Nurturing a Creative and Confident Mind

I teach art, so naturally, students are innovative and creative in my classroom, right?  Not necessarily.  I find that, just as with language, the students at ISPP, are quite diverse in their creative confidence.  Part of my job is to make sure that, at the very least, every student finds a way to connect or relate to art in a way that they see its value in their lives.  I don’t expect the next Picasso to emerge from my classroom, but I do expect each and every student to leave feeling competent and proud in their ability to be creative and express themselves.  Bottom line: art is communication, so how am I nurturing creative minds and language?

Here are a few strategies that have helped me in developing a common “creative language”, confidence and a sense of belonging in the art room.  I think they apply to students in any classroom at any age.

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  • Giving students the chance to reflect on positive and negative experiences.  Last year, I began using simple +/- charts and mind maps with students at the end of class.  I asked them to reflect on what went well and what didn’t that day.  What they liked and what they would change.  We revisited those lists the following class by thinking, “How can we turn the -‘s into +’s today?” I found this a great way to develop a growth mindset and put responsibility on students to find solutions for turning negative experiences to positive ones.

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  • Kath Murdoch’s reflection cards.  During ISPP’s Professional Development last school year, Kath Murdoch gifted us with a wealth of resources and strategies.  One that I am finding especially helpful for art class are her reflection sentence starters.  (Thanks to Bridget Brian and Leigh Pritchard for recording the actual sentences Kath used at PD and sharing with me.)  When there are 5 minutes at the end of a lesson, I scatter the sentence cards in the middle of our circle and students pair/share their reflections.  I find that even the least verbal students will choose simple sentence cards (“I feel…”) and just make a face if they don’t have the words.  I also find that most of the students end up choosing more than one sentence to share with a partner and also want to share with the entire class.  I tried this with Grade 2 classes recently after a nature walk/draw and was impressed by what I learned about the day’s lesson from their short, verbal reflections!
  • Growth mindset quotes.  I have recently been more in tune to students in art class commenting, “I’m no good at drawing/art/insert art skill here.”  And it gets under my skin!  So I am currently in the process of rolling out a “quote board” of Fixed and Growth Mindset quotes from the art room.  I’m hoping that as we “catch” one another making fixed mindset comments, we can record them and work together to transform them into growth mindset comments.  Making it an explicit part of our class should help make students more aware of when others are in a fixed mindset and have direct quotes to help them work towards a growth mindset.

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  • Checking In With Yourself.  Another Kath Murdoch brainchild from our PD.  I’ve created several posters around the art room asking students to “check in” with themselves and others while in the art room.  Simply having the opportunity to say where your mind is can help us to understand why others might be acting, thinking or creating in a certain way during class.  Many students have begun using the posters independently to self-reflect on their state of mind before, after or during class.  I’ve found that this also gives students a chance to share what is going on outside of the art room and reflect on how it might affect their thoughts and actions during the 45 minutes a week I see them.

What do you do to boost student confidence and mindfulness in your classroom?