Creativity Snowflake




My friend Susan is a creativity force. Her imaginative winter-themed installations of art and lights are off the wall creative (see photo).  I am fortunate to have taught with her and taken her specialty art classes.  Based on my observations and experiences, I believe she empowers students by modeling the following behaviors:



1. She has a serene manner and listens well.  She rarely interrupts, even if she knows what a student is going to say.  Her patience often yields more thoughtful responses.

2.  She focuses on process more than product.  She allows students time to create, experiment, and problem solve rather than providing them with examples of finished products.

3.  She creates a stimulating environment where divergent thinking is promoted.  Independence and self-assessment are encouraged. 

4.  She models creativity by learning and trying new things - with a great deal of inner motivation. 

She embodies the Snowflake Model of Creativity. 


4 Creativity "Boosters" for 21st Century Learners













Consider the following four approaches suggested by art educator, Nan E. Hathaway:

"Shiny Happy Tree"  American Visionary Art Museum
"Shiny Happy Tree" American Visionary Art Museum

1. " Facilitate genuinely open-ended projects; those for which the outcome cannot be predicted."


2.  "Embrace opportunities for students to learn from mistakes:  Don't work out the problems ahead of time for them in an attempt to produce "no fail" projects."


3.  "Withhold exemplars, which can encourage imitation and hinder the development of original ideas and approaches."


4.  "Permit self-initiated exploration."

In short, the best learning is child-driven.  This occurs when children are able to create, explore, investigate, and question in "their own ways."  Read more of Nan Hathaway's suggestions at:


Hathaway, N. (Nov. 2013).  Boost Creativity and Innovation. Arts and Activities.


Related posts:  Expert Educational Advice,

Exemplary Teachers


Clever Games for Clever Kids




Click the speech bubble to access the 2013 holiday toy list from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).  "Each year, NAGC invites toy and game manufacturers to submit their newest products for review by students." Their magazine, Parenting for High Potential, highlights this year's entries.  The recommended toys and games make great gifts for talented children and their families.







In addition to NAGC's list, here are a few more games that also engage children in: 

  • Critical Thinking
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Logical Reasoning


Suggested ages:  8+


Solitaire Chess and RushHour/Thinkfun
Solitaire Chess and RushHour/Thinkfun

Research in Brief: 3 Creativity Traits of Street Artists



Question:   What can we learn from street artists?


  • This interview-based study highlighted three "redeeming qualities of street art." 
  • The research included interviews with 40 Los Angeles-based street artists to gather data about their "behaviors, beliefs, and processes."

Three creativity characteristics emerged:

1.  Questioning the Status Quo
"Questioning the status quo in the Arts is a positive characteristic because there is not one set of rules for making art; the street artists interviewed consistently demonstrated this to me. . . These artists have created opportunities where there were none, and that type of ingenuity should be applauded."

2.  Modeling Creative Behavior
"While all artists may not meet in person, exposure to their work in the streets inspires more work and there is no shortage of strong work to inspire.  Seeing other's accomplishments or how they have tackled large projects or unusual contexts for making street art is inspirational."

3.  The Significance of Creative Groups and Environments
"A location and scene can foster creativity and these stimulating environments are a big part of the excitement for street art in L.A.  The history of all the locations shared is heightened by the continued activity and based upon the number of impressive works that have been installed over the years."

Why the study is important:
The author's insights, such as the importance of community in creation, suggest how the three characteristics can be applied in classroom settings to promote a supportive environment for creative thinking. 


Read more about what we can learn from street art in the article:

Daichendt, J. (2013).  Artist-Driven Initiatives for Art Education:  What We Can Learn From Street Art.
Art Education, 66, 6-12.


Clarion Alley, San Francisco
Clarion Alley, San Francisco
Clarion Alley, San Francisco
Clarion Alley, San Francisco

"San Francisco's Mission District is home to a high concentration of street art, bearing witness to an artistic community as vibrant as it is diverse. A heady mix borrowed in equal parts from the Mexican muralistas, 1930s WPA murals, graffiti, skater graphics, hip hop, and the alternative comics that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, the street art of the Mission reflects the concerns, aspirations, celebration, and anguish of a dynamic and vital neighborhood."  Spark, WQED Arts


View a tour of the district, and download an educator guide at Spark:  Mission District Street Art.


