What does the word “Creativity” mean to you?

This is probably the most essential and difficult question to answer.  Everyone has a unique idea of what creativity is and how to make creativity happen in the art classroom.  If you asked your students, “What is Creativity? would their answer be similar or different from yours? As an art teacher you have a definition of creativity (whether you know it or not).  This definition guides your practice and actions as a teacher and greatly affects how your students begin to develop their own ideas about art and creative thinking.  So what does “creativity” mean to you?!


Cartoon Assessments…



As an art teacher I am always looking for new ways to find out what my students know and have learned in art class.  The ways that I have assessed students in the past has been pretty mundane… not another fill in the blank, multiple choice short answer test!?  So what options do you we have?  Are there ways to evaluate students on the knowledge they have learned in art class?  and most importantly can it be fairly painless and actually fun for the students?  Try telling a 6th grader that you are giving them a test or that they are going to have to write the answers to several definitions— the moans and sighs are a sign of how they really feel about that kind of assessment.

So after thinking about how to get students to communicate through writing and art their learning– I settled a novel idea– why not have them create cartoons, which after all include both visual and written methods of communications.  Besides this I am finding that middle school students are obsessed with cartoons and graphic novels.    So in order to complete this assignment I made a list of all the terms and ideas that we had studied for the first half of the class.  I let students pick three of the concepts.  I told them that the cartoon had to explain the concept/or term (If you were to show your cartoon to a friend who has never taken art class would they be able to understand what it means?).  Another criteria was that students had to be creative!  They needed to create their own storyline and creative characters…

One interesting reoccurring theme used in the cartoons was a teacher or some form of instructor teaching students.  This appeared multiple time in many of my students cartoons.  Do you have any creative or different ways of assessing students?  How else might art educators “assess” students for knowledge while making it fun and interesting for the learner?



Creativity Testing

How creative do you think your students are?  Check out this creativity test…  but do you think creativity can even be tested?  What criteria would you observe in order to score the highest points?

 “Images score higher if they tell a story, convey emotions, see things from a different angle, and have a sense of motion. Points get knocked off for responses that are very common. On the other hand, details, humor, sense of visual perspective are pluses.”

 I am wondering what would happen if I gave students this test.  What would I notice about student creativity?  Would students be able to determine the most creative pieces?  How would they judge their peers on creativity?

 So many questions… who would like to try this test?  If you do please comment back with your findings. 

Article on the Creativity Crisis


Creative Capacity…

We all have the capacity to be creative.  It is just like anything else it takes practice and it takes thought and consideration.  I often hear teachers talk about students creativity saying, “Well, he is a very creative person…” or “She is not very creative… ”  What makes those students creative or not creative?  How do we come to label these students this way?  And why is the term “creativity” synonymous with “artistic?”  Can’t a scientist also be creative?  I make it a point to never pigeon-hole a student with the “creativity label.”  I believe that ALL of my students have the capacity to be creative.  Throughout their semester of art I am always encouraging divergent and interesting thoughts and ideas.  It always surprises me that the students I might have labeled as “uncreative” come up with some of the most interesting ideas.  The fact is that creativity is a muscle that needs to be flexed with practice and modeling.  It takes time, thought, and patience but creativity can be learned.  Most creative individuals are always learning new things and taking new risks.  These risks may result in failure or they could be on the verge of a creative break through.  As teachers do we believe all students can be creative?  Do we open up ourselves to new challenges and possible failures?

Students in Art Club…

During our schools resource time I have an art club.  It is made up of a selected group students who enjoy making art.  They are all very interested and are constantly thinking and talking about art.  This first semester we entered an international art competition called Art UP which is put on by the company Britten Banner.  Students did all sorts of projects from paintings, to photographs, and even some 3D constructions.  They all worked on their own projects.  I wish I could run a class like this, but I feel that many students that are in my classes need more structure in place.   I am starting off the new semester with specific skill building activities and projects and am going to very graudually give students more choices.  I know that TAB teachers promote choice, but I am still curious with how this works at the middle school level.   With my experience of middle school in the last three years is that if given the choice a majority of students do not choice wisely.  Of course their are those really interested students like I have in my art club who truly want to learn more about art.  Here are some links to students Art Up Projects:





There are more students work. If you look under the name you will Traverse City West Middle School if it is one of my students submitions. 


Students who don’t follow the assignment…..

It was my 6th day of the new semester and there are some students who don’t want to follow the art assignments.  I mean I get it they are in middle school they either want to do their art, socialize or a combination of both.  I think there is a place for more structured art assignments.  While students aren’t able to do their own thing  (sometimes doing their own thing means not doing art), they do learn a new technique and it forces them to stray from their comfort zone.  It also builds their skill so that when they get to their own drawing they are better equipped.  Practicing art is vitally important to making art.    Artists don’t just happen to make art they make art happen, and one way they make art is by practicing. 

