Teaching With Creativity

Rabbi. Teacher. Jesus.

While Jesus was on the earth, He taught in many different ways. Sometimes He preached sermons, such as the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes He told parables, such as the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. Sometimes He used object lessons, such as Peter paying taxes with the coin he found in the fish. Jesus was a creative teacher. As the excellent teacher models himself after Jesus, he also must be innovative.

Excellent teachers look for ways to add spice to the daily grind of schoolwork and to keep students on their toes. Adding variety allows teachers to reach all learning styles. Generally, students are classified as one of three types of learners: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. The visual student learns best by seeing, the auditory student by hearing, and the kinesthetic student by doing.

Most curriculum materials present information in a visual manner. Translating lessons into auditory or kinesthetic presentations can mean reaching the student who is bored or struggling with paper-and-pencil activities. When a student just can’t “get it,” a creative teacher changes tactics and tries a different technique to get the point across.

Teaching creatively can be difficult, however. A teacher spends much more time when he adds activities to the lesson. Gathering up household items to display different geometrical shapes requires more effort than simply having the students complete their books. Researching at the library takes more work than simply reading from the teacher’s manual. A creative teacher must also be willing to lose some personal inhibitions at times. Illustrating different tones and pitches of speaking during a public speaking lesson, for example, can require the teacher to step out of his normal comfort range as he whispers and shouts.

So how can a teacher be creative? Borrow suggestions from other teachers or create your own methods over time. But here are some specific ideas.

Create activities for certain lessons.

  1. In grammar class, act out prepositions by having students go over a chair, under a chair, through the chair, etc.
  2. To teach the difference between addition and subtraction, have pupils take steps forward and backward and see where they end. For 4 + 3, the student takes four and then three more steps forward. But for 4 - 3, the student takes four steps forward and three steps backward, ending up close to where he started.
  3. Make a music staff from five yardsticks (or similar objects) with giant cardboard notes. Allow the pupil to move notes as necessary to get the proper timing for a measure.
  4. Have the students make flash cards to review a subject, providing double reinforcement: once in the writing of the questions and answers and again in the quizzing from the finished cards.
  5. Have the students make paper chains for their spelling words, with a word on each link. Add to the chains each week.

Use simple games to add interest for the student.

  1. A tic-tac-toe game on the chalkboard provides good test review. Divide the class into two teams, and take turns asking each team a question. If the team members can answer the question correctly, they may take a turn on the tic-tac-toe board. If they miss the question, they lose a turn.
  2. For a memory/match game, write eight review questions, each on a card with a blank back. Write the answers on separate cards that also have a blank back. Tape the cards to the chalkboard in a grid, with blank sides up. Label each column of the grid with a letter and each row with a number. Divide the class into teams. When each team takes a turn, they say the coordinates of two cards. If the two cards are a question/answer pair, they keep the cards and make another guess. Whichever team gets the most cards wins.

Whenever possible, make learning participatory.

  1. When learning fractions in math class, make cookies, but double or halve the recipe to practice addition/multiplication of fractions.
  2. Perform science experiments whenever possible. Instead of just reading about the movement of water through plants, place a celery stalk in water with food coloring, and watch the water move.
  3. Take field trips to local historical sites for social studies class.
  4. Sing Bible memory passages, multiplication tables, or states and capitals. Set the words to common tunes.

Keep simple manipulatives to use for various classes.

  1. Individual whiteboards and markers provide opportunities for all sorts of creativity. The artistic student may enjoy illustrating what he is reading about. Even writing spelling words is more interesting when done with colored markers.
  2. Use counters for basic math activities. Beans, other food items, or even number lines provide good practice for younger students.
  3. Writing words in shaving cream or pudding provides tactile reinforcement to spelling rules.

And the list goes on. . .But no matter the style and no matter the activity, the creative teacher uses whatever technique best gets the idea across to his audience, whether in the form of a lecture, a parable, or an activity.

—Karen S. Birt

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