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Harriet J. Bauman
For several years I worked as a teacher of the talented and gifted in the area of creative and productive thinking. This is one of six areas of giftedness. The others are: 1) all around academically gifted; 2) gifted in one academic area such as mathematics; 3) visual and performing arts; 4) physical abilities; and 5) leadership.
The regional program in which I worked was designed to find and work with students who were creative thinkers. It cut across ability levels and grade lines. In the process of learning how to teach these youngsters to use their talents, I discovered that, according to the experts in this field, creative thinking can be taught to anyone, and for any subject matter.
The “Structure of Intellect” model is one way of explaining the thinking processes. It is made up of three overlapping concepts. The first consists of operations which are principal intellectual functions such as cognition (recognizing understanding or comprehending information), memory (stored information), divergent production (generating a variety or a quantity of alternative information), convergent production (generating information through analysis and reason), and evaluation (comparing the information generated with established criteria).
The second concept is the contents or broad classes of information. They are divided into four areas: 1) figural which presents information in concrete form, in images, using the senses of sight, touch, and hearing; 2) symbolic where the information is represented by signs, letters, numbers or words but have no intrinsic value in and of themselves; 3) semantic in which there is meaning in words as in verbal communication and thinking, or in pictures; and 4) behavioral which is nonverbal information about people’s attitudes, needs, moods, wishes, and perceptions.
Products, or the forms or characteristics of the processed information make up the third concept. Units are the separated items of information. Classes are sets of items grouped by common characteristics. Relations show the connections between items based on the characteristics that can change. Systems are interrelated parts and/or structured items of information. Transformations are the changes in the existing information or its function. The implications are the predictions, expected outcomes, or the consequences of the information.1
The model that Guilford has designed takes the form of a cube in which any and all of the operations, contents and products can work together in creating a new idea. Other theorists have adapted this model for their own uses. One of these theorists is Frank E. Williams.
Williams’s model is three dimensional and shows how teaching strategies in many subjects can be used to bring out four cognitive and four affective behaviors in the students. His book, Classroom Ideas For Encouraging Thinking and Feeling (Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers, 1970) explains his model, and more importantly, provides detailed lessons utilizing all three of the dimensions. Dimension 1 is the subject areas such as art, music, science, social studies, arithmetic and language. The focus of this book is elementary school but the ideas can be adapted to any grade level. Dimension 2 consists of the eighteen teaching strategies that can be employed to elicit Dimension 3, the kinds of pupil behaviors desired. The pupil behaviors can be divided into the intellectual and the affective. The intellectual behaviors are fluency (generating a large number of ideas), flexibility (being able to change categories), originality (the ability to come up with a unique idea or thought), and elaboration (the ability to take one idea and embellish it).
The affective behaviors that Frank E. Williams is interested in producing in his students are curiosity, courage to take a chance, complexity or willingness to challenge an idea or statement, and imagination or intuition.2 His model is more complex than Guilford’s but they both are striving toward an increase in creative output.
Alex F. Osborn continued the interest in creativity with the following works: How to Become More Creative 101 Ways to Develop Your Potential Talent (N.Y.: Scribner, 1964) and Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving (N.Y.: Scribner, third edition 1963). In Applied Imagination, Osborn introduced the idea of deferred judgment (no judging or evaluating an idea for a certain period of time). The technique he stressed was brainstorming, which can be used throughout the creative thinking process. Brainstorming is listing as many ideas as possible about a given topic without making any decisions. All ideas are acceptable. Combining and improving on previous ideas is also acceptable (this is called piggybacking or hitchhiking).
Applied Imagination explains creativity and how to develop it. It also presents the problem-solving process in detail. Osborn points out the tendencies that inhibit creativity, which have been expanded upon by James L. Adams in Conceptual Blockbusting A Guide to Better Ideas (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1974). Adams delineates all the kinds of conceptual blocks that hinder creativity: perceptual, cultural and environmental, emotional, intellectual and expressive. Adams also presents ways in which to break these blocks so that imagination can solve problems.
Sidney J. Parnes is another important theorist in the area of creativity. He has written several books about the mental processes involved in creative thinking. He has also written many articles and edited several books on the same topic. He developed a program for teaching the many facets of creativity along with two books, the Guide to Creative Action Revised Edition of Creative Behavior Guidebook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977), and the Creative behavior Workbook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967. These two books comprise the program for teaching creative thinking. The Workbook contains exercises and activities designed to teach the creative thinking process of fact-finding (a full analysis of the problem), problem-finding (definition of the problem), idea-finding (generating a large number of ideas about the problem), solution-finding (evaluating all possible solutions to a problem), and acceptance-finding (selecting one solution to a problem). The Guide to Creative Action consists of a rationale for creativity, a detailed lesson plan for each of the units in the Workbook, and a section of readings about creative behavior.
