Creativity in the Classroom

Is Your Classroom Environment Creative Enough?

Creativity in the classroom is something extremely important for young children today, it allows kids to express themselves, and their emotions in a fun way. But when I say creativity I do not mean just letting a child draw for a few minutes, or color in a worksheet, like I did when I was a young child. I am referring to real creative experiences where the child has control, and an abundance of open ended materials that force the child to use their imagination. I personally wish that I was given these experiences at an early age, I have always thought I just wasn’t artistic. I was never “good” at art, and really only got to play around with fun engaging materials in art class. Art was not integrated into my everyday academic lessons and I think it truly would have benefitted me if it was. When I’m in my placement looking at all of the young brilliant minds, this idea pops into my head because what if these children could have those experiences that I didn’t?

The Pre-K Counts I am observing this semester has eighteen children all at the age of four or five years old. The overall structure of this classroom is very well organized and the students have a lot of academic based instruction. The students are also guaranteed at least an hour of outdoor play when the weather permits. All of these qualities that the program offers are great and important but the one area of the program that concerns me is this idea of creativity in the classroom. At best the children have maybe one activity a day that involves art in some way. The most creative activity I have witnessed was children playing with thistle blocks, there was no directions or instruction, they were just allowed to create whatever they wanted. This is better than coloring in a worksheet, but it really isn’t overly thought provoking, or creative. Knowing that their day is mainly academic instruction these children have to be getting bored at some point, and I begin to wonder just how much of this academic instruction is actually being learned? I personally believe that the integration of creativity and art based lessons or activities would be a good supplement for this class’s curriculum.

Doing the Research

 Children at the young age of four and five are sometimes difficult to please and engage in academic instruction. I notice this a lot in my field placement and I think with the inclusion of more creative activities and even some art based curriculum the students would be more engaged and more excited to learn. There are many articles that stress the importance of creativity in the classroom and provide amazing arguments to the benefits of this idea.

“Art at the Heart: Creating a Meaningful Art Curriculum for Young Children”

This article stresses the important of art based curriculum, and the benefits it provides to the children. Author Kelley Massey describes her efforts as a “studio director” at a small school in Los Angeles. She gives the reader physical examples and tangible results of these benefits that come from art based curriculum. She stresses the three main important characteristics of the materials used in art lessons or art based curriculum and I think they are extremely important to know.  I sometimes even think of these three criteria for materials as what should be the standard in every classroom. As Massey states..

“Even the most skillful adult artist would have a difficult time
expressing himself or herself with only red, blue, and yellow crayons;
imagine the difficulty for a 3-year-old child whose skills are still emerging. I try to choose materials that are aesthetically pleasing, responsive to the children’s ideas, and open ended.”

These three characteristics of materials play a huge part in whether the activity will actually produce creative thinking, or get the students thinking out of the box. Materials like markers and crayons are very simple, and only allow for so much to be created. When offered an abundance of materials like watercolor, oil pastels, recycled materials, sponges, brushes and so forth the possibilities are endless. If you want to learn more about the benefits of art based curriculum you can click here , to read the full article.

“Creativity on the Brink?”¢.aspx

This next article has a different take on this battle with creativity but it starts by really engaging the audience. Author, Alane Starko, explains that creativity is on a fast decline, and there are specific things we as educators must do in order to prevent this in our classrooms. I enjoyed this article so much because it isn’t overloaded with scary statistics and facts about the decline, the article informs the audience why creativity in the classroom is so important to student success, and why we should fight to include this in our class curriculum everyday. Most importantly the article gives a step by step plan of action that almost feels tangible to the reader, like we know there is a way this can be done.

If you want to read Starko’s plan of action, or more about this article in general click here,¢.aspx

What Now?

With all of the research to back things up, there are real, serious benefits that come from integrating art and creativity into classrooms everyday. Children will be more engaged and excited to learn when the can be hands on with a material creating a piece of art that is relevant to the topic on hand. Similar to the benefits of play with children, when young minds are able to express what they have learned in creative ways they are more likely to remember and retain the important information from the lesson. There are many other important questions to now deal with like, “How much art integration is too much?”, “How can creativity be a part of every lesson?”, “Does creativity need to be a part of every lesson for the kids to reap the benefits?”, and a few more. With more observation and research I’m sure I will get to the bottom of this!




Gurus 101

A Little Introduction 

As a child I grew up in a family that was over populated with women, especially female educators. I always looked up to these people and I knew when  grew up that I wanted to be just like them! My family and friends today are the ones who push me to follow my dreams and go for what I want in life. The current educators in my life offer reassurance to my goals because I can see them actually teaching and loving what they do. These people also stretch my mind and open my eyes to many different possibilities all within this huge education field.

The Big “Gurus”

Outside of my family and friends there are many incredible philosophers and educators who have helped me create my educational philosophy which is ever changing. Just from Millersville classes alone I have been introduced to some incredible role models and inspirational figures who I will always look up too.  All of the research and Educators pedagogies that we study have been engraved into my memory and will one day make up the teacher I become.

