Near the end of the school year I asked four different classrooms of students, a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth grade, what it meant to be creative. At right is what the second grade class came up with. I think these are pretty good responses from second graders. And I also need to say that I had done lots of art with these students, as I had substituted in this classroom many times and was given free reign for art lessons every time I substituted. They did have many more responses in their discussion, but generally they fit into something already on the chart so we didn't duplicate.
And here are the fourth and fifth grade response charts, from classes where most had attended art classes with me when they were in first or second grade, or both:
Good responses all, but I do have to say that while the second graders were falling all over themselves to get their ideas added to the chart, and the fourth graders were pretty easy with their responses, the fifth graders had to be coaxed and prodded to finally come up with these. Who knows what happened to these students between the time they were creatively making art in second grade and the time they landed in fifth grade. (Well, I do have a theory about that, mostly about too much attention paid to testing data, test prep, test administration, and not enough attention paid to teaching kids to take risks.....)
Unfortunately, I find students, in general, are becoming less and less creative and more and more wanting one right answer, one (easy) strategy, someone to tell them what to do, when and how to start, whether they are right. When I am doing art lessons, I find more and more students having trouble getting ideas and getting started.
So how do we help kids be more creative?
I always tell students it's okay to look around to see what other people are doing to help get ideas, as long as you don't copy. Use the same color but in a different shape. Use the same shape but a different texture. Use the same shapes but put them in a different arrangement. Create a similar pattern by changing just one thing... a squiggly line instead of a zig-zag line. If you want to try a drawing like the one someone else did, use a different drawing tool. Or a different size paper. Or a different viewpoint.
Change just one thing and go from there.
Just be different!