E. Paul Torrance has written many books and articles on the theory of creativity as well as several activity books to be used with students. His major contribution is the development of tests for creative thinkers. “Thinking Creatively With Pictures” tests a student’s figural and visual skills. “Thinking Creatively With Words” tests the student’s writing ability. These tests are the best indication of potentially gifted creative thinkers.
Connecticut can claim another important innovator in the area of creativity in the person of Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli of the University of Connecticut. Dr. Renzulli along with Dr. Linda Smith developed A Guidebook for Developing IEP’s for Gifted/Talented Students (Mansfield Center, Connecticut: Creative Learning Press, 1979) in which they show the teacher how to develop a strategy for teaching the curriculum to gifted students. They also developed a Learning Styles Inventory (Mansfield Center, Connecticut: Creative Learning Press, 1978) which illustrates the ways in which students prefer to learn and the ways in which teachers prefer to teach.
The men cited above, and many others have developed the “science” of creativity to a degree which allows it to be adapted to regular students and their daily schoolwork. Most of the techniques, methods, and materials can be used and/or adapted to fit any grade level and any subject area.
My first objective, therefore, will be to establish a non-critical, non-threatening atmosphere in the classroom. The students will be encouraged to break loose from their preconceived notions of what the teacher wants. They will be encouraged to play with ideas and words. They will feel that writing time is special and different from the rest of the curriculum at this point. Later on, as it becomes an integral part of the course, the students will be more willing to be creative.
It is imperative that the tone of the classroom be set on the first day of school. After taking care of the formalities of the beginning of school, I suggest that the teacher play the following game with the students. Everyone sits in a circle. As it is the first time playing this game, the teacher should designate the person on his/her right to be first and the teacher will be last. The student is to introduce himself/herself and state something he/she likes. The next person introduces the previous person and then himself/herself. The third person introduces the two people before him/her, and so on. By the time it is the teacher’s turn, he/she will be able to recite all of the students’ names and what like. As this is a fourth year Spanish class, I s that this be done in Spanish. This game sets the for the class. At first the students will be a li shy, but they will soon enter into the experience enthusiastically, especially when on the following day, they are asked to tell either what they don’t like, or what object or animal they are or are not like. This can be done for three or four days. The students will then know everyone else’s name and something about all the members of the class including the teacher.
At the same time, perhaps the second day of school, the students should arbitrarily be put into pairs. Each student is to interview the other for three to five minutes. At the end of the time, each student introduces his partner to the rest of the class focusing on his/her likes and dislikes. This could be done in English or Spanish. The reason for this choice is that the object of the activity is to foster a group feeling and not to put students on the spot. There will be other opportunities later to work on their spoken Spanish.
In order for the students to profit from the activities mentioned above, and others which will be introduced later, they must be taught the rules for brainstorming as advocated by Osborn. They must learn that all ideas are acceptable. No criticism of ideas is allowed until a designated time. A great many ideas are necessary in order to find a truly unique idea. Combining and improving previous ideas (piggybacking or hitchhiking) is acceptable. The best way to introduce the technique of brainstorming is to pose the following question: “In how many ways can a ping pong ball (or coffee cup or hanger) be used?”
Have someone record all the ideas generated by the students on the blackboard. If they hesitate, wait a short while then interject one of your own ideas. This usually starts the students thinking again. When they again stop it probably is the right time to ask them to select the five most unusual uses of the coffee cup or ping pong ball or hanger. This should take between ten and fifteen minutes as it is the first time. Afterwards, you can limit the time to a total of ten minutes. Once the students become familiar with this method, it can be used in many classroom activities.
At this point the students should feel reasonably comfortable with the teacher and each other. To encourage them to share themselves the teacher can utilize any or all three of the following exercises. Giving the students a blank piece of paper, the teacher will ask this question: “In how many ways can you represent your name?” The students should have fifteen minutes to do the exercise and then there should be a group sharing of their work. The students might also be asked “How do the letters of your name describe who you are?” They should be allowed to depict their answers in any manner they choose. The third activity could be a collage (using many materials and textures), a montage (pictures), or a sculpture that the student creates of himself/herself.
