Creativity Connections


Creativity and innovation skills are increasingly critical in the 21st century. A global economy and rapidly changing technology create a need for innovative thinkers that can imagine new ways to effectively utilize new tools in new places in new industries.

But how can we encourage creative and innovative thinking in our classrooms? There are many strategies that can be used in a variety of classroom settings that encourage this critical 21st century skill.

A few suggestions to connect creativity to your content follow:

Picture Prompt – Show students an image (for the upcoming lesson) with no explanation, and ask them to identify/explain it, and justify their answers. Do not give the “answer” until they have explored all options first.

What would you do? – Give a historical situation or contemporary challenge. Then, everyone thinks up as many alternative courses of action (or explanations of the situation) as possible. Compile list. In groups, now rank them by preference.

What is it for?– Show students a unfamiliar or interesting “mystery object” (or picture of an object). Discuss possible uses for the object. As CREATE questions to stimulate creativity.

C ombine : Can you add something else to it?

R earrange: Can parts of it be moved or changed?

E liminate : What could you remove or replace – in part or whole?

A dapt: Can it be adapted? What else is this like? What ideas does it suggest?

T ry another use: Can it be put to other uses – or given a new use if you changed one part?

E xtend: What could be added – words, pictures, symbols, functions, decoration, logos? 

What did they say? – Students weave together real quotes from primary sources, or invent ones to fit the speaker and context.  Create “conversations” from history.

Squiggle the story… – Use a drawing game such as ‘Squiggles’ to check understanding. Make a squiggle shape on a paper and pass it out (a squiggle is a small mark such as a curve or wavy line). Challenge students to make a complete drawing of something related to the lesson. Students work in pairs at the activity, then display pairs of drawings. Other children must guess what each completed drawing shows.

Brainstorming in a circle– Give students a prompt on any topic. (For example, what would you want to take if you were moving to the West?) The first student writes one idea on a paper then passes it to the right. The process continues until all students run out of ideas.

Raps/Songs – Songs written and presented by students (about social studies topics, of course!)

Want Ads – Students write want ads. Varieties include “historical,” “humorous,” and as a famous character.

Follow that rabbit! You know that student who often asks the question that goes a bit outside the lecture, wants to follow a new rabbit trail? Well, engage him. Once a week, intentionally address those questions. Write them down on an assigned space in the board to go back to later. Validate their creativity.


These strategies and many others support creativity for the 21st century while engaging in interesting content processing. Thank you for working to support critical skills development for tomorrow’s leaders.



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