Ask first graders, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you will hear a list limited only by their imaginations: fireman, doctor, baseball player, princess, President of the United States. Okay, they have a vision, and although some jobs may be a reach, imaginations are coming alive. They are creating and generating a picture of their dream job, one they believe to be the “cream of the crop”. In the world of first graders, most often their career selection is based off an interest in skills required for that particular job, yet children tend to develop an approach for originality. For example, a student who wants to be a doctor might display the role of listening to the heart, checking the forehead for a temperature, and placing a band-aid on the knee. All practices common for a doctor’s protocol. On the other hand, innovative approaches can be brought forth, such as, giving a hug to the patient and telling them they will be fine, pretending to feed patients a couple spoonfuls of medicine, and instructing them to eat donuts to cure their illness. This is the beginning of a journey, a journey towards developing the habit of “Creating, Imagining, and Innovating”.
“We know students are creating, imagining, and innovating when we see them deliberately and voluntarily use strategies for stimulating, generating, and releasing inventive ideas for a new task.”
– Dr. Art Costa & Bena Kallick, The Institute for Habits of Mind
When Career Day rolls around, first graders tend to get excited, curious, and intrigued by who they will meet. This year, Career Day is centered around service jobs. That’s right, the individuals’ whose job it is to care for others. All students in first grade will discuss and recognize that if it wasn’t for service workers, our communities would suffer. Throughout this unit, students learn about the different types of service jobs, skills required, and how to perform the responsibilities. Most importantly, students gain a sense of appreciation for these altruistic individuals and realize they need to be appreciated. How can students show their creative, innovative, and imaginative side by making this experience valuable for all?
The Habits of Mind Animations present an exciting story behind the habit of “Creating, Imagining, and Innovating” along with engaging lessons and activities. To model what it looks like to generate creativity and originality, a teacher could show the animation for “Creating, Imagining, and Innovating.”
In this episode, Dee, Peter, Maria, and Marcus decide to be build “Hammy the Hamster” a bigger home. Ms. Flowers ignites their thinking by stating, “I’m sure you kids can find many materials if you use your imagination.” The design and construction of a unique home for Hammy is in progress. What will it look like?
After watching the video, you can prompt the class: “How can we make Career Day exciting, special, and different?”
Student: We can make them cards that say thank you. Then we can read them out loud.
Teacher: Great idea! Does anyone have another thought?
You may find that as you encourage students to continue thinking, their ideas will increase in depth and complexity.
Student: It would be really neat if we made cards with pictures inside of them. Also, we could make posters about the jobs and hang them around the school for everyone to see.
Teacher: That would be creative and something that could help everyone learn about service jobs.
With your continued encouragement, you may find that their creativity and engagement heightens their ability to imagine and innovate.
Student: During Career Day we can turn our classroom into a job center and have booths for each service job. All of us can choose a job and stand with the service worker to talk about the job. It would also give all the other classes in school an opportunity to come down and learn about the jobs.
Teacher: I really like that innovative and imaginative idea.
Student: Each of us could create a story about our favorite service job and then send it out to the other classes in the school to read. These stories can be really creative and exciting to write. Wow! I already have a great story in mind about a fireman who goes around to houses and checks all of the smoke detectors. In my house one of my smoke detectors didn’t work and it made me think about how important it is to make sure they work.
And with that, “Creating, Imagining, and Innovating” becomes an essential life skill. Conversations like the one above provide students with opportunities to become more creative, generate ideas, and present innovative thinking. Practicing this skill helps it become a vital habit! In doing so, we help them prepare for, as Dr. Bena Kallick says, “the tests of life”. The journey toward a student’s own career path will be filled with the need for this habit.
Dr. Daniel Vollrath serves as an educator and a United States Professional Development Trainer with the Institute for Habits of Mind. Daniel provides consulting to school districts around the nation on how to infuse the Habits of Mind into everyday teaching and learning within the classroom. His expertise is documented through a doctoral study titled Developing Costa & Kallick’s Habits of Mind Thinking for Students with a Learning Disability and Special Education Teachers (2015), which has gained attention within the world of special education, specifically in the areas of inclusive learning environments and 21st century skills development for students with learning disabilities.