Creativity in the Primary Classroom


Juliet Desailly

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    About the Author

    Juliet Desailly has worked in Education for over thirty years. Having trained originally as a specialist drama teacher and then working in Theatre-in-Education, when she became a primary teacher she brought a range of different teaching and learning methods to her work.

    Juliet worked in Inner London primary schools for over twenty years, refining and adapting the primary curriculum to suit the children she taught – integrating social and emotional skills within the curriculum, emphasising the children's identity and culture and raising self-esteem by providing an inclusive curriculum for all learners.

    As well as her teaching and work in Theatre-in-Education Juliet has been a Humanities adviser and a deputy head teacher. After seven years as a lecturer at the Institute of Education on the Primary PGCE course, she now works as a consultant in creativity and curriculum planning.

    Juliet has written a large amount of educational material, including two series of Infant History for BBC Radio and materials for the Education Department's Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) resource. She has recently published her first children's book, Ma'at's Feather, a story set in Ancient Egypt and a set of accompanying cross-curricular lesson ideas.


    Had I known what the year I have spent writing this book was going to throw at me I might well not have embarked on the task. That I have achieved it is in no small part due to the enormous help, encouragement and support of my family. More thanks than I can say are due to my husband, Alan, and daughters, Rossy and Nancy, for their patience when I was stressed, for reading and commenting wisely on the manuscript, for their interest and enthusiasm and, not least, for their huge moral support when the task seemed beyond me.

    Primary school teachers are by nature borrowers and adaptors of ideas and information. I have spent over thirty years in the company of other teachers and students, listening, watching, discussing and always picking up ideas to try to adapt to my own uses. As such, I cannot possibly remember or give credit individually to all those amazing teachers young and old whose creativity and inventiveness have contributed to the ideas in this book. All I can say is a blanket ‘thank you’ to every child I have taught, every student I have observed and every colleague I have worked with for all I have gained from you. I hope I have passed it on usefully in my turn. To John Cook and Jill Bonner, the head teachers who particularly fostered and valued my creativity as a teacher, many thanks.

    All my colleagues at the Institute of Education have been generous with their interest and support. Particular thanks go to Anne Robertson, the Primary PGCE course leader, for giving her time so generously; she read the manuscript as it was produced and gave enormously helpful advice and encouragement, particularly on the ideas for the Further Study sections.

    Finally, many thanks to James Clark, Monira Begum and all the staff at Sage Publications for their patience, advice and hard work in the production of this book.

  • Conclusion and Forward Planning

    The intention of this book was to give an insight into the different facets of creativity in the primary school classroom; the children's growing creativity, the teacher's use of creative activities and planning, and the application of the key elements of creativity into teaching and learning in different subjects. Hopefully it has also stimulated a desire to be a more creative teacher and to create learning environments and situations for children where they can be creative and develop their own creativity. Making this happen in practice will require more than just having read this book; the following section gives some guidance as to how to proceed and forward plan to make those changes in your practice.

    Making changes in any area of life involves many different stages and a degree of concentrated effort. It does not just happen because you want it to. It mirrors the learning that we are encouraging the children in our classrooms to undertake with all the necessity for repetition, resilience, persistence, reflection, determination and an ability to set targets and work towards them. As such it can be a salutary example of the personal and learning skills we ask children to use every day.

    As has already been stated, the most effective way to increase the creativity in your classroom is to do it in small steps. Having a plan of the stages you will need to go through and regularly reflecting on your progress and updating the plan is undoubtedly the best way forward.

    Formulating the Plan
    • Consider the way the children are used to learning at the present time – the classroom environment both physical and in terms of ethos, and the way you generally plan and teach. Identify one goal you would like to achieve in each of these three areas.
    • Think about each goal in turn. Does it need breaking down into smaller stages? If so, do this now. Plan the activities you will undertake to achieve your goals.
    • Do you need to do any more research about the goals you have in mind? Perhaps this might involve looking back in this book at where the idea was introduced, doing some further reading or observing the technique in action in a classroom.
    • How will you know whether you have been successful in the challenges you have set yourself? What are the success criteria you will be looking for?
    • What constraints might there be to the success of the changes you are planning to make? Identify possible hindrances and plan ways you will deal with these if they occur.
    • Set a timescale to achieve these goals. Be realistic, you may not be able to do all three at once and may need to space them out. Set a time when you will evaluate your progress; this might be as part of your regular weekly evaluation or a particular date you set for yourself.
    Reflection, Evaluation and Forward Planning

