Bringing Creativity Into Your Classroom [from inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity]

Sep 13, 2018
Activities, Teaching Strategies

We know that the job market of the future will reward creativity. It's one place where we still enjoy advantages over machines. You may be wondering, "how can I teach my students to be creative problem-solvers." The good news is that there lots of talented people trying to solve this problem. Today I am happy to share some ideas that I picked up from Tina Seelig's book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity. In this book, the Stanford professor [NGPF fellows consistently vote the presentation to be their favorite], shares some great ideas/resources/classroom activities that will get those creative juices flowing in your classroom. Oh, and they don't require teach either! 

Activity ideas for the classroom 

  • Give these instructions: "Please line up according to your birthdays, from January 1st to December 31st. Without talking." 
    • How did the students do? 
    • What approach did students take? Why?
    • Are there alternative ways they could have accomplished this task? 
    • Lesson: Most people fall in the trap of choosing the first solution rather than considering alternatives. 
  • Icebreaker idea
    • Introduce yourself using your own six-word memoir. 
      • Examples:
        • Two eyes open, but still nearsighted. 
        • I never turn down a dare.
  • Marshmallow Challenge
    • Teams are given 18 minutes to build the tallest freestanding structure possible out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of masking tape, one marshmallow must be placed on top of the finished structure 
  • New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest: a weekly contest where readers are encouraged to come up with a creative caption for the cartoon.  Give your students five minutes and see what they come up with. 
  • Five Dollar Challenge:
    • Students get $5 and asked to create as much value as they could from these objects. 
    • Students can spend up to 5 days planning...but once they opened the envelope they had only 2 hours to generate as much money as possible.
    • They produced one slide describing what they did. 
    • They have 3 minutes to present their project to their class. 
    • Read what happened in chapter 1 (Buy One, Get Two Free) from What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20
  • Select a piece of music that resonates with you. Make a short 60 second video that accompanies the song that you chose. 
    • Lesson: Music opens up a door to emotions which unlocks imagination. Even people who don't consider themselves "creative" can succeed at a task like this because your favorite music usually has an emotional component to it. 
  • Using puzzles to teach creative problem solving
    • Ecosystem 1
      • Create 4 teams of students (3-4 per group?)
      • Get 3 - 100 piece jigsaw puzzles and mix them together 
      • Give 1/4 of the total pieces (or 75 pieces) to each team
      • Track the time it takes for the group to get all three puzzles completed
      • Room set-up: Set up room so small table for each team but no chairs
    • Ecosystem 2 
      • Same set-up described above, except...
      • Room set-up: Chairs for each team and no tables. 
    • Key question: How did the room set-up impact the effectiveness of the two teams?
  • [Name of your school] Safari: Field Observations in your own Backyard 
    • Goal: Teach students to see things that most people in the same environment pass every day without noticing
    • Activities
      • Each day, make a series of observations about your school campus in a notebook
      • Meet with range of people at your school: teachers, custodians, counselors, admin. to get their unique viewpoint about the school. 
      • Visit famous (and infamous) places around campus and track through photographs and on a class website
      • Eat at different places around campus which will may knock them out of their routine of eating at the same table in the cafeteria with the same people. 
  • Incentives to get you writing on more frequent basis:
  • HBS Leadership and Team Simulation ($45): This award-winning simulation uses the dramatic context of a Mount Everest expedition to reinforce student learning in group dynamics and leadership. Students play one of 5 roles on a team of climbers attempting to summit the mountain. During each round of play they must collectively discuss whether to attempt the next camp en route to the summit.

Other Resources:

  • Powers of Ten: a 10-minute video that will give you a new perspective of the universe as it takes you from a picnic in Chicago to beyond our galaxy and then back into the DNA molecule in a white blood cell.  Shows the value of looking at issues/problems from a variety of perspectives. 
  • John Cage 4'33": A pianist performs a unique piece which gets the audience to focus not on the music but on the sounds that surround them everyday. Is this really music? 


Please share how these activities go on the FinLit Fanatics page. I'm sure the community would love to learn from your experiences with your students. 

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.