Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How do you spot a Creative Thinker?

A graduate student researching the characteristics of gifted students asked this question to kids in a TAG (talented and gifted) classroom.

Answers included: “Use a green felt pen.” “Expose them to measles.” “A pair of binoculars might work.” “Stand next to one on the parallel bars.”

In this classroom, where kids were encouraged and taught to think creatively, funny and unusual responses just kept on coming. The graduate student wrote in her notebook, “The ability to think creatively and generate original ideas is a characteristic of gifted kids."

In these times of budget deficits and program cutting, parents and teachers of gifted kids are finding it more and more difficult to find the time and the resources to meet the needs of kids on the upper end of the special needs spectrum.

But, even in the good old days, when TAG programs thrived, and kids identified as gifted had special classes and services provided, the idea that every kid is gifted, that all kids can and should be encouraged to think creatively, was, in my opinion, never a mainstream concept.

The prevailing attitude seemed to be that creative thinking is something only the kids identified as gifted need to learn. I disagree.

Today, classrooms are increasingly diverse, filled with kids at all kinds of risk, kids who don’t speak English as a primary language, kids who move too often to give us the time to get to know them, kids who perform poorly on tests, kids who try to hide their talents in order to fit in better, the list goes on and on. Even the kids we identify as gifted may only have special gifts in some areas, and be quite average in others.

To be sure that each kid has the best opportunity to succeed in life, I believe that we need to encourage and teach ALL kids to think creatively, and to help them understand the value of great ideas, and the ability to identify and solve problems. What better way to build self-esteem, and give value to unique abilities and points of view?
With this in mind, this blog will be a place for me (and for you) to share ideas and inspirations for simple (and not so simple) things that teachers, mentors and parents, can do to provide every kid, whether identified gifted, a talented artist, a math whiz, a shy guy, a newcomer, or a regular kid, with the tools they need to be able to think creatively, see the world in new ways, believe in their own abilities, solve problems, and maybe, make a difference in the world.

So, how do you spot a creative kid? Just keep your eyes open.