Teaching Creativity

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Reading (Literature)

Social Studies – History (People Who Make a Difference), Science – Ecology

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock

Painting Techniques, Drawing, Automatism, Action Painting

The other day, I was perusing Pinterest and ran across this Cindy Foley TED video on fostering creativity. Her talk reminded me of an art history course I took last semester. Our instructor highlighted the artists whose ideas/works changed art in each century. These are the kinds of students Cindy Foley wants us to develop, the thinkers and doers.

A few days later my daughter texted me a picture from the Vancouver Art Museum, where she was about to enter the  Picasso, The Artist and his Muses Exhibit. I thought to myself, now, Pablo Picasso is Cindy Foley’s ultimate “Master Builder”.  Through the years, his art changed more than any other artist I know. His art changed so often that it’s labeled by periods. There was the Early Period, the Blue Period, the Rose Period, Cubism, the African Period, Classicism, Surrealism, War and the Later Period. He also worked in many different mediums: drawing, painting, collage, mixed media, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics. He was inspired by animals, birds, people, war, African images, music, other artists and, as evidenced by this latest exhibit, his muses (wives/girlfriends). “Wooooo!”, what a mouthful! Wouldn’t you say that he was an idea man who wasn’t afraid to use them?  A great Picasso web site that shows examples of the ways Picasso manifested all these “ideas” can be found here. (I thoroughly enjoyed googling each muse’s name and finding a special page for each lady on the above mentioned Picasso website . It was intriguing  to see the paintings inspired by each woman.)  An excellent book for introducing Picasso to intermediate level students is  Pablo Picasso, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia. It’s great for introducing some of his periods. “Nude Alert! “Yes there are some nudes in this book. Simply skip those pages. Venezia has written a whole series of Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Arts books. I love how informative they are and the bit of humor he puts in each one. For the younger folk, Picasso’s Trousers by Nicholas Allen shows some of Picasso’s periods. Again, “Nude Alert” and again, skip those pages. It doesn’t take away from the story. I’ve also talked about some of Picasso’s different ideas in the following posts: Family ChangesThe Dog Days of SummerArtist’s Cats, and Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!)

Now that I’ve expounded ad nauseam about Picasso, let’s talk about ways we can help students become thinkers and doers. After viewing a few more of Foley’s videos, I found that her museum no longer provides lesson plans for teachers.  Instead they offer mini think tank type workshops. She talked about one her son attended where the students planned and created a haunted house. Students brainstormed what they would include and then researched how to complete the things they didn’t know how to do. This format would tie in nicely with research projects. For example, in my post, Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!),  I suggest that students design their own endangered species or extinct species museum. If you are studying an endangered species and plan to do a research project anyway, why not combine the two? Foley suggests looking into Harvard’s Project Zero. I would choose one of the Artful Thinking questioning techniques  found here. I’ve seen teacher’s in our district using See/ Think/Wonder. Cindy also suggests using the same questioning technique at the end of the project. So, what is a student’s favorite museum? What do they like about it? Is it hands on activities, computer games, statues, etc?  (For Younger students who have never visited a museum, you might read Maisie Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins. For older students, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil-Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg would be a good literature book to read to the class and then visit this Met website.) Depending on your time restraints, students could merely design or actually construct a classroom museum. So basically, I think Cindy is saying try more open ended projects in themes that interest your students. The motivation will be there and help with the “fear of ambiguity” concept. Let the students be the idea generators and the teacher the facilitator.

I was also thinking, we need to try to do more projects where we allow our student’s to use their imaginations. Remember when Foley’s daughter got the “mud” image incorrect and said it was “art”?  You could do a project built around different interpretations of accidental or unintentional images. (By the way, do you know the first artist to make accidental art? Why it was  Jackson Pollock . Love this Pollock Mati and Dada video.) A great book fostering this kind of thinking is The Oops Book  by Barney Saltzberg. [If this book had been around while I was still teaching, I definitely would have  used it at the beginning of each year to teach the ecology skill of reusing or repurposing.] Students can see that there is more than one way to interpret an image. Some accidental or oops techniques may be found herehere  and here . You can also find many more unintentional painting methods on my painting Pinterest page found here. After creating some accidental art pieces, students can study them and brainstorm what their image looks like. Students can then use markers or paint to outline and create details and bring their image to life.

We all want our students to be the best they can possibly be. In this time of accountability in education, it’s often difficult to find time to teach in this fashion. After reading this post, I hope you can see the importance of creative thinkers for our future and that of our children. Hopefully, this post has provided some small ways to foster creativity. What ways do you encourage creativity in your classroom? I’d love to hear. Simply click on this post’s title , scroll down to the bottom and leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Come back soon!


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