Thursday, October 29, 2009

Open-Ended Questions Enhance a Creative Climate

It does not take special kits, programs or materials to inspire kids to think creatively. With the right approach, creativity and creative thinking can be integrated into every aspect of the classroom and the family.
When we let kids know that we value creativity, we tell them, by our words and actions, that we value their experiences, their knowledge, and their view of the world. We make it clear that most problems have more than one solution, that there are many ways to look at any situation, and that finding a solution can be exciting, pleasurable, and an opportunity to discover and learn. And, that every kid has great ideas.
 Whether in the classroom, after-school program, or around the dinner table, an atmosphere open to creative thinking is a great way to encourage kids to feel comfortable. A “creative climate” – one in which everyone is welcome to express their ideas, and all ideas are valued, encourages kids to explore ideas, share passions, and discover new interests. It opens the door to opportunities to work together, to interact with the broader community, and connect several areas of learning and interests. Most of all, it is a powerful way to help kids find meaning in their learning, and value in their own abilities.

 So, what does it take to establish a creative climate?

In my opinion, it’s not that difficult. In my years of teaching, research and writing about creativity one idea stands out above all others – the most effective way to encourage creative thinking is to model the characteristics you are hoping to see - openness to lots of ideas, respect for all views and opinions, willingness to listen, careful observation with all your senses, curiosity, a sense of play, and most important– a willingness to make mistakes and try again.

In other words, in a creative climate, attitude is everything. But, strategies help too.

Asking open-ended questions (ones that cannot be answered with yes, no, I dunno or grunt) is an easy strategy to make part of everyday conversations and activities; they are effective, they definitely stimulate thinking, they offer opportunities for you to discover what and how your kids think, and they are FUN.

Here’s how: Ask open ended questions, such as
  • How might we do that? 
  • What do you think? 
  • What would you do?
  • How do you think this story will end?
  • How else could we do this?
  • Where might you find out what you want to know?
From an educational perspective, open-ended questions allow teachers and parents to:
  • Take kids from the role of  receivers of information to the producers of information.
  • Facilitate learning by asking questions that direct learning instead of providing answers.
  • Build flexible thinking by helping kids see things in new ways and from different perspectives.
  • Integrate concepts for making connections between ideas, concepts and/or objects.
  •  Encourage autonomy as kids become better able to use resources and find their own answers.
  • Improve communications skills as kids express and share their ideas and information.
How might YOU make creative thinking part of YOUR climate?