Creativity Night

Debra Lemieux at NAGC convention


I had a great time at last week’s National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) conference in Baltimore.  The conference offers countless professional development opportunities and learning experiences.  This year’s theme, “Making Inroads for Gifted Learners” reflects “the headway made by the field over the years, as well as the larger reason we gather together to learn and grow: to make a difference for gifted and high ability children around the country.”

Presenting at Friday’s fun Creativity Night was even more valuable. I shared books that promote habits of creative expression and reading for pleasure.  I also demonstrated simple ways to incorporate reading and writing into the lives of children.  Best of all, I met many outstanding educators.  Thank you NAGC!

It’s that time of year for NAGC’s toy, puzzle, and game reviews.  These reviews (by more than 250 gifted and talented students) feature the top toys, games, and puzzles to engage your high-ability learners. The recommended toys and games make great gifts for talented children and their families.

50 Steps to Creativity

Artful Lessons


The new school year is upon us with new beginnings and goals.  One important goal, whether you’re a teacher, parent, or administrator, is to include the arts in daily instruction.  Numerous studies indicate how arts opportunities benefit students.  According to a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) study, “at-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement.” 

Recently, the Kennedy Center conducted a study which examined the effects of their Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) programs. The research yielded four significant findings:

1.  “Arts integration impacts creativity.  Compared to students who did not receive arts-integrated instruction, CETA students showed an increase in creativity.”

2.  “Arts integration impacts student engagement. CETA students experienced greater emotional engagement, higher levels of interest, increased applied effort, and more frequent experiences of being positively challenged throughout the school year.”

3.  “Students in CETA schools had more positive attitudes about the arts.  They more often believed that the arts were instrumental in helping them understand other non-arts related subjects better, like science, history, or math.”

4.  “Students in the CETA program became more flexible in their thinking and problem solving abilities over the course of the school year.”

For more information about this study, click here.  If you’re looking for arts integration ideas, visit the the Kennedy Center’s fabulous ARTSEDGE website.  It’s filled with free digital resources including lesson plans, multimedia programs, music, and much more. 

Assessing the Learning Environment

Teaching gifted and talented children requires a flexible and supportive learning environment filled with interesting and challenging material.  The following list of questions is designed to help teachers assess the effectiveness of the learning environment for gifted students.  These helpful questions (and many others) can be found in the book, How the Gifted Brain Learns (second edition) by David A. Sousa. 

  • Have you helped students become more aware of their learning styles?


  • Have you asked students what helps them learn effectively?


  • Do you model the process of talking about how we learn, rather than just what is learned?


  • Have you established an environment in which wrong answers are a productive opportunity for learning?


  • Do you actively encourage creative thinking by asking open-ended questions to which there are no single right answers?


  • Do you encourage students to question themselves, each other, and other adults in the classroom?


  • Are students involved in self-assessment?


  • Do you encourage students through challenging and interactive displays?


  • Have you developed a resource collection including web sites and in-school and out-of-school resource centers, and how do you know if the resources are being well used? 


Insight and Inspiration

Fans of children's books will appreciate my recent good fortune in meeting two Caldecott Award-winning writer/illustrators:  David Wiesner and Paul O. Zelinsky.  I can't tell you how many times I have shared their books with children, but I can tell you that both men were funny, observant, and generous with their time.  I was able to meet them thanks to Mr. If Then Creativity.  He was returning their artwork, which was included in an exhibit he had recently curated, Beyond Words, The Artistry of Illustrated Children's Books. 

My conversations with David and Paul provided the following insight that is applicable to talented youth.

1.  The importance of productive solitude:  Both men do much of their work alone, at least for a portion of the day.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, we must provide opportunities for talented children to reflect and think, which enables them to synthesize and create. 

2.  The pattern of perseverance and dedication amid challenges:  Paul shared how the illustrations for Rumpelstilskin, which is painted in a Renaissance style using oil paints over watercolor underpinnings, took him a full year of seven-days-a week work and how creating the face of the miller's daughter was a challenge.  As we all know, persistence is an important component of fulfillment and success. 

3.  The value of reflection before starting a project:  In an interview about his book Mr. Wuffles!, David shares how he indulges his imagination and surreal tendencies.  He also explains how he can mentally stay in an experimental place if his story is well thought-through. 

 4.  And, finally, the importance of being an advocate for arts education, so today's talented youth can reach their full potential. 


Creative Minds at Work

Happy May Day!

La Terre-Mere/Mother Earth, Mosaicultures Internationales, Montreal
La Terre-Mere/Mother Earth, Mosaicultures Internationales, Montreal

6 Seconds of Creativity



It's amazing what filmmakers can do in 6 seconds!  As Genna Terranova, Tribeca Film Festival's Director of programming, said, "Making a successful 6-second film is really a true test of creativity and skill. The tools may be simple, but the time is short and the task to do it well is large...."


Enjoy two of the 2014 #6SECFILMS competition winners below.  Watch all 6 winners at



Animation: Matt Willis, Australia, for “Wrap Dancer”

#6SecFilms Audience Award: Evan Hilton, USA, for “Shaking Free”



The Art of Sharing Information

ARTiculture/Philadelphia Flower Show 2014
ARTiculture/Philadelphia Flower Show 2014



Research in Brief

In the classroom, students often tune out teachers who talk too much.  Likewise, in the museum, too much information about art can cause eyes to glaze over.  What follows are 3 guidelines for sharing information while promoting dialogue about art. 

Question:  How can we use information effectively within dialogues about art?

1.  Be informed, yet consider the relevance of the information to the audience.  "What an adult finds helpful might not be useful to an 8-year-old."

