects of a complex topic, helping the student to organize their thoughts in a simple, visual way. The process of creating Fishbone diagram requires the student to review what they already know in order to organize their ideas. It helps the student focus on the topic, and identify areas where the student may struggle (where the fishbone is difficult to fill out).

In my classroom I often use this strategy in planning a science investigation. I asked students to first fill in a fishbone map individually followed by a brief discussion with their group members, students would only carry out their investigations when they reached group consensus.

I found Concept Mapping really useful as a review at the end of a topic. Students created a concept map in small groups then they had to study someone else concept maps, indicating if they agreed, disagreed (X) or confused (?).

New strategies I would like to have a go:

1. Group strategies: Prompts to choose your leaders and Coloured Numbered Dots

2. Creative Problem Solving: Marshmallow Challenge

Leigh Nankervis

Posted on 1/21/15 1:24:51 AM Permalink

The SCAMPER idea is great, a real attempt to get everyone thinking outside the box. I was thinking as an introductory lesson, groups could create portraits. Step one. Draw a head. Step two draw a body. Put these in a lucky dip.These can be as weird as wonderful as you like.

Then with a table full of decorative tat, students are encourage to select a body and a head and procede to do a self portrait by gluing, drawing adjusting...playing, adding props. Later the class will share the why's and wherefores of their portraits and in so doing, tell each other about themselves...both verbally and visaually.

I think it sounds fun. hope it works!

Brainstorming only works with groups, so it is important to develop an area of NO JUDGEMENT. Getting the kids to not feel too self conscious (Easier with younger kids. Older ones, not so easy). After session above, hopefully students will trust each other enough to really bash out some wild ideas. I am developing a project to develop a poster for an that's important to the group.

Gina Debuque

Posted on 1/11/15 10:41:54 PM Permalink

I like to have students create projects that are multi-disciplinary, e.g., math integrated with visual arts and dance.

I have also had success with group presentations with defined boundaries/expectations, similar to how actors are given exercises in which the situation is defined and they have to be creative within the given limits. For example, present a story using 3 scenes and only one sentence per scene.

I would like to try SCAMPER for my Creativity unit and 6 Thinking Hats for my Water and the Changing Oceans unit.

Michelle Mondragon

Posted on 12/30/14 11:59:36 PM Permalink

Mind mapping, creative problem solving, brainstorming.

Yone Santos

Posted on 11/28/14 12:42:37 PM Permalink

I’ve decided to try out two of them with my group, S.C.A.M.P.E.R. and Six Thinking Hats. After discussing a news item about the Hendo, a hoverboard (see, I presented the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. strategy and asked students to think of an object that could be transformed into something useful for them that is not available at the market at the moment. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to refine
their idea, but I was very pleased to see a student who had said she was not creative at all provide the final solution for the group. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I haven't been able to try out the Six Thinking Hats yet.

Thomas Lerch

Posted on 9/1/14 5:32:58 AM Permalink

I will certainly read the ideas presented in this resource. One thing which has always worked well for me with students, if you let them be the "teacher". So every Morning I would select by random another students (but not the same student twice, until everybody had his/her chance) and then I would give them between 15 min. to 30 min to be a teacher.

Some students are very shy and struggle and not used to speak in front of others. Some students enjoy it and that why I am flexible with the timing. I would give them a topic to discuss or simply ask the "teacher" to ask questions to their students. In my experience most of the students have always taken this task very seriously and would ask difficult questions. It is also interesting how thet relate different to on of their own, then compared to the teacher.

With this technique, I can assess the teachers" ability to speak in front of others, lead a discussion or ask appropriate questions and manage the group. For me the exercise is more focused on the students who acts as a teacher. In addition I will also see where others students need revision because they can't answer the questions or avoid the discussion.

