Creatively Teaching Creativity

I decided to take a creativity quiz, today. After all, if I'm expected to teach creativity and creativeness creatively, it stands to reason that I should be creative myself. Further, I should know and understand how I function as a creative person.

After taking several quizzes (no Cosmo, though) I found The Art Institute of Vancouver's test to be the most intriguing.

Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test

Come to find out I'm whole-brained creative! I can go either way: rightie or leftie, 52%-48% respectively. Whoo-hoo!

And then, there's the possibility that the idea of R and L whatever is total snoosh. Nonetheless, I wondered if and to what degree my creativity type impacted my perceptions of students and my choice for curriculum.

I taught Beginning and Advanced Theatre, AP Language, AP Lit, and Remedial Reading. (You could say I had my hands full at the time, and I wouldn't disagree.)

Some of the questions were of things that would drive teachers crazy, such as absent-mindedness and joking around, both of which fall on the Right side. Other things we'd probably hold out as exemplary, such as students who are well-organized and predictable--Left side.

Then, I got a little cheeky and went in to see how Right-sided I could get and how Left-sided by responding in like manner. I guessed pretty well, reaching a maximum of 80% Right and 77% Left. However, that right-brained student--the spontaneous, absentminded, non-schedule following one--most teachers will have issues with.

This, Sir Ken Robinson eloquently addresses in his TED talk. If you've never seen it, do have a look. It's wonderful, and a balanced overview with Susan Cain, who presents a powerful TED Talk on the issues we have with the introverted loners--it's an eye-opener for educators.

So, pretty much, we want whole-brainers, don't we?   

We want quiet, creative, critical thinkers who actually listen to what we have to say, who master mathematical and literacy skills, who perform well in groups, but who also perform equally well, if not better, when working alone.

We want it all.

But to teach that, do we have to be whole-brainers ourselves, in the classroom? We see the "negatives" of the Right and Left students, but what about our R/L teaching creativity scale? How can we better help students enhance strengths and work on weaknesses by understanding our own?

I've changed up a few of the questions from the quiz, that might help us better understand our "Teaching Brains". Do we use our brains differently when we're teaching? For example, I have a friend who enjoys teaching to groups of students, but prefers to deal with adults one-on-one. Likewise, another friend truly enjoys joking around, but never in the classroom. Doesn't that change his/her creativity approach?

We could consider the responses using the same Likert scale as the Vancouver quiz. Have fun either way! 

Use these questions to determine your Creative Teaching Brain:

1) I prefer to teach students one-on-one.

2) I need complete quietness in order to teach.

3) I usually plan lessons systematically.

4)  I prefer to teach to a group.

5) I have the ability to teach and listen to music at the same time.

6) I enjoy teaching math.

7) I am absent-minded.

8) I prefer to teach with visuals.

9) I prefer rock music.

10) When I have to teach something, I read about how to do it, first.

11) I can easily remember what students tell me.

12) I enjoy interacting with other educators.

13) I become uneasy during long verbal explanations.

14) I enjoy joking around when I teach.

15) When I set goals for my classes, it helps keep me from procrastinating.

16) I enjoy teaching algebra.

17) I am an organized teacher.

18) I like to write or read fiction.

19) I organize curriculum to show relation between things.

20) I like to read.

21) I would choose to have students complete a paragraph summary over doing an outline.

22) I do well at geometry.

23) When I experience confusion, I go with my "gut" instinct.

24) If I were a detective, I would do well.

25) I like things, such as instructions, to be done verbally.

26) When I am giving directions to someone, I prefer to draw them a map than to explain verbally how to get somewhere.

27) It is easy for me to lose track of time when teaching.

28) I do well at things involving music such as playing an instrument or singing.

29) I do not like to joke around in my classes.

30) I like "well-structured" assignments for students more than I like "open-ended" assignments.

31) My students or co-workers consider me absent-minded.

32) The things that I have specifically studied or taught are the only things that I will usually remember.

33) I am spontaneous and unpredictable in class.