The students should be encouraged to use all five of their senses. They should become aware of conceptual blocks which inhibit creativity. They can be helped to overcome these blocks with exercises proposed by James L. Adams in Conceptual Blockbusting A Guide to Better Ideas (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1974). Many of the problems in puzzle books also focus on creative solutions. Inkblots and other perceptual pictures help to break the blocks of the students. Sidney J. Parnes in his Creative Behavior Workbook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967)-offers some excellent perceptual problems.
In helping students to use all five of their senses, a book by Bob Eberle called Scamper Games for Imagination Development (Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers, 1971) has interesting exercises for stretching the imagination through describing a situation or an object that students must visualize in their minds. The teacher can make up a story which the students must imagine. A typical story might be . . . “Imagine a park. Everywhere you look you see trees and grass and flowers. You see many children playing in the park, on the slide, on the swings, in the sandpile. You see an old woman walking. She is carrying an umbrella. She sits on the bench. She is crying. . . . ”
The teacher could also ask the students to close their eyes and listen to some instrumental music. When it is over they could either draw how the music made them feel or write about it.
Another approach is to use theatre games. A good source is Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theater (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1963) which can be borrowed from the ACES Teacher Resource Center at 800 Dixwell Avenue New Haven, Connecticut. An activity might be the following: Divide the class into small groups of three or four. Each group has the opportunity to suggest a situation or a title which another group must act out. Pantomimes can also be done in the small groups or individually.
Most of the activities planned for the students up to this point are nonverbal, that is to say, they are done without the use of pen and paper. The reason for this is that the students are conditioned to think of school subjects as writing assignments. In doing these activities, the students will be forced to think in other media and will achieve success as there are no wrong answers. In this manner, they will be encouraged to utilize all their resources in completing assignments.
As the students move from this phase of the unit into more writing, the non-critical, non-threatening atmosphere which I have established will be expanded to include the way the written work is approached. The students and I will work together on all writing assignments in a mutual give-and-take. Evaluation of all work will take the form of positive criticism and suggestions for improvement from both the students and myself. The focus here will be the ideas, images, and ways in which the students express themselves. Correction of sentence structure, paragraph formation, agreement of subject and verb, noun or pronoun and adjective, tenses, organization and other mechanics of writing in Spanish will take place as the need arises.
The warm-up activities will generally be in a large group or small group setting. The products of the assignments will generally be individual. The students’ work will be kept in individual folders, to be referred to when necessary. These activities will encourage the students to brainstorm, to eliminate their conceptual blocks, and to solve problems creatively. They will then be ready to attack their writing assignments.
At the beginning the students should work with words. As all of these assignments will be written in Spanish, I recommend that there be several dictionaries available for the students’ use, both the Spanish-English, English-Spanish and the all Spanish kinds. This will enable the students to work with subtilties and shades of meaning.
The students might be given a person, place or thing and asked to list all the descriptive words. For example, I would give the word “la plays” (beach). The students might list: “el verano” (summer) “el cielo” (sky) “trajes de baño” (bathing suits) “jugar” (to play) “la guitarra” (guitar) “la radio” (radio) “la mÄsica” (music) “nadar” (to swim) “agua fria” (cold water) “hace calor” (it is hot) “nubes” (clouds) “piedras” (stones) “arena” (sand) “muchachas bonitas” (pretty girls) “azul” (blue) “blanco” (white) “pardo” (brown) “verde” (green). These words describe the beach but I would ask them to do it again and this time just list the descriptive adjectives, ve s, or nouns associated with “la plays.” Each student should come up with a list containing as many adjectives, verbs, or nouns as he/she can find which will be different from everyone else’s. Putting a condition on an assignment forces students to use their creativity.
The students might be shown an object and asked to describe what it looks like in words, phrases, or sentences. It should be an object that has many possibilities, such as a flower or a plant, an animal, a toy, a machine, etc.
The teacher might ask the students to create a puzzle or a rebus for a list of words. This could be a small group activity. When the puzzle or rebus has been completed, the groups could exchange them and try to solve them.
A musical composition could be played for the students. After they have listened to it, or while it is being played, they could be asked to write down the words and/or expressions which the music brings to mind. A poem could then be written using those words and expressions.
Another idea for encouraging students to use descriptive words is to ask them to list all the colors, emotions, senses, images, etc. that a particular word evokes. This part could be done as a large or small group. Then, individually, the students would be asked to select the five most unusual ones and arrange them on a piece of paper in a design.