Creativity Involves . . .

Exemplary Teachers




What qualities define an exemplary teacher? 


Three researchers who study exemplary teachers "in the eyes of their students" offer valuable insight.  The research included students’ ratings of teachers followed by interviews with the teachers identified as exemplary.  The following four themes emerged:


Exemplary Teachers:

1.    “know and take a personal interest in their students.”
2.    “set high expectations for themselves and for their students.”
3.    “make content and learning meaningful and relevant to the future and respect students’ choices.”
4.    “have a clear passion for their students, teaching, and for their content.”

The teachers also believed they made a difference in children’s lives. 
  Additionally, 67% of the exemplary teachers had undertaken gifted education coursework and training.

The researchers also note:  “Even though these teachers were identified as exemplary by their high student ratings, that not all their administrators believed or recognized them as exemplary teachers.  Therefore, we caution that some outstanding and effective teachers might not be recognized as such by administrators or other adults.  The implication from this finding is that multiple sources, such as student perceptions, need to be considered in evaluating teacher quality.”

Read more about the attributes of exemplary teachers in the article:

Gentry, M., Steenbergen-Hu, S., & Choi, B. (2011).  Student-Identified Exemplary Teachers:  Insights From Talented Teachers.  Gifted Child Quarterly, 55, 111-125.


12 Creativity Crushers


"That's been done before."

"It will never work."

"No one else is doing it." 

"What will people think?"

"Sounds like a waste of time to me."

"You're doing what?"

"You can't do that!"

"We've tried it before."

"That's too much work."

"You're dreaming."

"That doesn't make sense."

"You've got to be kidding!"

What to Know about Your Child's Gifted Education Program



A new school year brings many changes.  There are new routines and expectations and new hopes for a successful year.  For parents of gifted and talented (GT) children, one important consideration is how the new curriculum will meet the needs of their children.  While school-wide open house nights are not the time to ask questions about individual children, many GT specialists hold separate open houses and are also willing to meet individually with parents to discuss curriculum. 

In her article, What Should I Ask About the Gifted Education Program at My Child's School, Dr. Carolyn Cooper provides the following questions to help determine if your child's school has a gifted program, and if so, how is it meeting her needs. 

1.  "Does your school have a special program for gifted and talented students?  If not, what plans are there to develop one, and when might such a program materialize?"

2.  "What is the program's goal for gifted and talented students?" 

3.  "Which philosophical model undergirds the program?"

4.  "Which criteria are used to identify students for the GT education program?"

5.  "How many specially trained, certificated teachers of GT students are on your school's staff?"

6.  "Does the GT teacher (or specialist) meet with identified GT students on a regular schedule?  If so, how often is regular?"

To help you learn more about a school's GT program, Dr. Cooper also provides practical information for each question.  For example, she addresses various GT program models, identification criteria, and individual learning needs. 

You can read the entire article in the magazine, Parenting for High Potential.
The Buzz:  What Should I Ask About the Gifted Education Program at My Child's School?
Cooper, Carolyn R.  Parenting for High Potential (March 2011):  6-7.


Follow If Then Creativity on Facebook too!

12 Techniques for Advanced Learners

12 Techniques to Engage Advanced Learners
12 Techniques.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 2.6 MB



For more information about the 12 teaching techniques, please feel free to contact me

If you liked this post, you may also like "Expert Educational Advice."

10 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Child

Ten Ways to Communicate Better With Your Child



I've found that one of the best ways to communicate with children is to listen (actually this applies to adults too). Some gifted children can be sensitive to barriers to effective communication such as sarcasm, interruptions, and condescension.  Gifted or not, child or adult, everyone can benefit from the following ten principals of good communication.  They are paraphrased from the countless communication tips found in the book, A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb, Janet Gore, Edward Amend, and Arlene DeVries. 


1.  Listen:  Listening conveys that your child's feelings and ideas are valued.  If you must give advice, first indicate that you understand how she feels. 

2.  Accept feelings even if you disagree:  Feelings are never right or wrong.  Accepting your child's feelings communicates that her opinions and attitudes are important to you.

