If you are looking for a practical resource for adding some “sparks” of creativity to your curriculum planning, ASCD has a resource that may help. Patti Drapeau’s Sparking Student Creativity is subtitled “Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving,” and it delivers on that promise. The book is organized around four “roads,” one focusing on verbs and phrases that can help spark flexible thinking, one on creativity strategies, the third on innovation and problem solving, and the last on creative products. It also examines processes for elaborating on Common Core standards to create lessons that incorporate creativity within content lessons.
This is a concise book, which is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Like any book that deals with as complex an idea as creativity in classrooms, there are topics where I wished for more depth and elaboration. But if you are looking for a book you can read quickly and implement immediately (and what teacher doesn’t?), it may be just the ticket.
My favorite part of the book is the “Grab and Go” activities at the end of most chapters. Not surprisingly, “Grab and Go” activities are designed to implement concepts immediately and practically. For example, Grab and Go #1 provides a list of starter phrases that can spur fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. They are not unusual, and most teachers who value creativity could probably generate a similar list, but when tired and planning lessons, wouldn’t it be nice to have them ready at hand? Grab and Go #6 uses randomly selected nouns to help students think about topics being studied from new perspectives. Grab and Go #11 is one of my favorites. It is titled “Lost,” and asks students to imagine finding information about their topic that has been lost and use it to elaborate on the known information. Imagine students writing a “missing” chapter of a novel, a “missing” letter from one historical character to another, or “missing” additional explanations from a brief science chapter. Sounds like fun, with a lot of potential to focus students’ thinking on key ideas.
Sparking Student Creativity won’t teach you everything you’d ever want to know about creativity, but that isn’t its purpose. If you are looking for practical suggestions that will help you support your students’ creativity on a day-to-day, this book can be a fine way to start.