34) I enjoy drawing.

35) I can solve problems immediately and not know why my answer is correct.

36) I like to listen to classical music.

37) When I'm teaching, I use a lot of gestures.

38) I enjoy creating my own drawings and images for my classes.

39) When I have to make tough decisions, I write down the pros and cons.

40) Hypnotism does affect me, or I think it would.

41) Before going into teaching, I'd thought of becoming a poet, politician, architect, or dancer. 

42) I think that adhering to a schedule is boring.

43) I like getting all of the facts before I make any decisions.

44) I do well at expressing myself using words.

45) I enjoy writing or reading non-fiction.

46) When I am trying to go somewhere, I am usually late.

47) I do not like to follow directions.

48) When I lose something, I retrace my steps and try to remember where I saw it last.

49) I create and keep "to-do" lists for my classes.

50) When I forget a student's name, I go through the alphabet until I remember it.

51) Before teaching, I'd thought about becoming a lawyer, librarian, mathematician, lab scientist, or doctor.

52) When I look at a student, I am able to tell if he/she is guilty or not.

53) I like my students to learn through the method of free exploration.

54) I do well at spelling.

Disclaimer: this is most un-scientific.


Destiny, Fate, or Free Will?: Unit, Part IV, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian


Part One
Part Two
Part Three

VI.  Transition Option Two

Depending on your particular class, you may find this transition option more effective. It’s best to have two or three “bridge” assignments because as we all know, class personalities greatly differ! 


This transition incorporates the connection of how we treat others and how others treat us, based on such factors as race, ethnicity, and culture.  First have students ascertain their understanding of terms such as self-fulfilling prophecy. Given what they’ve just read, they should have a pretty good idea! 


Your task in the discussion is to help them understand the current psychological and sociological implications of the term. Once they seem to have a solid grasp and have provided real-life examples that seem to have everyone nodding their heads, you’ll want to have them make the connection to such terms as stereotyping, marginalizing, and discrimination.  


The goal is to point them towards an understanding of the connection between how people, teenagers in particular (but you may not want to advertise that point), are engaged in all of these behaviors to a degree. Empathizing with this fact, we want them to move into how Junior moves through each and every one. 


Depending on where the discussion ends, you may want to have them journal about the discussion at the end of class or for homework. If you have time, have them begin reading the text together. 


VII. Reading the Text

If you’re lucky, you can break up the reading into thirds, finding ideal spots for break offs—students will, more than likely, find it engrossing and engaging. By purposefully presenting Oedipus, first, you’ve set them up for success in reading solo. 


In the past, I’ve found great success with short quizzes on reading at the beginning of class, which include simple questions based on the “chunk” they’ve read. I would present these before moving into discussion to provide those students who actually did the reading with a boost to their grade. 


Confirmation of understanding is at the core of breaking up the text, and depending on  your group and time-frame, you may want to have volunteers illustrate, dramatize, or retell the story to the class. The beauty of having students as the center of attention increases understanding. As you work through each chunk of the text, highlight literary elements you find along the way. 


VIII. Analysis

A.   After reading, students should determine the author’s argument:  What message does Alexie want readers to understand about self-fulfilling prophecy, predestination, or free will? Through what literary elements, such as plot, character, or symbolism, do they receive the message? Why do you think he wrote about this particular age-group, race, and culture, at this particular moment in history?


For lower-level classes, you may want to provide students with the option to work in pairs. This may be their first literary analysis. The idea is that they are able to articulate what the author argues, how, and why. For this very first endeavor, also consider having them expand on only one paragraph per focus to ensure they understand how to build an analysis. 


Paragraph One: What they think Alexie argues in the novel and why.


Paragraph Two: One literary element that he uses to make that argument--using examples from the novel to support their choice.  

Paragraph Three: Why, based on what they've read, do they think he chose to write this message to readers of today.


The next “bump” in thinking is much more in-depth. That is, students will be combining personal narrative with argument, using Alexie’s text as a model. Coming soon! : )