I’m incredibly lucky in that my head buzzes with ideas all the time, like a creative tinnitus! That’s not to say all of them are good ideas by any stretch, but I’ve recently been exploring where good ideas come from, and think that they come from one of five key areas. The important thing to remember about ideas is that experimenting is the only way you can really see whether an idea has legs or not.
I love upcycling – that is, repurposing something for another use. This can be done in many small ways (such as using clothes pegs and card for a Classroom Jobs list for example), or in a large way (tractor tyres + blanket = reading corner seat). I especially love repurposing one idea totally unrelated to teaching into something which contributes to learning. I rebuilt the Periodic Table in my classroom, putting our class values as the elements and so on. We could have made a list, but by using a familiar format, the children were exposed to this, and the conversations which sprung from this. Anything different from the norm is often more interesting (and more captivating for you).
This is a favourite for forcing creativity and new ideas – ban something which you rely on! It sounds a strange thing to do, but really does make you think outside of your box. Imagine you rely on your IWB for every lesson, and then the bulb goes – what do you do to recover? Now put this thinking against all the other ‘default’ tools and routines in class. Here are a few ideas: No chairs for one day No photocopying Computers off No writing No numbers in Maths Choose one of these and see how you get on; it really is quite liberating!
Don’t reinvent the wheel, search online for it
We are enormously spoilt for the range of places we can now search for ideas – and you don’t have to dive in headfirst to make the most of the resources stored in the cloud (but it’s always good to give something back). The classic teacher’s resource search is TES Resources, but for more personalised help with ideas, ask on Twitter (using the hashtag #asktwitter) – you’d be amazed what responses you get! Pinterest is another good vault of ideas for teaching, often in the most surprising of ways, and it also works as a springboard for your own ideas too! Another growing source of feelgood ideas is www.staffrm.io, the blogging platform for teachers, which is growing daily with a wealth of good ideas on marking, planning, questioning, even creativity itself!
Read around your subject
It’s always good to read books specific for your subject specialism and age range, but don’t let this limit you. I’ve collected good ideas and generated lots of my own by reading around my interests too. There is a lot that Secondary colleagues can learn from Primary, and vice versa. Likewise, reading books completely detached from Education can contribute interest and curiosity, and solve problems you may have in the most unusual ways – a book called Smart Swarm for example helped me work out a novel solution to congestion problems in my school, even though it was about insects!
Cross swords together
Imagine completing a crossword on your own, with someone next to you completing the same crossword. How many more words would you get if you collaborated together? Likewise, the best ideas sometimes need to be talked about in order to float to the surface. Often, we can go to someone with a problem, and they are far more capable of solving it than us because they aren’t carrying all the aspects of that problem which we are. Likewise, generating ideas with someone else can be incredibly liberating and productive. I love coming with ideas, but really like playing around with them too – it’s very rare for a discussed idea to become worse in the process! My #100ideas book came from generating ideas in this way and many other ways. The most important principle is to try something out, even in a very small sense, and see if it improves the teaching and learning or not. Once you’ve tried it in one lesson or on one table, roll it out further. Play with it, adjust it and get feedback on it from the children and other adults that might be in your classroom. If it does make a difference to you, tell others! Avoid being an idea silo – become an inspiration station instead!
Stephen Lockyer is Deputy Head of The Mead School, Tunbridge Wells. He has been teaching for 14 years in a variety of schools and has a very low boredom threshold which drives him to make lessons exciting, stimulating and filled with learning opportunities! He set up SLT Camp – a CPD training weekend for teachers and has spoken at many Teachmeets. Follow him on Twitter @mrlockyer
Stephen’s latest title 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching is available now. Click here to find out more.