Creativity Starter #1: “Something from Nothing” Painting on Canvas
The first idea to inspire creativity in your classroom is to do a project that I call “something from nothing” (another fancy name, eh?). This is a simple idea. Give your students a small mark on paper (or canvas) and have them turn that mark into “something.” I was first introduced to this idea when I taught a gifted summer program in Virginia. Students who applied to this program were asked to take a paper with two generic marks and turn that into something—a piece of art. The artwork the children made blew my mind. Some students even took this creativity starter and turned it into a 3D masterpiece. Not only does this project inspire creativity among students, but it also inspires me as an educator.
Now, I’m sure “something from nothing” wasn’t the technical term for this activity—quite frankly, I have no idea what we called it. But over the years, I’ve used this assignment with my students to inspire creativity.
To do this activity, take a piece of paper and make random lines, curves, squiggles, or the like, on it (one or two). Then ask your students to turn those marks into a work of art. The less guidance you give them, the more creative they will be.
Recently, I took this idea and applied it to canvas. Before my students arrived, I went around on each canvas and made a random mark with light-colored paint. When my students arrived, you can imagine the buzz as they all asked with wonderment, “What is this?” Over the years, I have learned that children LOVE to paint, but they often don’t know WHAT to paint. This project allows them to be creative while giving them a way to get started. As soon as you introduce your students to this project, you will be FLOODED with questions.
Here are some questions they might ask, with a few suggested answers.
- Can I rotate the canvas? Yes, you can rotate it to any orientation you would like.
- Does it have to be a person? No, it doesn’t have to be, but it could be if you wanted it to be.
- In the end, do you want to be able to see the original line? No, you want to disguise the original line into your painting, so it is no longer visible.
- What is it? It is whatever you want it to be.
After you have answered their questions, tell everyone to take a deep breath and to be patient. These days, students are given so many prescribed projects that they can get overwhelmed when given a lesson with this much freedom.
Tip: Have your students step away from the canvas and spend some time looking at the line(s). I like to demonstrate this to my students. Take some time to look at the canvas before starting.
Your students can rotate the canvas and repeat the process of looking at it again. Sometimes students will see something right away. Other times it takes longer. Both are okay. The idea here is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this.
If one of your students starts to get frustrated or can’t see anything with their creativity starter line, then ask a few classmates close by what they see. Very often, another student will say something that will spark an idea.
- Could you alter this lesson for your students? Yes, of course!
- Could you do this with paper instead of canvas? Sure you could!
- Would this project work with paper and paint? Yes, of course!
The only thing I ask is that you trust your students. You will be amazed at the creative ideas they come up with—be it on paper or canvas. I have a YouTube video with this project idea. You can see this video HERE. If you’d like this activity as an easy printable, you can download my free version HERE. You’ll find that I’ve created a few creativity starter pages that your students can use for drawing prompts.
Just like your children, no two finished works will be the same! This activity will celebrate your children’s unique ideas and support their creative thinking.
These creativity starters are great to help get the creative juices flowing in your student, but the creativity doesn’t have to stop after the art-making. Ask your children to turn one of their final creativity starter images into a creative story. You can download my free printable pages HERE.
Creativity Starter #2: Finish the Picture
My second creativity starter is something I call “Finish the Picture.” This project is another student favorite that always inspires creativity with my students. This idea is to take a small clip from a magazine, glue it down to a piece of paper, and your students will finish the picture—turning it into a piece of artwork.
To start, you will want to cut out little pieces from magazines or greeting cards. I like to cut the pieces myself and give them out randomly to my students.
You can, of course, let your students cut out the pieces, but I have found that when they do this, they take a long time looking through the magazine at all the pictures, and it dramatically delays their art-making process. Also, it is sometimes hard for the kids to separate their thoughts from the context of the original image, so they just reproduce what they found in the magazine.
It’s important that when you cut something out, you only cut out a portion of it. For example, if you were cutting out a flower, you would only use a portion of the flower so that the students had to finish drawing the rest of the flower and then create a background to go with their drawing.
If you’d like to see this lesson in video format, you can find it on YouTube HERE.
I’ve used this “finish the picture” idea in so many different ways over the years. I have even done this using old holiday greeting cards. You can see an entire post about how I did this HERE.
Turn Old Posters Pieces into New Ideas!
…and here is another excellent idea. If you have any of my collaboration posters. You can use them (when you are finished displaying them) as a creativity starter, just like my “finish the picture” idea. Just like this teacher, when you are finished displaying one of my collaboration posters, you can take the poster apart and give out the pieces to your students. Have them create new artworks inspired by the piece they were given (preferably not a piece they worked on when they initially made the poster).
Read what @mskellys had to say about this on Instagram.
