Whee Create

Creativity Tips!


Some folks argue that there are really no new ideas.  Innovators and makers take old ideas and put new twists on them to come up with novel ideas.  Bend, Break, Blend is a brainstorming strategy that helps people change existing ideas into new ones.

Some examples of Bend, Break, Blend

In their book, the Runaway Species: How Creativity Remakes the World, Brandt and Eaglemen identify three “B”s or three basic strategies that are at the root of all creative thinking: bending, breaking, and blending. 


  • Bending- In bending, an idea or product is modified from its original version. In the movies Honey I Shrunk the KidsThe Borrowers, and more recently, Antman, humans are shrunk to encounter worlds of giant objects. Manufactures took our favorite candy bars and made them huge, family size, and bite size. The telephone is an example of technology that continues to “bend” from something tethered to the wall to a device that goes with us everywhere.   


  • Blending- the brain combines two or more ideas in novel ways. Consider for example the post-it-note which is a blend of note paper and glue. Superheroes are often a blend of animal and human characteristics such as the combination of a spider, bat or cat with a person (Spiderman, Batman, Catwoman).


  • Breaking- Brandt and Eagleman describe breaking as the process of breaking a whole into parts and reassembling the parts to create something new. They describe the Cubism movement in art as an example of breaking.  The images of Cubist such as Picasso appear broken and put back together from different angles and perspectives. Numerous examples of “breaking” can be found in art, music, science, and technology.  

As you look at works of art and feats of engineering and technology, listen to music, and read literature- help children think of similar works that might have inspired the inventor the creator. Is there evidence of bending, breaking and blending?

When children are creating their own works, challenge them to think of works that might inspire their work and to see what they can bend, break and blend.

6-3-5/ C SKETCH

6-3-5/ C Sketch  is a brainstorming strategy used in various disciplines such as engineering and marketing.  In this process, members of a team of 6 each create concept sketches for or describe 3 ideas for solving a problem. The team members rotate their sketches and notes around the table so that each of the other 5 team members adds to, enhances or starts a new idea that was sparked by the original sketch.  

Some More Info on the 6-3-5/ C sketch Methods!

Of course, variations on 6-3-5/C Sketch might include the number of members in a group or the number of original ideas on the initial go round. To use in a classroom where teams are assigned a problem or project, have team members start with this process to generate initial ideas for solving the problem. For example, when Mrs. Watson starts a PBL unit where students are hypothetically granted $1,000,000 dollars to solve a problem faced by their community, teams use the 6-3-5/c- Sketch to generate ideas for solutions to the problem they have identified. Each student writes or draws three ideas and then passes their idea on to the person next to them.  Each team member adds to what has been passed to them until each paper has made its way around to the other five team members.


Divergent Thinking is the process of generating many ideas by exploring lots of possibilities for solving a problem. It differs from Convergent Thinking where individuals work to come to the same solution.  Divergent thinking activities can help people exercise their creative muscles as they require children to offer suggestions about a topic that are quirky and unusual.

Some Divergent Thinking Activities to Try!

Here is an example of a divergent thinking activity that can be loads of fun.

Grab a pencil or pen and a piece of paper.

You will have One Minute for this activity.  

How many uses can you think of for a fork?  Besides eating J.  Try to list 15 or more if you can!

What did you imagine?

  • A pitchfork for a hamster
  • An item to bend when you’re practicing telekinesis
  • A hair bush for a baby orangutan
  • A catapult to launch spit wads across the room
  • A place to hang your keys if you stick the fork in the wall
  • A rake for making designs in the sand at the beach

Now try other objects, a paper clip, straw, pipe cleaner and so on.  

Divergent thinking with a pencil

The Torrance Test of Creative thinking is a popular test designed to identify and measure creative potential.  Some of the sample questions make fun divergent thinking activities.  For example, one question includes various shapes. Children are asked to use the shapes to draw anything they want. Another asks them to use circles to create something. For fun, try some similar activities with your children. 

Provide a page of blank circles and ask children to draw what they want with them.

Draw some suiqqles,  random lines, or shapes on a paper, and ask children to make pictures out of the squiggles or random lines.

 This website has some sample questions from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking that would also make fun activities.   https://www.testingmom.com/tests/torrance-test/sample-torrance-practice-questions/


Maps can be wonderful tools to nurture creative and critical thinking.   A concept map (Novak, 1998) is a way to represent knowledge and show the relationship of ideas and concepts while mind-mapping (Buzan and Buzan 2010) involves creating a diagram of a central idea or concept with details branching or radiating from it in a tree like fashion. Both concept maps and mind maps can facilitate idea generation and follow through (Malycha & Maier, 2017; Simper, Reeve &Kirby).  They help learners brainstorm ideas and organize their thoughts in a non-linear fashion, often resulting in finding previously undetected relationships and new connections.

Resources for Concept and Mind Mapping

There are several apps that students can use to generate maps:

  • Mindmeister at http://mindmeister.com  has a free version to use and is my favorite.  I used it to create the map below. The only thing I don’t like is that the capacity to free draw is limited (notice my weak attempt at a tree). 
  • Coggle at https://coggle.it  also has a free version.  What I like about it is that you can invite people to collaborate with you on a map.
  • Mindjet http://mindjet.com  will give you a free 30 day trial- I have not yet tried it.

Of course, maybe the best idea is to draw a map with good old-fashioned chart paper and markers?    

Have you tried mind mapping?   If so, please share a pic of a map you or your students have generated.  

Have you found an App for creating Maps that you like?  Let us know.


