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Teaching Creativity

Teaching Creativity

Since I have been teaching in the UAE, I have noticed a stark difference between American (ergo western children,in general) and my Arabic children when it comes to creativity. I might easily shrug it off to teaching ESL, but I co-teach so I get to observe their behaviors during Arabic and Islamic Studies.   Indeed, the children here spend more time running feral in play than plopped down in front of cartoons and computers, but that certainly wouldn’t account for the muted expression of curiosity or creativity, in fact, it would have made me think just the reverse since they have so much free play. Thus, it makes me beg the question: are we born naturally inquisitive and creative or are those attributes acquired through our culture?

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When given a box of legos (bricks), students rely on pictures of examples of things they can make before attempting to design something.

Many of us Western teachers have observed similar behavior in other grade levels. And, at home, when we might have been plagued with the endless amount of energy of questions and tangents of imagination our students would go on, we are absolutely desperate to get students to think for themselves, let a lone outside the box. I don’t mean for this observation to reflect poorly on our students, because they are bright and able, but perfection and high marks are what is really valued in this culture.  Whether a student writes a lovely poem or paints a beautiful painting is not as appreciated as an A on a paper. So I have to think that this is a cultural influence.

Since the Abu Dhabi Education Council is wanting to reform their schools to more western style approaches to learning, they are trying to shift from the more traditional methods into ones that will sponsor innovation and technology through critical thinking. Increasing inquisitiveness and creativity seem paramount to this task, so we have felt at a loss at how to systematically teach it.

Enter Harvard Project Zero! Through research done, they have created something called “Visible Thinking”, which they noticed that ” Often, we found, children (and adults) think in shallow ways not for lack of ability to think more deeply but because they simply do not notice the opportunity or do not care. To put it all together, we say that really good thinking involves abilities, attitudes, and alertness, all three at once. Technically this is called a dispositional view of thinking. Visible Thinking is designed to foster all three.”  (Visible Thinking)

I have been implementing many of their core routines and it has been interesting to actually gain insight into their perspectives and ideas.  Naturally, since I teach in a bilingual classroom, most of the responses are in their home language of Arabic, but my counterpart will translate their ideas to me.  It has been very helpful in cultivating a culture of deeper thinking, respect for different points of view, and looking closer at things. The easiest routine for my ELLs has been  I SEE, I THINK, I WONDER  .   I also really find Creativity Hunt to be another really interesting one that has a high level of engagement.

Overall, I really recommend teachers to take a look at their site because their are so many simple things that you can add to your lessons to increase creative thought and critical thinking–No matter the grade level.  I hope you take some time to check  out some of the material and implement some of the routines in your classroom.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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