“I don’t know who was more excited this week with our Art class!☺️I think myself and the students were equally enthusiastic about this idea. I was looking at our fab collaborative door display we did before Christmas from Art with Jenny K. and was changing it. Instead of dismantling and throwing away the pieces, I gave each student their piece back and challenged them with their piece to turn it into an individual work of art. The challenge was to create something that we wouldn’t even notice was built around a square from the collaborative door display. As usual, I was blown away by the creativity!” @mskellys (on Instagram)
Yes, when given a little spark or a creativity stARTer, as I like to call them, kids can create some pretty darn creative things!
Creativity Starter #3: Card StARTers
My “finish the picture” project is a lot of fun, and of course, I encourage you to try it when you have the magazines to cut out and the time to cut them out. However, if you are looking for a faster and easier way to do this same project (that’s what I specialize in), you will LOVE my “Card StARTers.”
Kids love to make cards for others, and my card stARTers inspire creativity with their handmade cards! I have a set for Valentine’s Day and the Winter Holidays. In this project, students get a portion of a picture (this is something that I have drawn) that they need to finish to create the rest of the image. The final project is a card that students can share with their loved ones or friends.
Creativity Starter #4: AWJK Resources on TPT
For my fourth idea, I propose you think of me, Jenny K, as your creativity starter to inspire creativity in your classroom. When it comes to creativity starters, I think of my entire store on Teachers Pay Teachers as one giant creativity stARTer—for both teachers and students.
Teachers often tell me how an activity they did from my store, from my blog, or one of my social media channels (IG, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube) inspired them to do another art project. They always tell me how much fun their students had and how my ideas inspire creativity in their classrooms. This thrills me because art can often be intimidating to classroom teachers. And that’s why you have me 😉
My products are designed for classroom teachers to help bring art into the classroom. I try to remove as much prep and mess as possible. I do everything I can to make art integration easy. For more on that, see my post “Art Integration—Infuse YOUR classroom with Art” HERE.
I know that time and physical resources are always limited in education, so I try to think of creative ways to bring art into the classroom while overcoming those obstacles.
Over the years, I have introduced MANY new concepts to the Teachers Pay Teachers marketplace. Of course, nobody can hold on to a good idea too long before it starts to get copied. However, I have a loyal group of teachers that I work hard for and that depend on me. I will continue to work hard for any teacher that puts their faith in me to inspire creativity in their classroom.
Collaboration Portrait Posters
Teachers use my collaboration portraits to help them in social studies and with current events. You can read the reviews on my posters and see all the creative ways teachers have used them over the years.
Collaboration Posters for Holidays
I also create a large selection of collaboration posters you can use in your classroom celebrations of nearly any holiday. They are great for bulletin boards, door decorations, and even for display down your hallway. I can’t tell you the number of times teachers have told me they won their door decorating contest because of one of my posters. That’s always fun for me to hear!
My agamographs are something I specifically designed to help teachers infuse these fun projects into their learning. Typically making agamographs is a lot of work and a lot of mess—but with mine, I’ve done most of that work for you so you can focus on all the fun. Of course, if you feel like jumping into a full agamograph—from scratch—I encourage that too and always have blog posts and resources to help you.
I like to give you both the “cake mix in a box” and support for your “from scratch” ambitions!
Interactive Coloring Pages
Yes, I have coloring pages, and yes, I think coloring is essential for kids. However, my interactive Pop Art coloring pages and matching math and English Language Arts counterparts aren’t just your regular coloring pages.
Students can’t guess the answer because they see a picture with a blue sky and green grass. Instead, they need to solve the problem in front of them because I use fun colors and patterns on my pages. My interactive pages allow the children to be what they are—artists. Just like your students, no two will ever be the same—and that’s the beauty of them and why teachers have enjoyed using them for so many years.
Inspire Creativity using Art with Jenny K. Collaboration Projects!
One of the things I’m most proud of in the work that I share on Teachers Pay Teachers is the collaboration aspect of my projects. If you have ever done one of my collaboration posters, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done one yet, I know you won’t be disappointed!
Tessellation Group Projects—Inspire Creativity AND Team Work!
A few years ago, I took the idea of collaboration to another level and introduced my tessellation projects. Tessellations are shapes that fit perfectly together. I have tessellating images appropriate for many times of the year, and they are all designed to teach children that as individuals, they are important, with their unique talents and interests, but when they work together, the sky is the limit!
Also, like agamographs, I took the prep and mess out and made these more accessible to more teachers—thereby reaching more students hoping to inspire creativity (always)!
My lessons will inspire creativity and bring your classroom together to help them work as a team.
See all of my tessellation projects HERE.
Thanks for reading,