How to teach creativity

How to teach creativity

Increasingly with PLAY!

Yes it is important to restrict resources like, time, freedom and people, to focus the mind, but to make the process memorable, it helps to be fun.

I have had the privilege of teaching 12 year old’s creativity over a six week period. I had planned my content, created my slides and practiced my lessons. Two weeks in, I realised that it was not going to plan. They were bored, yawning and had their heads slumped in their hands.

Something had to change.

Life is a journey not a destination - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Creative Process

So I rang a couple of friends whose opinions I valued.

“Help! they are bored and falling asleep, how can I turn this around? This process is too important not to teach it, but how can I share it so they are engaged with it?

Smart companies want to do things differently and they need creative people to help them achieve it.

I teach a Five Step Process for creativity. I have done this successfully for several years online. It has received great feedback, and the outcomes of the course are beautiful. So why wasn’t it working in the classroom?

I received these two wonderful pieces of advice:

  1. Keep it simple (thankyou Annabel Cleeve)
  2. “Flip it” (thankyou Anna Gill)


How to keep it simple – teach ONE Thing

This is what is going to happen today…

We have to get this done.

We are learning this because…

So you are able to…

Then DO IT.

Confirm at the end “Can everyone do it?”


How to keep it interesting and memorable

Make it playful!

I was teaching them the theory, in class and I was having them do the creative work for their homework. I should have been having them do the creative homework in the classroom.

Curious in abstract art by Grace Stephens

On reflection there were three things happening here:


I was asking them to be creative in isolation. This is very hard and unnatural. I talk about the importance of speaking with other people whose opinion we value. Especially in the first stage of creativity (saturate) and yet I was depriving them of one of those primary sources of new ideas, their friends.


I was asking them to “do” without showing them how. Sure I gave instructions from the front and gave examples, but this is not as nearly as memorable as “doing it with you” (DIWY as opposed to Doing it Yourself DIY).

When you do it with them we get to see how they learn and it takes away the uncertainty associated with doing something for the first time. Expressing ourselves in new and novel ways is always filled with fear. Being creative with them makes the experience feel safer.


Even though I didn’t have time to go through the detail of the process, which I had meticulously planned out, I could tell some learning was happening. They were now asking questions that were not forthcoming before. They were volunteering to present their work, where previously it was uncool to do so. When asked to recall basic frameworks, they could.

As they were working through their creative task, I would walk around and ask them about their work. I was curious about them, which in turn showed them how to be curious with each other.

how to teach creativity

Learning is a laughing matter

Laughter releases the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which serves to reward the brain. It plays a pivotal role in our motivation to continue a behaviour.

Every time we are curious about something, our brain receives a hit of Dopamine. Our natural high to continue what we were doing. To delve a little deeper.

This is why play is so important for learning. When we incorporate play into our learning, it is fun. When something is fun, we are happy and we laugh and in turn our brain encourages us to keep learning.

It is even more fun with friends

Another thing I observed was when we have friends working on a project together, they are so much more engaged. Less people are left out of the idea generation and they are more excited about delivering their idea at the end. I think this happens in life. When we enjoy the people around us we enjoy the process.

A fun way of measuring the success of a classroom is by the noise that is generated. It is often how people measure the success of a party or a dinner. How much people are talking and laughing and being silly.

I love the sound of laughter. If there is laughter there is joy associated with the task.

People will remember you, not by what you said, but how you made them feel.


In summary

Two things I remember as important as a teenager were friendships and fun.

Incorporate play into teaching creativity.  This way learning really important things like how to solve problems and seize opportunities don’t feel so heavy.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey not a destination.”

Make the journey fun.

Join the 5 Day Creative Challenge


A process that gifts competence and resilience to seize life’s opportunities.

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