The most basic creative teaching tool is a teacher’s freedom to move away from standardized curriculum while staying focused on academic objectives. There is no one teaching or testing method that works well for every student. Children with the same mother and father often exhibit distinctly different ways of doing, learning and proving things.
Good teachers (and good parents) recognize these differences and create learning environments that allow children to excel in their areas of strength and to build a strong foundation in areas of weakness. The range of these creative teaching tools is as varied as the student populace. Some students require independence while others need direction and scaffolding. Artistic students may best learn by creating posters, brochures, poems or songs while more competitive students learn best under a challenge.
Aside from the freedom of teachers to provide information and assignments that suit their students’ individual learning styles and the students’ freedom to learn and demonstrate knowledge and skills in their own ways, the classroom environment must make available the physical tools necessary for learning. These tools include the standard fare of books, computers, lectures, pencils and paper combined with opportunities for more creative learning. Artistic, scientific, musical, industrial, professional and technological materials and inputs can provide a far richer learning environment that not only will help students learn in their best way but also grants them the opportunity to see what works best for others.
The exposure to and observation of the multitude of ways people can learn expands each student’s perspective on problem-solving, gathering and gaining knowledge, and demonstrating new skills. In this way, each student not only shows their achievements but gains a wider perspective on human variation and a better tolerance for those differences. This academic synergy improves the learning experience of everyone involved.
A history lesson can be read or lectured about, but it can also be discovered through museums, research projects, guest speakers, school-wide contests, field trips, or anything else a good teacher knows will work for their students. Mathematics doesn’t necessarily have to be taught through rote memorization and tedious homework. A love of baseball can transform fear of math into a firm grasp of statistics with baseball cards. Hands-on experiences in cooking and building bring the rules of math to life. Creative, inspired teachers who are free to improvise can often build learning situations that best suit their current room of students.
While standardized curriculum and assessments certainly have their place in the classroom, very often it is the creative, individualized, self-motivated assignments that instill a wider range of skills, abilities and knowledge within the students.