3.  Understand silence:  There are many reasons why a child may be silent:  anger, to gain control, protection from a lack of understanding, a need for privacy etc.  If you know the motivation, that can help.  Sometimes, it may be appropriate to let silences occur because that communicates acceptance and a need for privacy. 

4.  Set aside special time:  Consistency and frequency are more important than length.  Five minutes every day of your full, undivided attention sends the message that she is a high priority. 


5.  Avoid gossip:  Your child can be hurt if she overhears you talking about her problems or shortcomings.

6. Share feelings:  Express your own emotions in healthy ways so she can view another's emotions too. 

7.  Separate the behavior from the child:  Praise or reprimand the behavior rather than the child.  "You are smart," is not as meaningful as, "I admire how you completed your English essay on time."  Instead of,  "You never remember the rules," say, "That behavior is not allowed."

8.  Avoid contradictory messages:  Sometimes your words can indicate one feeling, but your voice tone and body language say something different.  "Your report card is better than last term," can be interpreted differently.  Depending on your tone, the words might mean, "Great job!" or, "It's better, but you're still not doing enough."

9.  Avoid making promises:  It's important that you are honest about what you can and cannot promise. Help your child understand that your priorities are to keep her safe, but you will try to respect her privacy.

10.  Use written notes tucked here and there:  There's nothing better than finding a note in unexpected places.  It always communicates, "I love you."

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children

Object of the Month: The Calydonian Boar Hunt


A few years ago, my fifth grade gifted and talented students completed a fun museum research project.  Specifically, we sent letters to museum directors asking for input about one object, artifact, work of art, or a creative selection from their museum's collections.  The selection could be a personal favorite, possess significant cultural relevance, be a "best" example of its kind, tell a story, promote a new idea, or expose students to a new experience. 

The purpose of the project was to provide resources for interdisciplinary learning, to present opportunities to think in new ways, and to enhance subject matter with activities that promote creativity and provide cultural relevance.  Most directors were eager to participate, and many provided supplemental information and resources.  Their thorough responses are best characterized by the words of one director, "Thank you for reaching out."

Below are the four questions we asked.  (Since some respondents have moved on to different institutions, I share only the museum position, instead of the person's name.)

The August object of the month is from The J. Paul Getty Museum.  The director of the museum answered our questions as follows: 

Selected object:  The Calydonian Boar Hunt, by Peter Paul Rubens

The Calydonian Board Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens





Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640)
The Calydonian Boar Hunt, about 1611 - 1612, Oil on panel
Unframed: 59.2 x 89.7 cm (23 5/16 x 35 5/16 in.)
Framed [outer dim]: 76.5 x 108.3 x 5.7 x 9.5 cm (30 1/8 x 42 5/8 x 2 1/4 x 3 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

1.  What information and essential understandings should students know about your selection?
This was painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1611.  The subject is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses.  Rubens was influenced by his stay in Italy where he saw and studied ancient statues.  He was also inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, artists whose works he encountered while in Italy.

2.  What questions would you ask students to stimulate curiosity and/or creative thinking about the selection?

  • Who are the main characters in the story?  How can you tell?
  • How would you describe the animals in the painting?
  • What do you think came before the moment depicted in this painting?  What about after? 

3.  Do you have any suggestions for incorporating the selection into a specific subject?

  • Have students pick a character in the painting and write a description from that character's point of view (language arts).
  • Ask students to look at images from Ruben's inspirations (as noted in question #1) and compare them (visual arts).
  • Ask students to research the literary source for the painting based on visual evidence.  Or read excerpts from the source to students and have them sketch their ideas as they listen, and explain why they chose certain details. 

4.  Are there other resources to help us learn more about your selection?

If you enjoyed this resource, let me know, and I will include a selection from the project each month.

"I Wish Johnny Would Talk More in Class."



In her thoughtful book, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,  Susan Cain devotes a chapter to “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them.” Using both research and personal examples, she explains how parents and teachers can nurture a quiet child (whose talents are often overlooked). 


