Article | Encouraging Creativity with Stories

Stories, folktales, fairy tales, and other genres of story have always fascinated children and adults too. Stories allow us to imagine without boundaries. You could imagine a knight in shining armor, running a kingdom by day and playing mad scientist by night; spending time in a basement laboratory, cooking up a chemical to turn pollen into sparkle powder.

I know it sounds absurd, but then that’s the goodness of stories, isn’t it – they allow you to imagine things and no one can say you’re  wrong. Otherwise, we would’ve never gotten a chance to see a panda do Kung Fu or ants coming together to put up a fight against grasshoppers in “A Bug’s Life”.

When we see animated movies, in most cases, we are in awe of the team who made the movie, especially their creative skills. How do these people become creative? Did they go to a school for creativity?

Creativity to put it very simply, is thinking beyond boundaries.

Video: Above and Beyond – This video by FableVision illustrates the power of creativity.

Creativity can be taught, practiced and encouraged in class. In our last article we spoke about teaching to think, in this article we look at developing imagination or creative skills through the medium of stories.

Imagination knows no boundaries, hence teachers must encourage and urge students to look beyond the obvious. For example, we all know that a comb is used to comb hair, but can you think of 10 other ways in which you can use a comb? Questions like these or asking open-ended questions allows students to think without boundaries.

Questions framed around Bloom’s Taxonomy levels four, five, and six encourage creative as well as critical thinking skills. It’s a good idea for teachers to have a question prompt chart in class. After a concept has been taught, refer the chart and ask at least one question from levels four, five, and six.

bloom's thinking skills

Here are some literature-based creative thinking activities that teachers can do with students. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers for these activities, and all students should be encouraged to explain their perspective and should be appreciated for the same.

  • Read Aloud – Read aloud a story, describe the characters (don’t show the pictures), then ask children to draw the character in their books. You will be amazed to see how each person interprets the character.
  • What Happens Next: Read aloud a story, pause at the turning point and ask children to guess what happens next.
  • What Would You Do If You Were: Read a story, after it’s completed ask children what would they do if they were the main character in the story.
  • Write Your Story: Ask students to write a new story for the characters from a well-known story.
  • Story Remix: Ask students to bring together characters from two stories and create a new story with them. Encourage them to change the personalities of the characters, the wicked stepmother can be a kind and loving stepmother in the new story, and maybe the princess can be a wicked person.
  • Character Sketch: Ask students to create their own story, their first task would be to make a list characters who would be part of the story, and have them describe the personality of each character. Students in lower grades could use adjectives to describe their characters, while students in higher grades could also describe the appearance and dressing style and personality of each character.

Can you think of some more creative activities that can be done with stories? What practices do you follow to encourage creative thinking in your class?

Share your ideas in the comments box below.

Kanchan Shine

Kanchan Shine

Passionate about everything related to education. I believe that the best kind of learning happens through play, experiments and fun! I love watching how children learn and love to implement play-based, hands-on teaching approaches. I get my thrill by planning activities for my children (6 yo girl & 3 yo boy) and watching them learn while having fun!

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4 Responses

  1. s12sheetal says:

    Here are some classroom activities to encourage creativity with words, objects and pictures.

    1. The ‘Connect’ game

    Creativity begins with generating ideas, speculating and creating new associations. As a warm-up or focusing activity play ‘Connect’. Ask a student to suggest a word. You say a word that is related to that word eg if the word is ‘football’ you might say ‘goal’. The next child then says a word connected with the previous word eg ‘goal’, ‘net’ and so on. Players take turns. They are allowed thinking time, but can be challenged by any other player to explain the connection between their word and the previous word.

    (For a harder version of this game see ‘Random Words’ in Fisher, R. Games for Thinking)

    2. Mystery objects

    Creativity involves developing ideas through suggesting hypotheses (‘What if …?’) and applying imagination. This activity encourages children to develop ideas that are original and have a purpose, which is to improve or add value to something. It encourages children to ask themselves the creative question: ‘How can this be improved?’

    Show a box that contains an unfamiliar or interesting ‘mystery object’ (or a picture of an object). Without showing or saying what it is, describe the object’s appearance (or ask a child to). Ask children to try to visualize what is described, to hypothesize what it might be and then ask questions to try to identify the object. The child who identifies the object must also describe it. Show the object and ask children to reflect on the description given and their ability to visualize it. Discuss what it was made for, and its possible uses. Ask for suggestions of how it might be improved. Encourage creative suggestions.

    Here are some questions for stimulating creative ideas about any topic, grouped under the mnemonic CREATE:

    C ombine : Can you add something else to it? Can you combine purposes, ideas?

    R earrange: Can parts of it be moved or changed?

    E liminate : What could you remove or replace – in part or whole? Can it be simplified?

    A dapt: Can it be adapted? What else is this like? What ideas does it suggest?

    T ry another use: Can it be put to other uses – or given a new use if you changed one part?

    E xtend: What could be added – words, pictures, symbols, functions, decoration, logos?

    Children could select or be given one object to study with a partner

    1. They think up as many uses as they can for the object.

    2. Their ideas are listed and shared with a larger group.

    3. They think of ways to change and improve the design or function of one object (using the CREATE questions above)

    4. The group assesses what they think is the most original idea.

    5. They draw this new object and prepare a presentation to describe or ‘sell’ it to others.

    Children can be invited to assess the value of their own and others’ ideas. Questions might include:

    Were any good improvements suggested? Which were the best?

    Did they find it more creative to work on their own, with a partner or a group? Why?

    Is it important to try to improve things? What should be improved? Why?

    3. Drawing games

    Creativity involves expanding existing knowledge. This is done through building on existing ideas or thinking of new ideas. Creative thinking will involve both visual and verbal thinking, children thinking by themselves and with others.

    Squiggles

    Play a drawing game such as ‘Squiggles’. Make a squiggle shape on the board (a squiggle is a small mark such as a curve or wavy line). Show how this can be added to make a complete drawing of something. Draw identical squiggles on two halves of the board and invite two children to make them starting points for their own quick drawings. Discuss the creative aspects of each drawing. Children work in pairs at the activity, then display pairs of drawings. Other children must guess what each completed drawing shows.

    What might the shape be?

    Draw a simple shape on the board and ask the children what it might possibly be. Collect their ideas and add some of your own. Ask what might be added to the shape to make it something else – what could we do to change or add to it? Invite children to sketch their own picture of something new by adding to the given shape. Discuss their range of ideas.

    Circle stories

    1. Give children a worksheet of circle shapes. Ask them to draw as many different things as they can by adding details to each circle eg face, sun, watch, cobweb etc. Give a strict time limit.

    2. In pairs ask children to compare their collection of circle drawings.

    3. Children choose and cut out six of their circle drawings. They think of as many connections as they can between each drawing eg ‘The face is smiling because the watch says it is lunchtime and at this time the spider is weaving a web …’

    4. The children individually, in pairs or small groups create a story incorporating in it as many of the subjects of their circle drawings as possible.

    5. They draft these stories, adding details to make them as interesting as possible, using the circle drawings as illustrations.

    6. The stories are presented and discussed.

  2. P S Sudha says:

    Start of the class activity for language classes

    Initiate the class with a sentence like ‘I met Ram yesterday in the evening.’ Ask one student to continue build up the sentence by adding some content in one sentence, again the next student some other content, like this a new story can by built.
    This can also be done using picture as ‘picture story building activity’.
    These activities bring about the creativity of the student.

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