Creativity and Special Needs: Resources for Trail Blazing

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last few weeks exploring the web looking for writings on creativity and students with special needs. Guess what? Not much there. I can find examples of art activities to do with students with disabilities, which is fine, but the arts are only one area in which students can exhibit their creativity. I can find writers who say that serving students with special needs requires creativity, which is certainly true, but it brings us back to the basic difference between creative teaching and teaching for creativity. We need both. So it appears we have some trails to blaze here.

For today, I’ll just highlight three resources that have the potential to 1) support students’ creativity and 2) support students at multiple levels, expressing themselves in multiple ways. The first two are best for middle and high school students, while the third is targeted at younger students. It will be important for us to continue finding more.

Exploring Language is a website that provides leveled online support for creative writing, particularly poetry and song writing. Students can choose levels from “Turbo” to “Pro” and listen to video discussions about the processes of finding, exploring, and evaluating creative ideas. Additional support materials and guide sheets can be downloaded at each stage of the process. For example, note the differences between this guide sheet for exploring ideas at the “Turbo” level and this one for “SuperPro.” Exploring Language is one of the very few resources I’ve found that specifically addresses the dilemma of finding a creative idea. Hooray for problem finding!

No matter whether students are beginners, who may be most comfortable listening to other students’ experiences, or advanced students who need creative challenge, this website can be helpful. And the best part is that you can have students at multiple levels using the same resource for support. Check it out.

The Faces of Learning website states that declares it is “adults and young people—in search of better ways to work and learn.” It is home to many stories of effective learning, and a chance to share those stories. One of the most interesting part of the website is the chance to create a Learner Sketch. Statements like “ I routinely think about something I am working on, take my time, and check my work” are presented, and students can drag them to either the “Not me” or the “This is so me” areas of an online sketchpad. At the end, learners are presented with a profile of their strengths and challenges, along with suggestions for learning. Helping students consider the areas in which their creativity may most easily flourish can be a big help in setting goals—and working successfully in school.

Finally, Kerpoof is a site established by Disney, with a variety of options for creative activities. It is designed for young people and allows them to make artwork, create animated movies, and write illustrated stories. The products can be shared with friends or more generally. Using Kerpoof, students who struggle with writing can tell a story using pictures, perhaps adding words later with support. They can also create short movies through click-and-drag options. Imagination is not limited by the ability to write.

Not surprisingly, Kerpoof has a portion of the site specifically for teachers, Kerpoof Scholastics. It includes lesson plans, newsletters, and even information on using Kerpoof to teach to various standards. A big plus to this site is that teacher accounts are free, and when using the free account your students do not need an e-mail address in order to use Kerpoof. The teacher accounts also give access group galleries for sharing, as well as buddying drawing and other features.

Take a look and play a little. It’s a great place for a break!

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