You know about setting time aside for math and science and even arts and crafts. But have you ever thought of building a Genius Hour into the day? More than just a time for kids to play, Genius Hour is an opportunity for students to follow their imaginations and build creative confidence – an important aspect of childhood development. So just what is a Genius Hour, and what are a few other ways to build creative confidence into your students’ everyday? Let’s take a look.
Creative Confidence Builds a Strong Future
As many great thinkers have argued, all students are born naturally creative, full of curiosities and questions. The difference between those who continue to be creative in careers as leading scientists, inventors, historical figures, artists, and philosophers and those that do not is all in how they are nurtured. The more children are encouraged to keep asking those questions and pursuing their curiosities, the more likely that creative spark will remain – and there couldn’t be anything more important in today’s increasingly competitive knowledge-based economy.
Framed this way, it is apparent that students themselves are the true wealth of creative potential in every classroom; they just need opportunities to exercise that creativity to build their confidence. When students are encouraged to think, create, ask, and do, they will learn the value of expanding upon their ideas. Conversely, if they are taught to avoid questions or dismiss their own ideas, then their creativity is squelched. A confident child will become a confident adult who is encouraged to do great things.
How to Instill Creative Confidence
Creativity is innate. We don’t need to create confidence in our students; we need them not to lose it in the first place, or to rediscover it if they already have. Here are seven ways to do just that:
- Teach Students That Life is Messy and That’s Okay: Too often, students think that they can’t begin a creative project without an idea, or they become too confined by their surroundings. Life isn’t always as structured as we think it is, and this idea needs to be instilled in our students. Take students (either virtually or actually) to places that offer a different perspective on a subject. Encourage them to write down ideas as they come, and to spend time playing around with them, even if they don’t have a clear sense of what they will become. Creativity is all about discovery.
- Offer “I Wish” and “I Like” Feedback: Students, especially older ones, fear peer judgment and will often stifle their own creativity for the sake of popularity. Part of that attitude comes with how they’re instructed to give feedback. If students expect negative criticism, then they’ll look down upon their own work. Conversely, positive criticism encourages them to expand and do more. When students present their work, be it a book report or science project, have their classmates either write down or verbally give them “I wish” or “I like” statements. “I wish” statements prompt the student to think about his or her subject from another perspective while “I like” statements simply boost confidence.
- Dive in Headfirst: The only way to accomplish a creative goal is just to do it. Students have many reasons for putting off tasks, but often their procrastination is motivated by fear that their idea or work isn’t good enough. Last-minute work is then rushed, with little to no creativity used. When assigning a long-term project, set aside some class time to work on the project, or set benchmark assignments to encourage students to think of their projects ahead of time. This will give them extra time to think, create, and ask the questions they really want to answer.
- Create a Culture that Accepts Failure: Creative attempts don’t always turn out the way we intended, and sometimes that can be debilitating to a child’s creativity. But it is in failure that we learn our most impactful lessons. Encouraging students to work through difficulties and helping them find the positive aspects in what they view as a failure can open their eyes to new perspectives. Teaching them that failure isn’t just an option but also potentially a creative option builds confidence in other areas, especially for students who struggle academically. For example, if a student is creating a video and it doesn’t turn out as he or she hoped, a failure-friendly culture will encourage him or her to think about the video from another point of view or even work through what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. Once they prove successful, students will learn the importance of resilience, and will also learn that oftentimes the most creative, thoughtful work develops out of trial and error.
- Foster Empathy: While it can be uncomfortable for a student to challenge his or her assumptions and leave the warmth of their core competencies behind, it can also be a rewarding learning experience. Instill that spirit in students by encouraging them to view a topic from the perspective of another person or group. For example, instead of creating a project about the music they enjoy, students could explore how those with hearing difficulties enjoy music. This exercise generates empathy because students understand another’s perspective, and it may inspire ideas about how to improve current methods.
- Encourage Students to Take Ideas as Far as They’ll Go: As any great inventor or artist can tell you, it’s rare that a big idea starts that way. Rather, big ideas emerge when thinkers and creatives play around with smaller concepts and keep on exploring and expanding. To foster this mentality with your students, start with simple classroom lessons, like brainstorming a number of uses for a particular object, drawing a squiggly line and seeing what it can become, or simply listing all of the many animals whose names begin with the letter “L.” These kinds of activities will encourage creativity and demonstrate that creativity can be fun.
- Go on an Artist Date: Working in a specific art may require expansive thinking, but even the best artists find themselves stalled when they stick to narrowly within the confines of their own discipline. To get out of this rut, the influential book The Artist’s Way recommends going on regular artist dates, whether that means checking out a few paintings hanging in the local coffee shop or heading to a good concert. Doing the same with your students will mix up how they think, open their eyes to the magic that’s happening in their own community, and get those ideas flowing like crazy. Take your students to a park where they can write short stories, poems, or songs; create drawings; or take pictures of what they observe. Have students complete a reflection journal in which they note their reactions to things they see, think, feel, or experience during a field trip or film.
Creativity is something we’re all born with, but too often, it is crushed by everyday life. Promoting creative confidence among students not only keeps that spark alive, but it also establishes a way of thinking broadly about life that will benefit students as they grow older.