Melinda Cowen

Posted on 8/27/14 1:07:24 PM Permalink

When working with students in problem solving I first have to set the stage and make sure that the environment for problem solving is right. Too many adults have a tendency to shoot down ideas before they get out of each other's mouth. (IT will not let us, we have always done it this way, our boss won't let us, I can't etc.) So, we have a few ground rules about fostering independent thinking. Can't is thrown out the door. No idea is foolish or bad enough not to be written down. List all the ideas on a surface so everyone can see them together. Once everyone feels they have a good pool of ideas, have them set the ideas in two sides...those ideas that will better meet the goal and those ideas that may not be feasible at this time (because of cost, not invented yet, too dangerous for the purpose of the goal, does not meet the goal, illegal etc.) Then explore the ideas that are left to see which ones come closer to the goal. Just as there are many ways to achieve the same process in Photoshop, I can click the tool or I can use its shortcut, or I can use another tool with a certain setting that accomplishes the same thing, there are more than one way to achieve a goal. The trick to learning is not thinking about failure, but rather thinking about the thinking process as a hit or miss on a target. Don't get emotionally involved (frustrated) when the idea does not work the way it was implemented. Rather, see it as a step in the process of elimination, ok this idea did not work the way I implemented it, what if I add or change it, then what happens. We use this process of elimination in science all the time, sometimes just rearranging how we implement the idea solves the problem...similar to what gets added first in chemistry, the acid or the water, one way can blow something up in your lab, the other way allows the experiment to be successful. We need to teach ourselves to give ideas time to process, allow for them to not meet the goals the first time, and feel free to explore unusual streams of thought from time to time.

Debra Tampone

Posted on 8/22/14 4:38:44 AM Permalink

I strive to foster independent thinking from the very first day of school. The first activity is to carry out 5 or 6 very simple prompts however they wish to interpret the instructions. They get to use a choice of materials, crayon, marker pencils, paint. Sample prompts are: draw a line with movement, create an organic shape, design a curve. We then view all the work and discuss what we see. Students learn right from the start that the works are all different yet all have the same elements. They learned how to interpret an idea and make a decision on how to execute it. They learned that each one was a success and in turn they learned confidence in taking a risk on trying something unknown and sharing it with others. Throughout the year I encourage internal dialogue and journal writing to help them see that the process is often more important than the outcome. In addition I change seats every quarter to encourage students to get to know each other and then culminate with a group project.

LaDale Whaley

Posted on 8/1/14 1:22:04 AM Permalink

Currently I've used mind-mapping to help encourage discussions and blogging to help my student explore topics more.

Jarvis Grant

Posted on 7/23/14 8:39:32 PM Permalink

I like the Creative Problem Solving because it allows the “team” to feel success or failure together as a group. Plus because the problem is so outlandish, there are no preconceived answers. I also like the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Challenges. It also pushes the participants to be more creative and intellectually flexible.

One strategy I use with art students is an assignment called 4 Black Squares. Use 4 black squares to illustrate a concept visually. The concepts are things like, Order, Playful, Increase and Congestion. Another one I use is the Wilderness Survival challenge. Students are divided into groups and must come up with a survival plan for a two night stay in the wilderness. They are given a choice of three non-electronic tools and as much rope as they want and all groups must agree on the time of day to begin the challenge.

Nectara Mircioaga

Posted on 7/20/14 8:10:51 PM Permalink

Mind Mapping and Brainstorming.

Frank Vandenburg

Posted on 7/20/14 4:40:01 AM Permalink

I typically use cases/scenarios and role play to develop interaction between participants and stir some creative thinking. Based on what I've read, I think the Flip your PD (I have thought of this in the past, but as a "pre-assignment", the "flipped" idea will be much more motivating for some participants) and the Living Likert (which I think will generate a great deal of interaction and discussion) will be incorporated into the next session I deliver.

Brian Hillier

Posted on 7/19/14 2:10:09 PM Permalink

Stephanie Davidson

Posted on 7/17/14 8:25:19 PM Permalink

I usually use the Content Mapping and Brainstorming. However I have found a couple that I want to try: The Chaos Activity (This is an energizing way for introductions or at the end of an activity. It is quick, requires a lot of movement and gets people back in their seats in no time.) and Brain Dead Computer User (One person does the thinking and talking. The other partner is working on the computer. If the person on the computer talks, then they must switch.).

