Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Inspire Your Kids to Create

Before you read any further, I'm sharing this as a teacher and as a parent. But, it can be inspiring to anyone, so I hope that you will keep reading and apply it to your own creative self and inspire someone too!

Something phenomenal happened in my classroom the other day that I can't keep my mouth shut about. (Some of you may not know that I am a high school teacher; I don't speak much about it on here).  I teach technology; more specifically, I teach MS Office.

The assignment for my students last week was a slide presentation about themselves using any elements they wished from the program and adding details about their lives that they were comfortable including.  Instead of just assigning the project and expecting a mediocre batch of slide shows that would fulfill the requirements but demand no thought process, I upped the ante by sharing my own experience as a student this summer, namely in Kristin's Find Your Voice class.  

I gave them a generic mind map to brain storm with and then told them they were welcome to change the categories, add to, or even leave blanks as it applied to their thoughts for what they would share.  I read a few quotes from Kristin's Find Your Voice class and gave them examples of my own work this summer (pictures and things I had written about myself) as a student in learning how to be a better storyteller, but how I had to find out WHO I was first.

I decided that to inspire them to be better storytellers, I would tell them about me...things that are sometimes hard to tell if you are a teacher.  I told them how I was juggling two jobs and why.  I told them I was plagued by ADD and by feelings of insecurity, but that I am also friendly and creative, and a bit of a different drummer with definitely my own beat.  And that sometimes thinking outside the box had landed me between a rock and a hard place.  I showed them how to edit photos using Picmonkey (this turned into a great demonstration for the kids who work on a higher level...they edited photos for their presentations while the ones who needed help with the presentation program caught up with the layout).

I assigned the project and turned them loose, with just a bit of guidance as needed. The only parameters? Six to ten slides of whatever they want to include, in appropriate manner, of course.

I knew at least a few of my students would create what they needed to for the grade, and do a really good job of it, too.  I knew they would include the elements to make their shows noteworthy such as sound and animation and by manipulating the master slide to include a picture as an avatar.  But one didn't.  He did something much more spectacular.

He asked before he presented how long he would have to speak.  I told him 1-2 minutes.  He said he would have to hurry.  He began the show with a slide with his name on it and the title.  The rest were pictures only, which prompted his speech.  "This PowerPoint is obviously about who I am," he began, "but more importantly, what I am."  He switched to slide 2, and in intricate detail he proceeded to explain to us the chemical makeup of our bodies, and how this determines who we are.  Kids in the class started to giggle quietly and shake their heads as if they knew this student already and expected this kind of presentation from him...the one that was always the outcast and the nerd that was passionate about science but never as passionate about being on the cool kids playground.  He finished his explanation sharing no concrete details about himself, his family, where he lives, or how many pets he has.

I stood there with my mouth open in awe.  I quietly asked him if I could talk about his presentation with the class, in which he replied simply, "Of course."

I began by telling the class how inspired I was by his presentation.  I didn't understand any of it...I wasn't passionate about science in school and I surely couldn't explain body chemistry to anyone.  But by listening to his presentation I know exactly who he is.  He loves science.  He pays attention to detail.  He likes to share his knowledge and he's not afraid of what someone else might think about his passion.  He can think out of the box and on a dime, and he knows exactly the places he'll go. He doesn't have to read a script to anyone; he can give you details by heart because he knows his stuff, and he knows himself.

How cool.  How neat that this one kid can change the perspective of one single assignment because he chose to take it literally, but then also used the literal representation to present a grand representation of himself, his personality, and his future plans.

At the end of class, I gave him a white pencil that was engraved with, "Way to go!" on it.  You would have thought it was a $100 bill.  (That idea from one of the most caring principals I know.)

All you have to do to inspire your kids to create is to share with them a little bit about you and what makes you tick the way you do...a little bit about how you are still a learner too...and throw in a dash of something out of the box, that maybe isn't a required element, but that they can relate to and grab and run with.  They need to see real and they need to see a purpose, with just a bit of wisdom thrown in for good measure.  The rest is up to them.

I can tell you this...the spectacular presentations didn't end there.  I've seen many more and I've learned so much about my kids these past few class days.  And they aren't just packaged presentations.  They are real. And they are smart.  And they are inspirational.

Thanks for letting me share.  This year has started off grand.  I'm looking forward to much more creativity!


  1. I love how you give your kids the freedom to creatively express themselves! What a great tribute to your student's creativity and your wonderful teaching!

    1. Thank you, Nettie. These kids have done so well already this year. I'm wondering what will happen next!