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Creativity Tip #3: How to integrate creative thinking & problem solving into the classroom.

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Today's creativity tip revolves around the idea of transformation. Thinking in terms of transformation will allow your students to consider how one thing/idea can metamorphose into another.

creative thinking, creative problem solving, learning and teaching

First of all, the teacher could introduce the concept of metamorphosis in terms that students are familiar with or will understand:

  • The caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly:

  • Heat and pressure over thousands of years may turn tiny organisms into petroleum and coal into diamonds:

  • The teacher could also reference the Greek myth that sees the nymph Daphne transformed by her father into a laurel tree so that she can escape the infatuation of Apollo:

  • Franz Kafka's book entitled, Metamorphosis, could also be introduced to students. This book relays the story of a salesman, Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a huge insect:

Thinking about how one idea or product can be transformed into another is fun and can result in a brilliantly creative result.

  • Consider the way that gin companies used their raw products to create hand sanitiser during the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Vacuum-maker Dyson, also pivoted its product offering to developing and producing ventilators to support health care providers:

  • Electronics giant Sharp adapted existing clean-room production facilities for LCD display panels to make 150,000 surgical masks a day:

Now that the concept of metamorphosis has been visualised and discussions have taken place to identify the core idea: a change in form, appearance, alteration of function, character or circumstance, the class can move on to an activity.

What follows is one idea of how this creative thinking technique can be used in an English classroom and was prompted by my 13 year old's recent reading of the Shakespearean play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here are the Cliff notes in video format if the play is unfamiliar to you:

When the class has completed a series of lessons reading, discussing and writing about the play, they can begin to think about the play in terms of metamorphosis.

For example, the students could be asked to rename the play to convey either the plot or the main themes. They may come up with 'Fools Fall in Love' or 'Potions of Love' or 'Fools Rush In' or 'Blinded by Something Like Love'. They could be asked to design a book cover to illustrate the 'new' title, such as:

By adding a sub title or image the teacher can identify if the students have understood the main premise of the play and its themes. It is also an opportunity to engage in some creative graphic design. The students could also write the blurb on the back to really show how they might write persuasively and convey their understanding of the plot.

A next step could be to create a character journey for a character that students select. The students could be given a road map to plot the journey in terms of the story 'beats' or moments of note (the call to adventure, the characters that the protagonist meets along the way, the challenge, the result, how the character transforms (and experiences a metamorphosis) by the end of the play.). Here is an overview of the hero's journey:

Another creative task that could be introduced on the theme of metamorphosis could be to ask students to transform the play into a product. This sounds crazy, but it would be fun:

The premise behind this idea is that students would need to consider the themes of the play, the characters, author etc to create a product that evokes these aspects.

The teacher could ask "If A Midsummer Night's Dream was a product or service, what could it be?"

So, they may come up with a perfume called 'Puck's Potion' or a dating agency called 'Midsummer Matches' or an opticians called called Love-in-idleness. The students would then elaborate on the products or services to identify the connections with the plot/author/theme etc.

All of these tasks encourage creative thinking and problem solving. They are low stakes and have the potential to be quite humourous. I can imagine there may be a great deal of hilarity with some of these tasks and this can build rapport and relationships between students and with the teacher. When we laugh together with our students we are creating a positive, warm and encouraging environment in which students see teachers as human. This approach does not involve direct teaching as the students are directing their approach. Student voice and choice is always at the heart of effective creative thinking and teaching. These rich experiences are what students and teachers remember because of the shared human experience of connection.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post or if it sparked an idea for you, please like and/or comment below.

Connect or follow me on LinkedIn: I write about mindset, creative, critical and strategic thinking, collaboration, communication and teaching and learning.

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