2.  Invite people to look at the art first - not the text label.  Encourage them to create their own descriptions about the artwork.  For example, viewers might notice that "Piet Mondrian only used blue, red, yellow, black, white, and straight lines in Broadway Boogie Woogie."

3.  Weave in information at key moments.  For example, with Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie, viewers might notice how the painting looks like an aerial view of a city with roads and small squares that look like moving cars.  "This would be a good moment to offer the work's title and to explain Mondrian was inspired by the energy and music of 1940s Manhattan."


Read more about how to share contextual information in the article:

Hubard, O. (2007). Productive Information: Contextual Knowledge in Art Museum Education.  Art Education, 60(4), 17-23. 


Numbers, Numbers, Everywhere!

Looking for math sites to engage and/or help your child?


  • Numberphile provides imaginative links to videos of creative math content and problems. 
  • The blog, Visualizing Math, is a visual delight and run by two amazing high school students in Minnesota. 
  • If you need a math definition or formula, try Mathwords which includes information from beginning algebra to calculus. 
  • If you know someone who likes playing SET, the challenging game of memory and visual perception, share the SET puzzle of the day
  • Designed for use with introductory college math courses, Mudd Math Fun Facts can also provide enrichment for gifted high school math students.
  • PBS Cyberchase offers videos, activities, and math games for younger children.
  • The Math Forum answers questions from teachers and parents about math teaching and learning.  One section of the site provides answers to the question, "How can I help students learn multiplication facts?"


Research in Brief: Creative Potential

Internal and External creative processing

According to the PBS American Masters series, Jimi Hendrix's early instruments were straw brooms.  His inner motivation, sensitivity to sound (and fantastic stage costumes) remind us of the many ways creativity manifests itself.  The study of creative personality has applications for all individuals not just those recognized as creatively gifted. 

  • Question:  What personal qualities correlate with the creative process?

Three researchers who study creativity offer the following insight.  Their review of creative personality research highlights the role of certain characteristics in the creative process: 

1.  "Some individuals prefer to adapt to external conditions and solve problems within existing rules, while others prefer to bend, ignore, or break rules to generate new ideas."

2.  Manners of processing can be Internal or External.  Externals "learn and work best when interacting, listening, and talking with others."  Internals "work and learn best alone, in a quiet environment, and will take advantage of opportunities for quiet concentration."

3.  "An individual's focus when making decisions falls on a continuum from Person to Task."  Those with a Person Focus "consider the personal impact or consequences of a decision.  They attend to relationships and seek harmony and consensus."  Those with a Task Focus "prefer rigor and/or quality over feelings and emotion.  When considering an option they tend to first consider what is wrong, what is lacking, or what improvements are needed." 

  • In short, the researchers remind us not to ask, "How creative is this student?"  but instead to ask, "How is this student creative?"

Read much more about creative personality attributes in the article: 
Selby, E.C., Shaw E. J. & Houtz, J.C. (2005).  The creative personality.  Gifted Child Quarterly, 49, 300-314. 

Related posts: 

3 Creativity Traits of Street Artists

Exemplary Teachers

12 Creativity Crushers

4 Creativity Boosters for 21st-century Learners



What is Your Recipe for Creativity?

Click here to learn why creativity matters.
Click here to learn why creativity matters.
Creativity Recipe
Adobe Acrobat Document 57.8 KB

"A man, a plan, a canal, Panama"

Friday, January 31st, is Backward Day!  The perfect day to eat dinner in the morning (with dessert first).  Add palindromes to the mix to celebrate this fun, silly "holiday."

A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or sequence that reads the same backward as forward such as, kayak, solos, A Toyota, 535, and 76067.  3456 is NOT a palindrome because backward it is 6543.


Palindromes are amazingly creative and enjoyed by children of all ages


Palindromes are amazingly creative and are enjoyed by children of all ages.  My students especially

liked Jon Agee's hilarious palindrome books:  Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!, Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and So Many Dynamos!

Did you know that most numbers that are not palindromes can be turned into palindromes?  Simply reverse the digits of the number, and then add the two numbers together. 

(16 reverses to 61.  16 + 61 = 77)  That's called a one step palindrome. 

Some numbers require many steps before becoming a palindrome.  Continue the "reverse and add" method until a palindrome pops up.  For example 153 is a two step palindrome. 


A Two Step Palindrome for Backward Day!



YAD DRAWKCAB YPPAH!  Here's hoping the celebration will reverse our current outdoor temperature

(17 degrees Fahrenheit)!


Truth or Myth?

Gifted children  may insist in doing things their own way.


Gifted children are highly imaginative.  They may not be inclined to follow the organization of others and may insist in doing things their own way. 

Here's a suggested tip from gifted education teacher Susan Winebrenner


"Whenever possible, let your child solve her own problems.  Help her brainstorm solutions, but don't insist that she choose the one you think is best.  You'll avoid power struggles and build self-reliance and responsibility in your child."


Play is Productive




In addition to fostering creativity and learning, play makes a child's life more fun.  Since children are naturally playful, their imaginations soar within environments that allow them to play and experiment without needless restrictions.

We know that all work and no play makes. . . 



Julia Cameron has information and many helpful suggestions about the value of play in her book, The Artist's Way for Parents:  Raising Creative Children.  In fact, she argues that we never reach an age where play is not productive.  Yes!

A puzzle game we've been making time for is Perplexus (we have the original version) - a three dimensional maze game where players move a marble through a series of clever twisting barriers.  The game allows children to "exercise their motor and dexterity skills, as well as improve their hand-eye coordination." It also promotes concentration and persistence.


Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity


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