Fostering Imagination

Children need to develop the ability to think imaginatively and creatively. Children with imagination do a better job visualizing what they are reading, solving problems, entertaining themselves without devices, and thinking creatively in a variety of situations.

I started thinking about the power of imagination recently after reconnecting with a former student. As a second grader, this child invented an imaginary classmate for whom we actually had a rug space and whose opinions were sometimes sought in class discussions. He created elaborate storylines for plays that he produced at recess. And, I’ll never forget how disappointed he was in our school’s “Harry Potter Day” because we played Quidditch on the ground, not by flying through the air.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about imagination these days because I live with a three-year old. Last Saturday was typical: I had to make two extra salads for dinner because my little boy insisted that his imaginary dog Stanley and his friend Otis would be coming for dinner. We had to clean out some space for storage, since they’d be bringing ninety-two suitcases. They’d come in through the back gate, so Matthew needed the key to unlock it. Oh, and they were going to sleep on the couch. If they had trouble falling asleep, they might leave the TV on.

Sometimes in the rush of our daily lives at school and at home, our first reaction to such imaginative thinking is annoyance. Do I really have time to make extra salad for imaginary dogs? Do I really have to make space on the rug for an imaginary classmate? But we can’t afford to do that. We must give children opportunities to “think outside the box.” If they can imagine a world better than the one we have, perhaps they can someday make that world a reality.

Morning Meeting is one time during the school day when teachers can encourage students to think imaginatively. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • “This is my . . .”
    For this greeting, choose an object (a roll of masking tape, a feather, anything that could spur imagination). Each child tries to imagine something that object could be.  For instance, the first child might hold the roll of masking tape and say, “Good morning, everyone, this is my bracelet.” The other children respond and say, “Good morning, __________, we really like your bracelet.” The next might say, “Good morning, everyone, this is my flying saucer.” As the object and greeting continue around the circle, encourage children to try not to duplicate others’ ideas.
  • Imaginative sharing
    Choose sharing topics that foster imaginative and creative thinking. For instance: “What kind of animal would you like to be and why?”; “What invention would you create to help the world?” or “If you could travel back in time, what era would you visit and why?”
  • Exaggeration
    For this activity, choose an object that might be used to do a certain task (a key, a screwdriver, a paintbrush, etc.). Challenge students to think of something amazing they could do with this object. Begin by modeling your own thought: “I used this key to unlock a door that led me into an enchanted forest where I rode upon a unicorn.”
  • Imagination in morning messages
    Include a question that sparks imaginative thinking. For instance, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” You can tie these questions into academics—”If you lived in the book ________, would you rather be friends with ____ or ____?” or “If you lived in ancient Egypt, which of the careers we discussed would you like to have?”

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Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Engaging Academics