Chaos Activity could incorporate reviews. Instead of playing music, the last one sitting down could be required to answer a question.

Brain Dead Computer could be adjusted to require them to answer questions as well. A preview quiz could be given to groups and the first one finished gets a prize or something.

Kathleen Bailey

Posted on 7/15/14 8:19:33 PM Permalink

Although I never heard of SCAMPER, that is a summary of how we create our cross curricular projects. We also use Thinking Maps (concept mapping) to help our students create their plan and structure. We use open-ended projects so each submission is unique.

Ernest Whiteman

Posted on 7/8/14 6:47:06 AM Permalink

My two ideas:

The most common one I use is asking "Where are we?" every time I come to the class room - It is used to have students give self-assessment of the project, which typically leads to larger discussions on problems and ways to solve the problems. If anything, it reminds the students of where they are in the process and they can see the progress they make, which makes a huge difference.

The other is one I have been using recently, "Sharing Out" - Every day have students share a particular media - favorite movie, tv show, anime, book, or music. I also ask the students to convince the rest of the "awesomeness" of their favorite thing without saying "it's my favorite thing", "It is awesome, et. al." or "you have to try it." You know, using caveats and limits. Also, they each have to contribute a thought on a discussion point, on such things as messaging in commercials, etc. Just simple discussion points to jog the thinking gears.

I would like to try SCAMPER to see the results of taking and rearranging.

Group strategies I am used to as students typically crowd into groups to work to get their voice and their ideas heard. I have lablled it "clique-ing" as sometimes it can get distracting.

Dr Dawn Piper

Posted on 6/11/14 5:14:54 AM Permalink

SCAMPER is one creative exercise that I would utilize in my Technology courses because working in groups and collaborating with others is much needed in college environments .Another relative element would be team or group work because project based learning has a greater success rate .

Grant Godfrey

Posted on 4/24/14 6:17:47 AM Permalink

I like the strategies of SCAMPER and Creative Problem solving. They sound interesting and I am sure my students will appreciate doing things differently for a change.

I also like to use mind mapping and group work in my classroom to encourage students to become the teachers. They can come up with ideas and work with others to develop their thoughts.

Sue Alexander

Posted on 3/30/14 12:21:15 AM Permalink

I loved reading through all the strategies on this list...even those not about creativity. There were many I'd forgotten about and look forward to reviving

Six Thinking hats was new to me (even though published in'd I miss that?). I like the targeted thinking from a variety of perspectives. Brainstorming and mind(concept) mapping are also perennial favorites in the Art classroom.

Our mind maps are beautiful artworks in their own right, as they are primarialy colorful images with just a few words for emphasis (see for inspiration). We call them Beautiful Minds and display them along with the artworks they inspire. Another favorite creativity builder is our "Junk Box" engineering challenge. Students are given a collection of randomness and the instructions are simply: Create a semi-functional object using all the pieces. We're very long on the SEMI, but the explanations can be as creative as the objects.

Ahmed Ali Moselhi

Posted on 2/13/14 6:42:59 AM Permalink

Growth Thinking: After developing Creative concept map for the requirements students start from a unique point till reaching 100% of all properties assumptions in one design. evaluation will be based on how much my student reaches the perfection.

The problem when we see a creative design we just say "Wow creative" we ignore sometimes creativity during design process starting from gathering requirements,

Actually articulate the requirements is the most important part, it is the seed and designer's life-power, then catch an unexpected-relative start point to map you art there.