For parents, she offers guidance about what to look for in a school, the development of self-coaxing skills, ways to expose children to various social situations, and much more, including the following paraphrased recommendations:

  • Don’t misinterpret your child's caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others.
  • Do not shame a child for shyness.
  • Respect a child’s limits, even when they seem extreme.  This produces more confidence than either overprotection or pushing too hard. 

For teachers, she gives suggestions about the school environment such as, “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”  She refers to the comment that appears on many children’s report cards, “I wish ______ would talk more in class.” 





Susan Cain's book is a must read resource for both parents and educators.

Expert Educational Advice



A few years ago, I asked a group of gifted and talented fifth grade students to respond to the following question,


  “What could teachers do to make school more interesting?” 

They were passionate about answering the question.  Sometimes in the conversation about educational policy, we overlook the student perspective.  I've provided a sampling of their responses and clarified educational terms within parentheses. 


  • Don’t limit our imaginations.
  • Don’t waste as much of our time.  I don’t like repetition.  We can do things right away.
  • Having GT (gifted and talented) helps because we are with people who think like us.  It’s more of a challenge.  I wish we could be with people who think like us all day – in the same class.  Keep GT.
  • More role playing.  I like to role play by putting myself into another’s perspective.  Mrs. _________ does this a lot in Social Studies.  I got to be the king, and I liked assuming another perspective. 
  • More projects like Mrs. ___________’s  math investigations.  They are real life problems that mean something. 
  • Include more units that involve topics we want to learn about.  When I learned about Australia, I became an expert on dingoes.  These are topics we enjoy, but school doesn’t teach us about them.  If it’s not in the curriculum, we don’t get to learn about it, but we love special projects.
  • Instead of more nonfiction, incorporate more fantasy because we’re interested in the genre, and we are capable of making comparisons between the fantasy world and the real world. 
  • Assignments should be more interesting - less BCRs (brief constructed responses) and small moments.  We should be able to write stories about Super Heroes.
  • Mrs. _________ used two groups (purple, green).  She would pre-test and those that thought like us would work on a certain project.  If you needed to keep learning a skill, you would do that.  It changed throughout the year and kept us interested. 
  • More ILA (integrated language arts) discussion groups without the teacher.  One student is the leader etc.  It is student run.  The student discussion group made me really think about what I was reading.  The group made me think about the books instead of flying through them.
  • Could we say the BCRs instead of always having to write them.  We know how to do them.  In math, Mrs. ___________ knows we know the skills, so she doesn’t always make us write all the BCRs. 
  • We should have a learning club, like a creativity class or club.  A creativity club would be interesting.  We could write, draw, play music.  An origami club is a good idea too. 
  • I wish more classes could be held outside. 


Resources for Parents of Gifted Children



If you are the parent of a gifted child, these links will help you support his/her abilities.  There are many resources available.  I will provide more in the upcoming weeks. 





National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)


“NAGC invests all of its resources to train teachers, encourage parents and educate administrators and policymakers on how to develop and support gifted children and what's at stake if high-potential learners are not challenged and encouraged.”


SENG stands for Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted.


This organization’s mission “is to empower families and communities to guide
gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually,
physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”


Hoagies Gifted Education Page


“. . . the all-things-gifted site, full of resources, articles, books and links to help and support parents, teachers, and gifted children alike.”  Hoagies also has a Twitter feed. 


Gifted Exchange


“The blog about gifted children, schooling, parenting, education news and changing American education for the better. This blog is supported by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.”


Art Museums: How to Engage Young Children

Art Museums: How to Engage Young Children
How to Engage Children.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 237.3 KB

Creativity: Truth or Myth?

Truth or Myth?  True creation is the creation of art

It is a Myth.


“There are many ways to exercise your creativity, including problem solving and idea generation in whatever field interests you—any of the arts, sciences, professions, trades, avocations, and hobbies. In addition, you can nurture your creativity and reap some of its benefits just by appreciating another’s creativity—listening to music, viewing visual art, and so on.”


Source:  PBS Online:  This Emotional Life


Cube Creator

If you used the Creative Questions Cube from my previous post, then you may want to explore “The Cube Creator” at the ReadThinkWrite website.  The creator tool provides access to four cubing activities.  There’s a bio cube to use after reading a biography to “capture the person’s essence.”  The mystery cube helps children sort clues in a mystery or write their own, and the story cube helps them identify elements of a story, such as conflict and resolution.  