Erika Christakis

To begin I thought I would discuss one of my recent finds, and one of my favorite people that I have researched. Erika Christakis is famously known for her book “The Importance of Being Little”, as seen above, in which she describes her personal teaching philosophy along with her insights to the people who inspire her the most. Within her book the rhetorical triangle is extremely important because the audience is not only educators today, but it is also future teachers, parents, and adults. Pretty much anyone who cares about education at all can read this book and connect with it’s message in one way or another. Christakis herself is a very credible author with countless years of research and working hands on with children.  I was originally assigned this text as a required reading for a course at Millersville, but quickly fell in love with the book and her ideas. Her personal pedagogy is definitely one that shapes my path.

The message of this book is far more complex than just one or two sentences but I can give you an overall gist of it here. Christakis believes and encourages parents and educators to focus not only on the metric/pen and paper educational concepts, but more importantly the social aspects of learning. She emphasizes play based learning, and truly believes that children are far more capable and powerful than we can see. She has created her “right zone” which is what she refers to as her ideal preschool environment, it is a balance of direct instruction, and student lead play/indirect instruction. She believes this is key to any preschool environment.

Her pedagogy and instructional methods are very inspiring to me and will shape my professional path in the future.

Lev Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky is the next “big guru” that is of great importance to me. Vygotsky is someone I have personally studied many of times, starting in high school and going all throughout my college journey. I think this is the case because so many of his core beliefs and values are  STILL ever present in education today.

Vygotsky is most well known for the creation of concepts like, scaffolding, and the zone of proximal development. Two huge terms that play a role in education everywhere. Scaffolding is the idea of which the teacher provides support to the students in a structure similar to one in a  building scaffold, as the student progresses the help decreases, or the scaffold is removed from the building as they build higher and higher. This is something I think is extremely important especially when working with young children today. Also the zone of proximal development, this term refers to the area in which a child can achieve their full potential with the right amount of help from the teacher.  This idea relates to scaffolding because without any help a child would not be able to unlock their full learning ability, but with a good teacher who knows when to step in and give assistance, the student can reach this zone and be at full potential. He also emphasized the importance of social interactions with a child, just like Christakis.

Scaffolding, and the zone of proximal development are two strategies that I intend to use in my classroom one day. I also strongly agree with his emphasis on the social aspects of the child. This idea has been in my personal teaching philosophy since the start, and with my research and learnings on Vygotsky, it has been moved to an even higher level of importance in my mind.

The Why and How of ERCH

As far as the why and how of Early Childhood Education, I have learned and been taught so much from all of my professors at Millersville so far. I always enjoy seeing every professor’s different philosophies and preferences in the education field. Something that I always am thankful for is the various different field experience placements that we get to participate in.

I  have learned a lot of different teaching styles and strategies from all of the amazing co-operating teachers that I have had the pleasure working with. There was one teacher in specific who really put a lot of real life teaching “problems” into perspective for me. I was placed in Devers Elementary school last semester in center city York. Many if not all of the students came from very diverse socio-economic statuses, and from all over the world. To top it off my co-op had three identified special needs students within her class who had IEP’s and received services. This teacher had one of the best classroom management styles that I have ever personally seen before. The kindergarten students listened to her incredibly well, and they all seemed very engaged with all of the academics. I had the pleasure of working with one student who had Autism, he was brilliant and had so much potential to offer. Luckily his teacher made time within class to help him one on one and keep him focused on the task at hand. If he was in another class with a different teacher I’m not sure I could say he would have received the same treatment. Considering the co-op was not special-ed certified or anything I though it was amazing the patience and care she put into working with these few students.

Leaving this field placement my whole mindset had been shifted, and I was very grateful for the experience. I left with so many strategies to keep the students engaged, focused, listening, and on task at all times. I also was able to see manageable ways of helping the students one on one who needed a little more attention than the rest, all while keeping twenty five other students on task.

New Insights

I personally am kept up to date with new insights and new technologies through my immersion in social media, mainly educational blogs and articles. I am constantly researching new blogs to read, John Spencer is one of the big names that I tend to gravitate towards. He has incredibly written blogs about lots of big new topics in education. He also has a focus in creativity in the classroom which is one of my personal biggest passions.

Creativity in the classroom is so important today with the huge pressure on teachers to meet content curriculums and match it to standards. I think that keeping things creative so the students can feel like they have control of some of the things they do is extremely important.

There are various educational articles that I have been required to read and research into further with some of the courses here at Millersville. I always tend to end up enjoying these a lot especially when there on a relevant and new topic in the education field. All of these articles speak the truth to me on the new best thing for your classroom, or the new best strategy to keep your classroom organized. Big or small scale all of these different perspectives educate me even further on everything I should know going into this field further. These are all excellent resources that I will continue using even when I have a classroom of my own.