Opportunities for creativity…

How can we provide better opportunities for learning to be expressed creatively?  Do students have choice or does everyone have to do the same thing in the same way? What possibilities are there for students to explore different media for creative expression? How is creativity encouraged and developed?

During our Year 6 PYP exhibition unit next term, students will explore how ‘Social inequities create a need for action in the world’.  Within this broad conceptual understanding, students will follow their areas of interest and decide on their own individual and small group inquiries. They will research and investigate their chosen areas independently, with support from teachers and mentors as required.

Instead of their usual weekly art and music classes, this year for the first time, students will further explore the central idea through a choice of art, drama, music, film, poetry or technology. While some of these will already naturally be incorporated into the students’ presentation of their learning, there will be a two hour block each week, devoted to a deeper exploration of their elected medium.

I was really excited by the possibilities of this when the idea was first conceived in collaboration with Elena and Dani, our art and music teachers. They were keen to work with kids exploring their preferred medium, rather than all 95 Year 6  students.  The idea was further developed in a chat with Jeremy McDonald on the other side of the world, who asked provocative questions to help me clarify both the rationale and the details. There was enthusiastic support from the Year 6 teachers and I’m well on the way to finding volunteers keen to facilitate each of the groups.

Yesterday I shared this idea  with a couple of young educators I know.  One suggested a range of creative ideas to deepen the students’ understanding of social inequity through creative exploration. I think if she was in Year 6 herself, she might struggle to choose which of the groups to participate in.

The other provoked me to think about kids who might not be interested in any of the options.  Will they choose film or technology simply because they are less interested in the arts, rather than because they find those options exciting? Will there be students who don’t like any of the options? Should we be offering something additional?

I know this plan is an improvement on the way things used to be, because

  • Students will choose their preferred creative medium.
  • They will have more time to explore it in a dedicated weekly two hour block.
  • There are some new options which are not part of their regular program.
  • They will collaborate with different people, rather than their usual class group and teacher.
  • They will gain a broader perspective  on the central idea and deepen their understandings through exploring it in other ways.
  • The exhibition will include performance and display of their creative expression.
But I’m still wondering how it can be further improved and refined.  So what do you think? Creative ideas, comments, advice, provocative questions and potential solutions will be welcomed!
Why plan with a small group in your own school, when there’s a whole world of creative people out there?

20 thoughts on “Opportunities for creativity…

  1. I had at least 20 grade 7 students who participated in march against HB87 (anti-immigration law) with 10-15 thousand other protesters recently in Atlanta, GA. I have had students speak to the school board about things they find unfair. I had two students speak to the mayor and chief of police about how they thought roadblocks were targeting Hispanics in our town.


    1. Hopefully this sorts of student initiated action will come out of their inquiries! I will write more about that as the unit unfolds. In this post, I was referring to the creative component… but there is lots more!!


      1. I got you. I was on my phone, and tried to make it short. I think what you are proposing in you classroom is what leads to the action that makes the learning real in the lives of young people. I don’t mean to imply there is an either/or situation here. It is a both/and issue. It is making your (and my) classrooms come to life for our kids.


  2. This is such a great idea! I am Emily, a student of EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. This will spike the students creativity and hopefully help them find something that they are interested in. I remember when I was in elementary school I loved having art class once a week, but when we had music class I never liked it. Mainly because I don’t know how to read music, I just liked to listen to it. So, for the students to be able to choose their own class, this will definitely create more excitement and interest while the students are in school! Great idea! I wish I had this growing up!


    1. Hi Emily!

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, exactly, there are always kids who have different preferences and we hope this way they will have an opportunity to explore one area in depth. The teachers like the idea of a group of kids who really care too!


  3. Perhaps each group or class could brainstorm themselves different ways and mediums in which they can explore their inquiry to broaden the options and cater for everyone.


  4. I like Aviva’s idea. What tools can be used to explore…not just share their learning. As we discussed, I think the art, drama, music, film, poetry or technology were more of ways to share their learning during/at the end of the process. Are their specific tools they will use to gather the information; to organize the information; to make sense of the information; to synthesize the information? Perhaps some other tools can be modeled to help them DURING the process…things like Evernote, Diigo, Webspiration (or Inspiration), Google Docs, etc. Those are ones that come to me now, but I’m sure there are dozens more. Additionally, are they collaborating with other students and experts? Voicethread is a nice way to put a question out their and get feedback; so is a blog. Just some more ideas. I’m excited to see the process and see how the students engage in all of this.


    1. Hi Aviva and Jeremy,
      This section is kind of creativity workshops…
      There will be plenty of opportunities for tool exploration as well. They will use their class blogs for reflection and sharing and developing thinking. They are familiar with mind-mapping tools and we use voicethread a lot. The teachers use googledocs but I don’t know if any have used them with their classes yet. Will suggest it, if there is a need. Thanks for the great ideas… Some of them could to be explored further by teachers and kids, but the focus needs to be on the learning. I am a very firm believer in the learning driving the tech and not the other way around!


  5. It sounds to me like you are on the right track with these changes. I’m really looking forward to hearing how it all works out. The approach is open-minded enough that I don’t think you need to worry about students not finding something they’re interested in. Perhaps a worry might be that they wouldn’t challenge themselves enough, but it seems that the culture of your school would help to avoid that.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Ed

      Wow! Well.. I have some suggestions.

      1.We can do nothing, since we clearly have very different audiences and no-one has even noticed till now. My blog is about education and the readership is the global education community. Only!
      2. I can write a post about how we discovered this, about having the same name but being different… and what that can mean in education (I have ideas already!!)
      3. You can write a guest post for my blog 🙂 It can be about learning in any context.

      What do you think?


      1. We probably should do nothing. As you said, we’re writing about different subjects for different audiences. I was just surprised when I googled What Ed Said and found a different website in the listings.


  6. Giving students time at the outset of this initiative to explore more than one discipline, work with others, and just play before committing to one project is key in ensuring buy-in, I think. It also might be worth exploring the different ways art has been used to respond to social issues, such as to disrupt dominant social orders, as a form of protest, to express emotions, and to further social or political agendas. Once students know where they are situated in terms of the history of art(s) as social action and they have been given time, space, and guidance to determine where they will go, I think this will be really powerful. Keep us updated!


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