Ever since Sir Ken Robinson presented his highly regarded TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” I have had countless teachers approach me inspired by the “why” we need creativity in the classroom but not knowing how to make it happen.
Fortunately, the “how” is the central focus of my professional work and is anchored on the work of the late E. Paul Torrance who was known as the Father of Creativity in Education.
I adapted Torrance’s research to create a simple process that weaves creative thinking skills into whatever content is taught. Weaving creativity into a subject becomes as simple as selecting a creative thinking skill on the chart and using it as a mechanism to teach your content.
For example, imagine you are teaching the life cycle of a butterfly. If you weave ‘visualize it richly’ into your lesson, your students might draw out the life cycles in as many colors as there are in a crayon box. If you weave ‘look at it another way,’ you might have them imagine what it is like to go through the life cycle. If you weave ‘curiosity,’ you might have students generate a list of questions they wonder about regarding the life cycle before the unit even begins.
When I began running “Weaving” workshops, I would ask teachers for strategies they would use to deliberately integrate these skills. In a typical session with a large group of educators, hundreds of ideas were shared! After dozens of workshops, one teacher said, “You need to collect these ideas for a book! They are amazing!” So I decided to take her brilliant advice.
My goal with the first book, Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum, was to provide quick and easy strategies teachers could immediately adapt into the classroom. The final book contains thousands of ideas for educators to weave 20 different creative thinking skills into the classroom. You can download the first few chapters here.
The response was amazing. I frequently heard, “I love these quick ideas!” and “It is so much easier than I realized.” And while the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, it didn’t seem to be enough.
“Do you have any scripts I could use?” was a question that often came up during our sessions. At first, I was a bit frustrated by this response. I didn’t believe crafting scripts would be authentic to integrating creativity into the classroom. But given the number of times this question came up, I decided to get curious and came up with a potential solution.
In addition to contributing many of the creative thinking skills we use, Torrance designed a model for creative teaching and learning called the Torrance Incubation Model (TIM). For the last four years, one of my former students, Carolina Schnapp, and I have been using the model to design creative thinking lessons that can be woven into any content.
This model has three stages: Heightening Anticipation, Deepening Expectations, and Extending the Learning. Woven throughout each stage is a different creative thinking skill. We designed 20 lessons for educators to take and adapt to their students’ age and content level in our new book, 20 Lessons to Weave Creative Thinking into Your Curriculum.
And to guide this process, we have 15 educators from different disciplines and age levels sharing their tips and strategies for adopting some of these lessons.
And special thanks to our educators who provided their insights! Jennifer Babcock, Maria Braun, Gisele Conn, Alyssa Charles, Tamara Doleman, Jonathan Garra, Amy Griesmer, Tanya Knudsen, Andrea Mango, Katrin “Kate” McElderry, Charlotte Murphy, Nick Squeri, Khrista Taba], Gisele Teixeira, Matthew Zayas, and Rachel Hoeber.
Dr. Cyndi Burnett is the Director of Possibilities for Creativity and Education. Like her creativity-focused curriculum for students and teachers, Cyndi embraces the creative lifestyle that she teaches. You will often find her trying on new ideas, exploring resources to stretch her thinking, and being an advocate for playfulness and humor. Although she loves to research and write about creativity, Cyndi is a firm believer in field service. She has 20 years of teaching experience as an academic at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State where she instructed classes in creative-thinking and creative problem-solving.
Cyndi is the co-editor of the Big Questions in Creativity book series and co-author of the books Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum, 20 Lessons for Weaving Creativity into your Curriculum, and My Sandwich Is a Spaceship: Creative Thinking for Parents and Young Children.