Mats Soderberg

Posted on 9/24/13 11:42:16 AM Permalink

My creative strategy is to show the students examples from published stuff, and use project-based learning and try to get them inspired and work on different projects divided into small production groups

I my self also learn from other educators

Colleen Velasquez

Posted on 9/21/13 2:10:53 AM Permalink

I'm going to add the Six Hats, and the guided inquiry. I teach history and I think these will be the most readily adaptable to my classroom. I also use Mind Mapping and find this has great rewards for the students. I like the post where Christina talks about the encouragement. I also believe in this. I told my students this year that they were specially chosen for me, because I am the best teacher and they are the best students. I keep reminding them that we have to show the rest of the school how this is done. I have had great success with this so far. I also tell them we need to think beyond the box, not just outside of it. They seem to like this and are responding well.

christina conquest

Posted on 9/20/13 6:21:02 AM Permalink

1. S.C.A.M.P.E.R.: Substitute something; combine your subject with something else; Adapt something to your subject; Modify your subject in some fashion; Put it to some other use or context; Eliminate something from it; Rearrange it


I would utilise these two strategies in my class when they are developing graphics for a video. We have been developing meditation videos and they have to find the images and the themes for writing or effect.
I would like to see them interrelate other areas of their lives. Visually represent their thoughts about meditation. Before hand we could do concept maps to share how we think and feel about the same topics.

Another two strategies I would incorporate are:

Model how to bring in new ideas; to show open ended possibilities, to add themes. Change limited thinking, eg I am needing to show more. They relate to it and they are inspired. I feel the kids are benefitted.

2. " Its a given!!" They are so talented and they believe that they have something to offer and they try. They believe and they create. I believe enhanceing the students belief in their own ability to create is really so important in these times, when they are being challenged in so many directions. Portray the unending scope and vastness that they have within. They need the nudge!

Kay Loehr

Posted on 9/11/13 10:49:53 PM Permalink

Teaching is a self-paced school makes it difficult to have group interaction. With a number of subjects at any given time in the same classroom and students in the same subject all in a different place on the syllabus group projects are not always possible without slowing down progress. After rethinking this assignment I will add SCAMPER and Six Thinking Hats in my syllabi. Both of these can be used with a group or individual.. By teaching these processes to my students, they will be able to constructively evaluate each others process without being on “the very same project”. This will facilitate students becoming better judges of processes and products as well as being exposed to a variety of topics and viewpoints. Self-paced classes allow for creative time. Beginning now I will make a concerted effort to continually encourage sensible risks as well rewarding creative ideas, projects & products.

john sobol

Posted on 8/8/13 7:14:35 PM Permalink

Hi all,

I am posting to introduce you to an innovative creative strategy for use in your classrooms. It is called The Media League ( and it is a competitive creativity league for high schools. Basically it is very similar to a varsity sports league - with players, coaches, teams, games, champions, etc. - except that instead of being for the best athletes in school it is for the best artists in school. You can also start a team in your classroom and compete in our league.

Last year we ran our first season and it was modest but still very successful. We had student teams upload paintings, music, animations, videos, photographs, poems and more. The champion was from J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey. Here is their team page:

The 2nd Media league season will be starting this fall and we invite all high school teachers to start a Media Team at your school. Participation is 100% free. All you need to do to get started is register and select your school.

The Media League offers the following benefits to students and teachers:

· Pedagogocal innovation
· Project-based learning platform
· Increased student engagement
· Leadership development
· Digital training and career development for students

As with all varsity sports, The Media League is a great opportunity for kids to excel, to gain respect and even to launch professional careers. And it invites each school to celebrate its creativity by encouraging all students to participate in The Media League, either as players or as loyal fans of the school team.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out The Media League and to get your team started.
John Sobol

Robert Cocanougher

Posted on 8/2/13 4:14:20 PM Permalink

When teaching a course that requires creativity I use the list below. How you use the list below depends on the project being considered. Keep good ideas going.

brainstorming: any of a number of problem-solving techniques that are designed to expand ideas and encourage creativity. List making, mapping, associative thinking, and metaphorical thinking are common strategies used.

divergent thinking: an open-ended problem-solving strategy. Starting with a broad theme, the artist or designer expands ideas in all directions.

convergent thinking: a problem-solving strategy in which a predetermined goal is pursued in a linear progression using a highly focused problem-solving process. Six steps are commonly used: 1. define the problem, 2. do research, 3. determine your objective, 4. devise a strategy, 5. execute the strategy, 6. evaluate the results.

