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Let's Get Original

Three ways teachers can encourage and foster originality in their students within the classroom

Audrey Campbell
Audrey Campbell

What does it mean to have originality in the classroom? Our 21st Century educators are striving to provide students with opportunities to read, write, create, problem-solve, and think in original ways. Below are three ways that teachers can inspire creativity, encourage dynamic thinking, and shed light on the value of originality in the classroom.

Use Current Events to Talk About Originality

Nothing gives students a better sense of the importance of originality than a solid look at how it is affecting the modern world. Discussing current events in the classroom gives students the chance to share their own ideas and discern why or how certain thoughts and actions affect others. A newspaper in California revealed a few weeks ago that it discovered one of its former sports editors had "plagiarized several articles that made it into print." Teachers can begin a conversation with students on how this revelation might affect that small community.

In addition, many teachers across the globe have been helping their students to read and digest the news with a discerning eye. In Italy, some schools are now requiring a course on how to recognize fake news, training students on the ways they can identify a real story from a false one. Along these lines, NPR suggests that students become fact-checkers, starting with a gut check as they read online publications. Staying current with global news helps students to be well-informed about current events, and reading online and print publications with caution and purpose helps them to better understand the value of authentic, original thinking.

Champion People Who Go Out of the Way to Be Original

What does it mean to be original? Teachers can discuss with students with they think are notable character traits of innovators and leaders and why those qualities might be important or essential in originality. Time Magazine recently celebrated an incredible list of women who were "firsts" in their field, whether in athletics, politics, art, business, or thought-leadership. These women are shattering the glass ceiling and leading the way for the next generation of original thinkers, doers, and changemakers.

Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, also explored the idea of originality in his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. He dives what it takes for an individual to be truly original and how important it is for adults to encourage children to "embrace their own curiosity and to be confident in where their wands wander." NPR interviewed Grant and discussed with him how adults can not only be original in their own lives but also to support their children in discovering their own voices along the way.

Read, Write, and Think Creatively

Literature has always been a vehicle for new ideas and progressive thinking. Children and adults alike benefit from reading about others who have had the chutzpah to be original and think outside the box. In an elementary classroom, a series of books by Andrea Beaty has taken students by storm, profiling a cast of unique characters that don't take "No!" for an answer. Rosie Revere, Engineer is one great example of a book in the series that celebrates a girl who overcomes her fear of failure to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer. "The only true failure can come if you quit!" she proclaims in the book. Teachers can utilize this book, or any other meaningful text, as a jumping off point for discussions and writing projects on originality and creative thinking.

Putting pen to paper gives kids the chance to share their own ideas with the world. In a classroom setting, teachers are encouraged to give their students opportunities to write as often as possible, both formally and informally, creatively and with an assigned structure or topic, so that they frequently flex the writing muscle in their brains and strengthen it. Turnitin's Feedback Studio is one way that modern technology has empowered students to be original, confident writers. With Feedback Studio, students can receive feedback on their writing as they go, carefully crafting a piece that is uniquely their own from the very beginning.

From newspapers and books to classroom discussions and writing assignments, there are a variety of ways for students to learn about originality and its immense value in the classroom and beyond.