Before I list some very helpful and powerful exercises to encourage creativity, let’s take a moment to consider what constitutes creativity, why we aspire to encourage creativity in the first place and what is required from the person who wishes to encourage creativity through exercises, be it her own creativity or that of others.
Definition of Creativity
If one wishes to encourage creativity, it is advised that she first has a clear definition of this term. However, Creativity is an illusive and complex term that seems to defy definition, so let me list some options and choose what fit you most. Creativity has to do with original and flexible thinking, the ability to pay attention to details, the ability to cope with uncertainty. Creative individuals possess a high motivation to overcome obstacles and solve problems, the willingness to take calculated risks, the desire to work hard in turn for recognition.
Benefits of Creativity
Encouraging creativity through exercises is a proven way to develop young minds. Weaving creativity exercises into children’s education greatly improves their chances of becoming successful and constructive adults who are able to cope more aptly with a rapidly changing world. An environment that encourages creativity is also a solid foundation for mental health. Creativity exercises cultivate highly motivated students who are less prone to adverse psychological states such as stress and boredom.
Creativity Exercises – What Is Required of the Teacher
First and foremost: you have to practice what you preach, you have to walk the talk, or in other words, if you want to encourage someone’s creativity, be creative! Show them. Don’t tell them. Be a role model for exercising creativity and they will follow.
Creativity is to be handled with respect and care. Therefore, you have to create a special and suitable physical environment for creativity exercises. Such environment should be comfortable and enabling, and guarded from outside disruptions.
What’s even more important than the physical environment is the emotional one. Your responsibility is to create a safe place to express ideas, make mistakes, be silly, and not be judged or be subjected to ridicule. I can’t stress this enough. Passing judgment kills creativity. Eliminate corrections and advice to a minimum. Abandon the right and wrong, black and white, good and bad mentality. Enable your students to fearlessly express their thoughts, their individuality. To achieve a safe environment for self expression, be sure to incorporate in your creativity exercises the following ingredients: humor, laughter, music, art, drama, dance, and movement.
Some of the following creativity exercises require certain materials. Be sure to provide these materials. You should probably provide additional materials that are not directly related to your planned exercises, in case your students will come up with fresh ideas and require materials to realize them.
Expose your students to creative artwork in order to inspire them and wet their appetite, but beware not to over do it. You want to give your students ideas, to jump start their creative muscles; you want them to be encouraged, not discouraged.
Creativity Exercise #1 – Image Streaming
This exercise is to be carried out in pairs or individually. The exercising student closes her eyes and asks herself a question. The exercising student then describes out loud her mental visual imagery either to another student or to a tape recorder. Describing of the mental images should be flowing and streaming. In the process of describing the images she sees in her mind, the student should concentrate on sensory details. For example, “I feel the softness of the fresh laundry”, “my feet are pressed against the cold tiles”, “I smell the rain-soaked air.” The student should aim to make her live or potential listener vividly experience what she sees. In order to develop and maintain the flow of streaming imagery, the student should ask herself new questions as to the nature of objects she sees in her mind and explore them in detail. Relaying the mental images should be done in a hastened pace to avoid judgment and critical thinking. Image streaming is to be exercised for at least 10 minutes each time. Over time, this exercise improves creativity and intelligence.
Creativity Exercise #2 – Challenge Traditional Thinking
This exercise can be practiced in a group or individually. Routine thinking is good for every day tasks, since you perform the task without employing your mind and wasting energy on the thinking process. For example, if you take the same route to work every day, you soon drive on auto-pilot. If, however, you have a task that requires you take a different route, then you have to concentrate and be aware of the left and right turns you make. If your thoughts drift, you will find yourself going unintentionally in the regular route. If you wish to exercise creativity in solving problems, you have to stay clear of routine thinking. This can be achieved by forcing the mind to find new routes. Instructions: make a list of words and write each word on a card. For each word instruct the students to come up with 2 related words and write these down on separate cards as well. You now have groups of three words each. And now for the creative part: randomly pick two unassociated words and instruct your students to come up with an association between the two seemingly unrelated words. This will force their thinking process to form an unfamiliar route, a connection between two dots that were unconnected until now. Forcing our mind to find new trails that connect A and B is exactly what enhances creativity. Along the same lines, you can try these variation: make a basic outline map of the United States without state names. Instead of state names, write down names of world countries. For example, instead of Texas write Canada, instead of California write France. And so on. Now ask your students to find associations between the state and the country. Remember that we are not after any correct answer. We are exercising this in order to create new roads. So don’t test your students’ knowledge. Encourage them to come up with any association they can think of. It can relate to culture, economy, language, but it can also relate to the spelling of the names or to their pronunciation. Be open.
Creativity Exercise #3 – The Gods Must Be Crazy
An African Bushman, unaware of white culture, discovers an empty Coca Cola bottle in the Kalahari Desert. The bushman closely examines this mystical object (casually dropped by a passing pilot), wondering what it is good for. He then tries blowing into it, and is very pleased to learn that it makes a noise. In this creativity exercise you encourage your students to become Bushmen. I mean it. You need to collect 5 to 10 props. You display a prop to your students and ask them to find a new use for it. This exercise encourages creativity since it forces the thinking process to erase or ignore what is known and come up with fresh ways of looking at something familiar.
Creativity Exercise #4 – Music’s Story
Play a piece of classical music, preferably one that your students don’t know. Dim the lights, instruct your students to close their eyes and listen closely to the music. The music tells a story, it tells about the weather, about a poor or rich man, about mad love that is now dying. Ask each student to follow every plot twist, every change of atmosphere. Then stop the music and ask your students to write down their stories, with as much detail as possible.