Fostering creativity in teens

Fostering creativity in teens

We have all heard about 21st-century skills – the skills that are required for success in 21st-century society.  Creativity and creative thinking are mentioned among them as being vital. Creative thinking enables students to see things in a different light, which leads to innovation and discoveries. Children and teenagers need to develop this skill as their ability to generate fresh ideas and come up with unusual decisions will make them an asset at their future workplace. Not least, the ability to think outside the box will definitely help your students in decision-making, building relationship and solving problems.

Creativity just comes naturally when we deal with young learners. Drawing, acting things out, miming, dancing – all these fascinate them. When our little ones reach their pre-teens, the situation changes radically. Every activity which demands a little effort is rejected. Teens come up with the most obvious and predictable examples, are terrified of open class activities and take singing a song as a punishment rather than a reward. Can anything be done to help teenagers boost their creativity skills? The answer is – definitely yes.

Thinking outside the box

Thinking outside the box should be practised regularly, as every other skill. You can add a twist to language tasks or just use some warm-ups and fillers with less grammar or vocabulary in mind.

When the class starts, divide students into teams and ask them to think of as many uses of some object as they can. It can be a paperclip, a rubber band, an earring or whatever you find in the class. The team with the most uses wins.

Relate the unrelated. Do you remember the famous riddle from “Alice in Wonderland”, “Why is a raven like a writing desk”? Offer your teens more tasks like that. Doing comparatives? Ask them to write random nouns and proper names on slips of paper. Then they take two slips and compare what they have. Spiderman and spaghetti? Pizza and Santa Claus?  Who knows. 

Practising “odd-one-out”? Change the rules: now every word is wrong, your students just need to prove it. “Armchair – bookcase – roof – table”? An armchair is an odd one as it is always soft!

Open-ended tasks

Having a dictation? Add a twist! Dictate sentences that students can finish with their own ideas.

Yesterday I was walking to the ___________ when suddenly I saw a ___________ woman. She was wearing ___________ and she was carrying ___________. The strangest thing about her was ___________. etc.

This way, teens not only can practise grammar structures and work on their spelling, but also make small steps to independent story writing. Writing from scratch is hard, especially for lower levels, but this activity can help you out.

A nice development of reading tasks can be to write a follow-up. If you’ve been working on an interesting story that can be continued, write some options on post-it notes. There may be a happy ending, a sad ending, a scary one, an unexpected one or a silly one. Let students take one of papers and write a short paragraph, finishing the story in a given way.

Doodles

This activity was taken from Penny Ur’s “Discussions and More”. Draw a doodle on the board. Make sure it doesn’t represent anything specific but is just an abstract piece of drawing. Invite teenagers to share their ideas on what this doodle represents. After you’ve listened to all the interpretations, decide which of them is the most creative and unusual. The student who’s offered the most original idea draws the next doodle and asks for interpretations from their groupmates.

Games

Most of the games are a great way of boosting creativity. One that is coming to mind instantly is “Imagine”. In this game you have 61 transparent cards with oversimplified images on them. Combine the cards, put next to each other or overlap to show a phrase or a word without speaking. This game works great with the topic of films, books or celebrities.

Music

Music is not just for filling the gaps or singing. Use a song to create necessary atmosphere at your lesson or to let teens have a little break. Ask them to close their eyes and listen to a piece of music. After that, invite them to share in pairs what has come to their mind. 

Use songs to creatively describe character and appearance and train imagination. Play one and ask students to imagine someone who likes (or, possibly, hates) this song and, then, describe what this person looks like and what their character is. You can develop this task in a number of ways. One option is to play a couple of tunes, one after another, and tell students A to describe the person who likes the first tune, while students B will think of the one who likes the second song. Then, they might briefly discuss their characters in pairs and make up a dialogue between them, or write a short story of what happens when the characters meet.

You can read more on using music to boost creativity in this article

Lateral thinking puzzles

Lateral thinking puzzles are unusual or even weird riddles in which students are given a little information and then have to find the answer. You can find tons of them on the Internet by googling for ‘lateral thinking puzzles’. Personally I find this website absolutely brilliant. They are solved with the help of logic, but creative thinking can help a great deal here too, so you are killing two birds with one stone. As such puzzles often involve crime stories and mysterious murders, they will brighten up any unit about crime. As well, these puzzles will serve you well if you want to practise Past Simple or Past Continuous questions. 

A student has a card with a riddle and the answer. They read out the riddle and invite other students to ask questions. There are three possible answers: “Yes”, “No”, or “Irrelevant”. So it goes till the riddle is done or the students give up.

“A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says ‘Thank you’ and walks out”.  

Answer: The man had hiccups. The barman recognised this from his speech and drew the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured the hiccups – so the man no longer needed the water. 

A little piece of advice: before bringing a set of puzzles to the lesson, check them for content as some of them might be inappropriate for classroom use. 

Drama

Do you think that teenagers are already too old to participate in a drama activity? Think again! With the help of little drama tricks, you can drill pronunciation, use grammar, practise functional language and what not. Want to know more? This article with some amazing practical ideas is just what you need.

At times, fostering creative thinking can pull teens out of their comfort zone. However, if you start with small exercises, they will soon get used to that creative spark and, probably, even ask for more. Give it a go!

Надежда Попова

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