My favorite is the create-your-own cube because children can design their own questions, activities, or topics.  The site is easy to use and includes planning sheets and parent resources.  To assemble the cube, print it out and follow the directions. 


For museum educators, The Cube Creator is useful for helping children summarize museum concepts and for personal reflections regarding a theme or topic. 


The Cube Creator is appropriate for grades three and up.


ReadWriteThink’s mission is “to provide educators, parents, and after school professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials.”

How to Visit a Museum with Children


 During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I witnessed a “behavioral museum meltdown” at the National Mall.  In response to his parents, a child was screaming, “I don’t care what we do, as long as we don’t visit another museum!”  Perhaps his museum fatigue (and outburst) could have been prevented had his parents followed the four “B's” of family museum-going as detailed in the classic, Where’s the Me in Museum:  Going to Museums with Children.


They are paraphrased below:


1.  Behavior

Before the visit, review how visitors should behave at a museum.  Children often do not understand the difference between public and private behavior.  For example, in an art museum, “no-touch” is an important rule.  Parents should explain how important the art is, and point out all the guards protecting it. 


2.  The Building

Children react to their surroundings – especially large open-spaced areas.  Before entering an exhibit, take time to point out features and note how the building differs from home.  For example, ask a young child to name five ways in which the museum differs from his home.


3.  The Break

Every visitor needs one.  Consider bringing snacks or even a bag lunch to prevent energy drain.  With a bag lunch, everyone knows they have what they need and how long it will take.


4.  Bathroom

Needless to say, this should always be the first stop before beginning any adventure with children. 

Going to Museums with Children

How to Visit a Museum



Do you love art, but dislike visiting museums?  If yes, you may enjoy Brian Cohen's article, “How to Visit a Museum,” a comical critique of museum practices.  While many of Cohen's recommendations focus on a need for visitor solitude, he realizes that museum-going is “unavoidably  and unfortunately” a social experience.  His recommendation to avoid the museum guards is one I disagree with.  Guards are observers who often have interesting opinions about the collections. Read the article in The Huffington Post here.

How to Visit a Museum

Math Fact Practice




If you are looking for math resources for your child, especially math fact reinforcement, visit the website The game room section includes math facts concentration which is a challenge for younger students because the player has to know the math facts and remember the placement of the cards.  

Creative Role Models

Parents often ask me how they can nurture creativity in their children.  I tell them children model their parents.  For example, instead of saying, “I’m not creative at all,” say, “I love to create things!”


Children enjoy the creative process – process (not product) being the key word.  If your child sees you taking risks and making things, she will follow your model.


When children observe us creating, they begin projects of their own.  If you’re looking for a book to jumpstart your creativity, Twyla Tharp’sThe Creative Habit:  Learn It and Use It for Life

offers inspiration.   

The Creative Habit:  Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp

Creativity Concern

A few years ago, Newsweek featured a cover story about the decline of creativity in America.  I think many educators would agree and, perhaps, point to an emphasis on standardized testing.  Unfortunately, there is much less importance placed on divergent and creative thinking.


Dr. Kyung Hee Kim, a professor at William and Mary, continues to address this topic. Her research, which “has focused primarily on creativity, what it is, and how it is related to society, education, and other aspects of life including intelligence,” shows how creativity has decreased in the U. S. since 1990. Read more about her research at The Creativity Post here.


Show Me A Story

What is your favorite picture book?  If you're like me, it's hard to choose.  Maybe Leonard Marcus feels the same way.  In his book, Show Me a Story!  Why Picture Books Matter, he interviews 21 children's book illustrators who share their insights regarding the creative process, their lives, book characters, and more. I was hooked halfway through the first interview with Mitsumasa Anno and his description of how imagination and reality complement each other.  "It's where the two meet that hope is to be found."  Other notable interviews include Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Kevin Henkes, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka, Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems and many more. 


Great resource for all creative teachers, librarians, parents, and children's book lovers!  Children will also enjoy learning more about their favorite authors. 

Why Picture Books Matter

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity


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