To encourage the students to use descriptive sentences, the teacher could show them a picture. They would then be asked to describe the picture in five sentences.
Also, the students might each be given a piece of paper and asked to write a beginning sentence or two of a story. At a given signal they are to switch papers with the person next to them, and write another sentence or two to that story. This could be done in small groups. When all students have received their own story back, it is time to share it with the group. The group can then decide which story they think is the best to be shared with the rest of the students.
Poetry is a natural outlet for the students’ writing. It lends itself to most of the activities mentioned above. A good way to approach teaching the students how to write poetry is the one explained by Kenneth Koch in Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children (New York: Random House, Inc., 1973).
Kenneth Koch recommends that students be introduced to great poetry after they have written many of their own poems. He also suggests that warm-up activities be used to enhance the actual writing assignment. For example, if the assignment is to write a poem about music, then the warm-up activity could include responses to the following questions: What is the color of the sound of a drum? What texture is a half note? What animal does a violin (tuba, bassoon, etc.) make you think of? These kinds of activities help the students to become free and think more creatively.
One of the first poems a student could be asked to write might take the form of what Koch calls a “class collaboration.” In a large group or as an entire class, the students would each contribute one line of a poem. Each line should have a particular item in it such as a color, sound, taste, smell, feeling, emotion, number, animal, season, etc. The lines could then be arranged into a poem.
The students could also be given a list of words of which must must be used in a poem. These could be vocabulary words being studied, or a random list of adjectives, adverbs, verbs, nouns, question words such as “¿dónde?” “¿quién?” “¿cómo?” “¿cuándo?” “¿cuánto?” etc.
The students could write on certain themes such as holidays, their family, themselves, pets, hobbies, everyday happenings, seasons, the weather, things they like or dislike, etc. To encourage a creative approach to these themes, the teacher could require that the students write as if they were the object, animal, etc.
The teacher could take the students for a walk. As they are walking, the students should be writing down impressions, sights, smells, etc. When they return to the classroom, these jottings could be written as a poem.
Metaphors and similes can enrich the students’ vocabulary and enhance their poetry. In several writing assignments the students will be encouraged to use these types of comparisons to develop new imagery in their poems. At first they could write a poem together in a large or small group, with each person contributing a line with a simile in it. They could write their own poems with similes in every line or perhaps, they could take one simile and write a poem around it.
The students could work with metaphors in the same way as they would for similes. The teacher could give them a list of metaphors from which they choose three which they then would use in a poem. The students could make up their own list of metaphors as a group, which would be used by individual students in their poems.
As the students have written many poems at this point, the teacher could introduce some Spanish poetry from which they could derive inspiration. I would suggest the following poets and poems: “El arpa” by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, sections of “La vida es sueño” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, “Soneto” by Miguel de Cervantes, “Dice m’a” by Rubén Dario, “Consulta” by Federico Garc’a Lorca, “Seguidillas” and “Maya” by Lope de Vega, “Retrato” by Antonio Machado, “El pensador de Rodin” by Gabriela Mistral, and “Castilla” by Miguel de Unamuno. Each poem would be read and discussed with the emphasis on use of metaphors, imagery, emotions expressed by the poet, etc. The students would then write their own poems based on the discussion.
The students could describe a famous person or event, a familiar place, a hobby or an interest, their room or house or neighborhood, parents, brothers and sisters, Pet, a person who is important to them, a holiday, a birthday party, family customs or superstitions, their favorite color, song, television show, movie, etc.
The essays could reflect the students’ opinions on current events, or topics like ERA or abortion. Their descriptions would also be considered as essays. In addition, they could write autobiographies.
Their short stories could be based on seasons, feelings, hopes, fears, superstitions, etc. They could write or rewrite fairy tales or legends. They also could choose their own topics.
One activity I highly recommend is the following. Take three bags or boxes. In one have TIME. In another one have an EVENT. And in the third have a PLACE, PERSON, THING or ANIMAL. Each student chooses one piece of paper from each bag and must write a story incorporating all three. This kind of activity is a good one for stretching the imagination. (See the following page for an example of this activity).
There are endless possibilities for creative writing using the wealth of Spanish literatur . Keeping my goals in mind for the kinds of writing I want my students to do will enable me to choose the appropriate reading material from which to elicit written creative responses. Therefore the course will be much more meaningful for the students as they will be able to see the connections among the assignments they are asked to do.
