Thinking “Outside of the Box”

By: Megan Prats

Thinking “outside of the box” and Creativity have a lot in common. However, thinking “outside of the box” is an area of creativity that the student struggles to reach (creative ideas “inside the box” should be rewarded for creativity in the student’s 2learn® Bank and not thinking “outside of the box”). Thus, to ascertain if the student is really thinking outside of the box, you need to first determine: 1) what is the student’s box; and 2) is the student thinking creatively.

When you are involved in Brainstorming, you can see the student’s “box” when the ideas stop flowing.  To allow the student to see that there are more places in which to pull ideas from than just where she’s looking, it is time for you to do some thinking “outside of the box” development!  There are many ways to push the student’s mind “outside of the box”, including:

  • Categories

After brainstorming, ask the student to locate a common topic or theme in her ideas. Once the student identifies those themes, see if there are any topics that the student is missing. If so, then you need to explain to the student that those ideas are housed within her “box” and the student needs to see beyond the “box”. Ask the student to think of more topics in which she can pull ideas from.  However, try your best to not tell the student the additional topics that she should consider so that she develops that ability for herself. Once the student thinks of another topic, ideas related to that topic should start flowing.

  • Stimuli

Find what sorts of stimuli activate the student’s creative mind. This stimuli can be a whole host of things from environment, to emotion, etc. You can start narrowing down what stimuli work for the student and what stimuli don’t by first asking the student in what situations has her creative mind worked best.

However if the student can’t name any stimuli, you need to find some.  You can first start with common stimuli that spur creative thinking – music, outdoors, writing, etc. A lot of times, interaction with an art makes the creative mind start as creative activities call for creative interpretations. Also, you know the student best, think of when the student thought creatively in the lessons and see if you can find some sort of common stimuli amongst those situations. That might be what the student needs to get her creative mind going.

After you select a nice collection of promising stimuli, it is time to test them on the
student. Normally, all it takes is igniting the stimuli and seeing how the student’s brainstorming is effected by it. If the quantity and the quality of the ideas increase as a result of the stimuli, then it is a promising one. Conversely, if you see the student’s creative mind shut, it is time to try another alternative.

  • Removing Obstacles

Sometimes instead of stimulating the student, you will need to remove obstacles that are blocking the student’s creative mind because it is already moving, it just cannot move forward. For instance, my student struggled to generate ideas about how to make the bass drum groove in the blues groove more complex. After trying several different stimuli, I noticed that there was not any improvement in his brainstorming activities but he consistently had this “this is stupid” look on his face. Thus, I said to him, “you’ve generated an emotional wall that’s stopping you from brainstorming because you think that this exercise is stupid.” Immediately after I confronted him with his emotional obstacle, he was able to generate two more quality ideas. And, afterwords, I talked to Mom and she confirmed that his emotional state affects his creativity because when he was a toddler he was drawn to creative activities, but after moving a lot, he shut down that part of his mind because he didn’t want to adapt to new things anymore. Thus, this was a case of removing an obstacle instead of implementing a stimuli.

  • More

At times, the culprit for the lack of ideas is laziness.  In these cases, the student has more ideas, but because she’s got to do some work to reach them, she stops.  So, when the student brainstorms and just provides 1 or 2 ideas, ask the student to give you 10 more.  Don’t move on until the student completes the task.  Thus, the student is forced to keep those creative juices flowing to come up with more ideas.  When asking for more ideas, you can provide the student a quantity or you can just continue to ask for more if what she gives you isn’t sufficient.

© Megan Prats 2015

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