critique: any means by which the strengths and weaknesses of designs are analyzed.

cause-and-effect critique (or formal analysis): a critique in which the viewer seeks to determine the cause for each visual or emotional effect in a design. For example, the dynamism in a design may be caused by the diagonal lines and asymmetrical balance used.

compare/contrast critique: a critique in which similarities and differences between two designs are analyzed. Often used in art history classes to demonstrate differences in approach between artists.

descriptive critique: a critique in which the viewer carefully describes what he or she sees when observing a design.

objective criticism: the assessment of strengths and weakness in a design based solely on the visual information presented.

subjective criticism: the assessment of strengths and weaknesses in a design based on nonobjective criteria, such as the narrative implications of an idea, the cultural ramifications of an action, or the personal meaning of an image.

metaphorical thinking: the use of metaphors or analogies to create visual or verbal bridges.

recontextualization: a postmodern practice in which the meaning of an image or object is changed by the context in which it is placed.

Brian Hillier

Posted on 7/19/14 2:37:32 PM Permalink

Hi Robert,
I teach photography and I'm really excited about this list you have created! Can I use some of it in my class? ... especially your critique points.

marcia blanco

Posted on 7/23/13 3:37:12 PM Permalink

I really like that Marshmallow tower problem. I plan to use that on the first day of school to introduce them to some of the deeper aspects of what they will be expected to develop in my class. I have my students meet with me as a class once a week (over muffins or bagels) to talk about some of the problems that they may be struggling with and to discuss the upcoming projects. We work on a rubric together to decide just what creativity and effective problem solving "looks like" so that the rubric has relevance. (I've had problems with the kids never even looking at the rubric. It has held no meaning for them, so that needed to change.)

Fo our video unit, the unit builds starting with a simple editing project. (I give them movie trailers and they re-edit them into new trailers. It's amazing what they come up with.) Each kid then partners with others to create a music video. This introduces them to storyboarding, collaboration, videography and video editing without having to worry too much about sound editing. The final project is a class project where the entire class figures out a basic theme to be shot and once all the video is taken, it's pooled and each kid makes his/her own version. It's extremely collaborative but each kid is still responsible for their own project.

Lynne Kesselman

Posted on 7/12/13 1:39:37 AM Permalink

Any and all images students use for their web sites must be created by the student. So even simple monthly calendars are all very different due to their self-made banners and graphics, unique color combinations, etc. We also print in color and display their work in the hallways, and students take great pride in creating gallery-worthy projects. They often hear other students critiquing their work as they pass through the halls, and look forward to changing our displays throughout the year with new and better projects.

When practical, I avoid showing students what their "finished product" should look like, so that they can start without a preconceived image. This temporarily disconcerts a few students, but once they think it through for a few minutes, they get quite creative.Those students will frequently ask to work other projects in a unique way.

Using our computer lab management software, I frequently display student work to the class, either in mid-process as they are creating or when they are finished. This helps all the students see how others are creating, drawing and using various techniques in their design.

My students always enjoy our high school version of "Show and Tell" when each student's work gets shown on the projection screen and the students vote for the best one. Winner(s) get bonus points and a token prize, and there is usually a good deal of variety in their finished products. We also use our Show and Tell process for peer critiques, in tandem with a written compliment sandwich such as: I really liked how you ____/ Your work could be improved by ___/ I also really liked _______. Students often compliment each other on their creativity, incorporate their peer critiques when revision time comes, or ask to hear how effects were created by others, leading to many impromptu student-led lessons.

During our unit on Fireworks, students select a unique technique handout (with varying levels of difficulty) and can select their own ideas and images to use. After they finish, they then need to teach the technique to the a partner. Those two then pick one technique to teach to the class together (but they usually want to teach both techniques). By mid-year, my students are very comfortable instructing a high-quality lesson at their workstation or on the classroom projector and do not hesitate to collaborate and encourage each other, fostering a lot of very creative outcomes.