Sometimes I get a little annoyed by that student that doesn’t seem to get the project and who strays from where the class is going.   But what is to going to hurt.  Below is an example of a project that strayed from a lesson.  Students were making clay pottery and this is what he came up with.  Some teachers would scold, but this student was very intent and I  could tell he was solving many problems.  He used straws to hold up the clay palm trees while they were wet and removed them when the clay was dry.   In person the project was interesting and many students commented on this students creative genius.    I have to encourage this risk taking and relax some of my expectations that students will follow the exact assignment. 



Freedom and Structure: Classroom Management (Part 2)

As a creative artist I always thought that to have students be creative was to give them the space and freedom for creativity to flourish— and for many art teachers that creates a very loose classroom environment.  I struggled first semester with many of my students.  It wasn’t all of the students but it was enough to make the classroom environment tense.  It wasn’t a place where students could act creatively.   I am being very strict this semester… give all students assigned seats, specific clean up jobs, and holding them accountable for their behavior.   It is harsh, but if I truly want students to engage in art then as the teacher I must create a classroom that is focused on learning and creating art. 

Here is a great blog and the author also has a book out.  Although he is not an art teacher he has an interesting spin on classroom management and his thoughts give a unique perspective…


Creativity in the New Year…

I think it takes positive energy to have creativity.  It takes a belief that things can and will change.  More than anything creativity doesn’t come easily.   For me being positive and having any kind of creative energy is not an easy task.  With three small children at home the energy to think and be creative has often left me when the kids are in bed.  To pick up a paint brush takes a lot of will and motivation.  In my art classes it is easy to focus on students who are making problems rather than the ones engaging in creative activities.  I think many people think that “creativity” comes naturally to those gifted in the visual arts.  That  it just miracously strikes us and we come up with this wonderful artwork.  From my own experience and those artists that I talk to… being creative takes drive, passion and a lot of internal motivation.  Creativity doesn’t just show up and happen.  The artist must conjour up all his strength, focusing on the positive and pour his whole soul into his work.   This year that is my goal to pour my whole soul into my family, into my teaching and into my artwork.

Freedom and Structure– Where do you Draw the Line (Part 1)

In his website Marvin Bartel writes about Creativity in the art classroom stating,

“In creative teaching, assignment limitations provide a way to change the student’s habits of work.  When a student isn’t allowed to repeat a familiar pathway into the work, additional creative effort is expended to succeed.  So long as the difficulty level is reasonable, new learning happens.  A new approach is learned.”

Throughout my graduate studies I have come to the conclusion that giving students more choices would give them more creative freedom allowing them to be more creative.  Bartel states that this can back fire and that when students have freedom of choice they will always rely on familiar images and ways of creating art.   So Bartel sees assignment limitations as a to give students a knudge into creative possibilities.  The whole question I have is what classroom ‘structrures’ work best to involve students in creative thinking and outcomes?  How much limitations should we give students?  What freedoms should they have?  

My biggest fear and is that when I give students the freedom to create their own assignments that they won’t know what to do… or that they just won’t do anything! I have students that when given specific directions won’t even follow those, how will they be able to come up with their directions and then follow them.   And the thing that perplexes me is where is the balance?  Do I give students total control over their aristic process?  Do I require them to do certain assignments or do I do both?  This is the complexity of teaching creativity– because in order to be creative the student must have desire.  How do you structure your classroom to give students the “desire” to create?

Writing and Art an unlikely combination?

For many students, adults and the general public when we think about the word ‘Art’ we generally think visual representation and rarely do we think about art as a written expression.   When I ask my students to write reflections in art class about their artwork I almost always hear the hems and haws along with the statements, “This is art class why do we have to write?  Artists don’t write they make things!”  As I have students write I have realized that many students grade 6,7, 8 struggle with writing and some of the writing is indecipherable.  The fact is writing like art is just another tool to communicate ideas, thoughts and feelings.  Throughout time both writers and artists have worked together to influence each other and come up with creative ideas.  Surrealism actually started as a literary movement and as it grew included artists.  Both writers and artists were involved in the transformational ideas of fantasy and the subconscious through both written and visual langauge. 

When I ask students to write I simply want them to express their ideas about their work… and yet to many students it seems like such an unpleasant experience to write their thoughts.  I don’t care whether students spell things correctly or use correct grammer.  All I care is that they explain and describe their thoughts.  The question now becomes how do I link art and writing together so that students feel that it is an ordinary part of art class?  Could student writing about art turn into an oral presentation that is made into a video or podcast?  The main idea of writing is to get students to think, to think and write about their art.  Do you have your art students write?  What works for you?