For this Creativity Tip, we are providing a list of a few tech tools designed to promote creativity in your classroom.  The tools come from technology/creativity sessions at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Conference in Albuquerque that Lisa and I attended in November.  Maybe your students could use on these for one of the Novel Inventions challenges?

Tech Tool Links!



A simplified graphic-design tool.  Uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to photographs, vector images, graphics, and fonts. The tools can be used for both web and print media design and graphics.  Students can choose from templates or develop your own to create magazines, cards, or infographics.


Adobe Spark


Can be used to create impactful social graphics, web pages, and videos in minutes.




Create a presentation or story by selecting one image to represent the main idea.  The “tag” audio, video, images, maps and texts within the image to complete the presentation or story.


Story Spheres


A free Google product that uses 360 photos to tag and insert multimedia, text, images, and maps to tell your story or presentation.  Can use to create a virtual tour.




An app within Microsoft 365.  Templets that allow you to create seamless multimedia presentations using sets of template cards.  When presenting, the cards are hidden and the presentation flows.




A cloud-based presentation site that uses professional video, animation, and transitions to help you tell your story.


Did you know that there is a link between creativity and well-being?  In our research, we asked kids to rate two things, their level of happiness while involved in activities that included opportunity for creativity and their level of engagement while involved in activities that included opportunity for creativity. We asked them to do the same during activities that required no creativity.

Students indicated higher levels of engagement and happiness during activities that involved opportunity for creativity.  In these difficult times, boosting opportunities for creativity might help alleviate some of the tension we are all feeling, as well as help us address student engagement and motivation.  Even small opportunities might be helpful.

Here's Some Ideas!
  • Have students illustrate concepts using sketch notes. Sketch notes are a way for students to legitimately doodle. They draw visualizations of important concepts to share with their peers.
  • Spend a minute at the end of a lesson or as a brain break having students brainstorm a quick quirky question such as
    • How many different ways could you use a straw?
    • How are birds and fish alike?
  • Have a maker space in a corner of the room where students can spend free time creating with a variety of materials. Change the materials weekly.  Have opportunities for free creating, and/or present challenges.
  • Have students create a twitter conversation between two characters in a book.  What would Scout and Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird say to each other in a twitter feed?

What are some ways you incorporate creativity into ordinary assignments?  Email us and let us know.


Improving capacity for creativity often involves strategies such as brainstorming; yet there may be others that have great potential. One strategy that may spark creativity is the use of story. Researchers have demonstrated that stories can be powerful triggers for empathy (Firth. 2015). As the first step in the design process, empathy can prompt creative problem solving. Empathy involves getting people to feel before they think (Adkins, 2019). Using narratives helps learners understand the perspectives of others and care about their needs. Drawing from an example from The National Science Teaching Association (2020), you might simply present learners a challenge such as to use three-foot dowels and rubber bands to build a stable structure that can contain everyone in their group.  But, you might prompt greater creativity by adding a narrative that includes a need for a structure that can protect their group from an earthquake.  

Resources and Examples!

To stimulate creativity in your classroom, consider the following:

  • Present a problem or challenge in a story that shows how the problem impacts specific living beings. 
  • Base a challenge around the needs of a character in a novel or picture book. What invention might help the protagonist solve their problem?
  • Have a  community member that will benefit from a solution to a problem come to class to tell their story. 

What stories have you used in your classroom to initiate a problem or challenge?  Please share them with us!


Additional resources:


Creativity and Productive Struggle

There is growing evidence that “productive struggle” makes learning stick.  Productive struggle is the idea that learning that is too easy isn’t as lasting as learning that involves mental grappling and effort.  Meeting learners at the sweet spot of just the right amount of struggle can be a challenge.  Work that is too overwhelming, unattainable, or frustrating on one end and work that is easy, routine, and spoon fed on the other.  Opportunities for creativity can help find that sweet spot.  Consider these recommendations from experts to promote productive struggle.

More Info!

These recommendations combined with an opportunity for creativity might help engage learners in productive struggle.

Interleave practice.  Interleaving involves mixing up the way learners practice content. For example, always practicing math facts, spelling words, or other content in the same way won’t make it stick as well as practicing in different ways. Encourage students to find creative ways to practice skills and content.  Can they create a game? A mnemonic device, an infographic?  Have them share their newly invented way of practicing with their classmates.

Allow learners to create their own way to solve a problem and share it with others.  For example, on portable white boards, learners can demonstrate their ways to a solution to a complex math problem whether or not it resulted in a correct answer.  In small groups or with a partner, they can revise an unsuccessful process, share a successful one, or create a new one.  They can make short videos using flipgrid or educreations to record and share their process with others.

Allow learners time to tinker, tinker with ideas, tinker with materials, maker supplies, and manipulatives to bring their ideas to fruition. For example, consider giving students a basket of unrelated trinkets or materials and use what they have been given to create a visual timeline for a historical event.

Challenge learners not only to grapple with hard open-ended questions that allow for divergent thinking and creative problem solving but to create the questions as well.  For example, what questions would an Arctic Explorer of the early 1900s ask? What would an Arctic explorer in the 21st century ask?

Challenge learners to devise a novel way to demonstrate their thinking such as graphs, sketchnotes, pictures, symbols, analogies, and metaphors. For example, when bicycles were first invented, they were seen as a threat to a moral society. Why might that have been? What are seen as threats to society now? How are they similar or different than the threat imposed by bicycles?  Challenge learners to use materials in the classroom to create visuals for their answers.