- 1. J.P. Guilford, “Creativity: Retrospect and Prospect” Journal of Creative Behavior, 1970, 4(3) reprinted in Guide to Creative Action Revised Edition of Creative Behavior Guidebook by Sidney J. Parnes, Ruth B. Noller and Angelo M. Biondi (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977), p. 141.
- 2. Frank E. Williams, Classroom Ideas For Encouraging Thinking and Feeling (Buffalo, New York: D.0.K. Publishers, Inc., 1970) , pp. 1-5.
Adams, James L. Conceptual Blockbusting A Guide to Better Ideas (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company), 1974.
This book explains the different kinds of conceptual blocks and gives exercises for ridding oneself of them.
Biondi, Angelo M. ed. The Creative Process (Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers), 1972.
The creative thinking process is explained completely and simply. An excellent resource:.
Gordon, W.J.J. Synectics The Development of Creative Capacity (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers), 1961.
This book is concerned with the use of synectics in helping creativity.
Osborn, Alexander Faickney. Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving (New York: Scribner), 1963.
The first explanation of the creative thinking process. A thorough and interesting book.
Parnes, Sidney Jay, Ruth B. Noller and Angelo M. Biondi. Guide to Creative Action Revised Edition of Creative Behavior Guidebook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 1977.
This book contains an explanation of creativity, detailed lesson plans for the Workbook (which will be discussed later), and a series of articles well worth reading about creativity.
Parnes, Sidney J. and Harold F. Harding. A Source Book for Creative Thinking (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons) 1962.
A book of readings on creativity. The following articles are recommended reading:
E. Paul Torrance “Developing Creative Thinking through School Experiences” pp. 31-47.
John E. Arnold “Useful Creative Techniques” pp. 251268.
John W. Lincoln “Developing a Creativeness in People” pp. 269-275.
Zuce Kogan “Methods of Furthering New Ideas” pp. 277281.
Sidney J. Parnes “Do You Really Understand Brainstorming?” pp. 283-290.
Joseph G. Mason “Suggestions for Brainstorming Technical and Research Problems” pp. 291-295.
Leo B. Moore “Creative Action. The Evaluation, Development, and Use of Ideas” pp. 297-304.
Torrance, E. Paul. Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom (Dubuque, Iowa: W.C. Brown Company), 1970.
This book gives useful hints for fostering creativity.
Torrance, E. Paul and R.E. Myers. Creative Learning and Teaching (New York: Dodd Mead), 1970.
This book explains how to ask questions in the classroom and how to get the students to do so also.
Gordon, W.J.J. and Tony Poze. Strange and Familiar (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Porpoise Books), 1972.
This book is divided into three sections, each one containing several exercises on the three kinds of analogies in synectics.
Koch, Kenneth. Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children (New York: Random House), 1973.
The author gives a clear explanation of his techniques for teaching children how to write poetry. A good source of ideas.:
Making It Strange Books 1 2 3 4 (New York: Harper and Row), 1975.
All four books contain many interesting exercises in synectics.
Parnes, Sidney J. Creative Behavior Workbook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 1967.
All the exercises in this book teach the creative thinking process in steps.
Schaefer, Charles E. Developing Creativity in Children An Ideabook for Teachers (Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers) , 1973.
It contains many good ideas, although some may be too simple for high school students.
Stanish, Bob. Sunflowering (Carthage, Illinois: Good Apple, Inc.), 1977.
An excellent book with many, many exciting ideas for encouraging creativity in students.:
Williams, Frank E. Classroom Ideas for Encouraging Thinking and Feeling second edition (Buffalo, New York: D.O.K. Publishers), 1970.
Although written for use in elementary schools, most of the ideas can be revised or altered for use in high school.
RESOURCES FOR THE TEACHER
We are lucky to have a great many resources at our disposal in the area of creativity. First we have Yale University, Southern Connecticut State College, and the University of Connecticut, all of which have materials and professors involved in the creative thinking process.
The Center for Theatre Techniques in Education based at the Stratford Shakespeare Theatre, and the Educational Center for the Arts on Audubon Street in New Haven conduct programs and teachers’ workshops to encourage teachers and students to use their creativity.
The Comprehensive Arts Program of the New Haven Public Schools brings artists into the classrooms to work directly with the students.
The Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) at 800 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven sponsors Project Bridge which works with teachers, publishes an informative newsletter, and most importantly has a collection of materials which may be used at the Resource Center or borrowed. See the Catalog of Resources for the Education of the Gifted and Talented for many exciting materials which will help in your teaching.
Contents of 1981 Volume IV | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute