Teaching Students to Think Creatively

I am trying to incorporate creative thinking throughout the training program I am developing for my tutors. With constant cuts to school budgets, classes in the arts are usually the first to go. And while I think that is another problem in itself, it does leave students without the ability to really brainstorm and problem solve. This presents a problem when you are tutoring someone and the method you are teaching them just isn’t clicking. You have to be able to look at all sides of the problem and come up with alternative ways to get to the same point.

Here’s an example: when I was younger, I tutored a child in math who simply could not get the concept of odd and even numbers. I tried to explain that they never change, that any number that ends in 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are odd and numbers that end with 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 were even. For some reason, he just couldn’t grasp the concept no matter which way I explained it.Out of complete desperation, I looked around his room to see if I could find something to explain it better. I found a ball that was half red and half blue. I had him hold the ball in his hands and rotate it halfway as we counted. The blue side was odd numbers and the red side was even. Sure enough, with that simple visual, he caught on a lot faster! It was hard for me at first to try and find a way around his comprehension problem – numbers are either odd or even, there is no deeper concept or tricks involved. But once I saw that ball, I knew I had something.

I know a solution like that won’t work for every kid, and that is the whole point. One size fits all teaching is the way most classrooms have to operate – by necessity, please don’t think I am saying teachers are ineffective or lazy – and their methods tend to be tried and true. While I understand these strategies works for a good majority of students (otherwise they wouldn’t teach in that way), it does leave out some children. If everyone learned the same way, we wouldn’t need tutors!

I want my tutors to be able to relate to the students they are working with and figure out the most effective approach to teach concepts to their peers. It will only be through creative thinking that they will be able to come up with alternative teaching methods that may work, and have the confidence enough to give them a try. It is my job to make sure that my tutors have the ability to identify learning deficits and try to find ways around those issues. Once they’ve done so, they’ll be able to effectively tutor students who need help in the most effective ways possible. I’m trying to come up with different exercises and methods to emphasize these skills. It has definitely been a challenge.

But just like that little boy’s face when he finally understood the concept of odds and evens, it will be so very worth it!