    At the time you set aside to consider your progress ask yourself the following questions:

    • Did you achieve what you had planned? How do you know? What benefits has it had?
    • If you did not achieve or only partially achieved your goal why was that? Can you remedy the situation? Should you change your plan?
    • What next steps will you take? (Repeat the process above.)
    • Congratulate yourself for what you have achieved. Even if you did not achieve what you set out to do, you will have learned some valuable lessons about yourself, the school and class you are in, your expectations and what is possible. These will be invaluable as you plan what to do next.
    Next Steps

    As you pursue the route to becoming a more creative teacher you will move further away from what you remember reading in this book. The journey is likely to be a long one, probably one that lasts a whole career. As part of your reflective journey try to return to the activities in this book from time to time. It may be that you skimmed through some of the activities and did not actually carry them out in detail as you went. If so, try to make time to address the activities in some depth, perhaps collaborating when applicable with a colleague to discuss, compare and share notes. Learning is likely to be deeper and more readily used if you have applied it in different contexts.

    Make time when you can to read further around the subject and to observe and question what you see in classrooms. If you did not use the Further Study activities first time round come back to them and use them. They will help to extend reflection into action and make that reflection more critical and more scholarly.

    Final Thoughts

    You will have understood through the chapters of this book that creativity is not an easy option, that it involves rigour and an active reflective process. It is not the only way of learning. It can provide stimulus and extension, experimentation, enquiry and expression, but needs to be integrated with all the other ways of acquiring information, knowledge and skills to use in a variety of contexts.

    In the classroom you will be assessing the learning of the children in regular formative and summative ways. These and your ongoing reflections will tell you if the creative approaches you use and the encouragement of creativity in the children you teach are having an effect on their learning and their attitudes to learning. There will be other benefits as well, as the following quotes from teachers who have experienced learning in creative contexts show:

    ‘The buzz in the room was incredible. They loved the freedom. Their groupwork skills have increased greatly. It's become part of how they work, they are really thinking. Their social skills have developed really well too.’ (Teacher)

    ‘I have begun to “let go” a little and have the kids leading the process rather than always being teacher-led. It has been great to see how much more they get out of the work and how it inspires everyone in the class.’ (Teacher)

    Creative approaches inspire children to learn, and developing their own creativity opens up a world of opportunities in work, leisure and relationships that will last a lifetime. Start small and build up gradually, and enjoy the depth of learning and the revelations and insights of the creative child.

    Good luck!


    Books and Articles
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    Fisher, R. (2006) ‘Thinking skills’, in J.Arthur, T.Grainger and D.Wray (eds), Learning to Teach in Primary School. London: Routledge Falmer.
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    Jeffrey, B. and Craft, A. (2001) ‘The universalization of creativity in education’, in A.Craft, B.Jeffrey and M.Leibling (eds), Creativity in Education. London: Continuum, pp. 1–14.
    Jeffrey, B. and Craft, A. (2004) ‘Teaching creatively and teaching for creativity: distinctions and relationships’, Educational Studies, 30 (1), 77–78.
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    NACCCE (National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education) (1999) All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education. London: DfEE.
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    Ofsted (2010) Learning: Creative Approaches that Raise Standards. London: Ofsted.
    PWC (Price Waterhouse-Coopers) (2001) Teacher Workload Study. London: DfES.
    QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) (2005) Creativity: Find it, Promote it. London: QCA.
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    Access Art – Sketchbooks in schools. This website aims to promote, inspire and enable the creative use of sketchbooks in primary schools. (accessed May 2011)
    Burton, I. (Nottingham City Music Service) and D'Amore, A. Co-constructing a Curriculum. An on-line teacher's resource by Part of Musical Futures. Link shows details of pupil co-construction. (accessed May 2011)
    Creative Learning Journey Website of primary curriculum organised around the six areas of learning from the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. (accessed May 2011)
    Dalton, J. and Smith, D. (1986) Extending Children's Special Abilities – Strategies for Primary Classrooms. Teachers on the Web: Aussie School House. This useful chart gives ideas for questions and activities based on Bloom's Taxonomy. (accessed May 2011)
    Every Child Matters The Every Child Matters document. (accessed May 2011)
    Gillard, D. (2011) This website outlines the history of education in England over 1400 years. It includes links to the text of speeches, papers and legislation and important educational theorists. (accessed May 2011)
    Oxford Brookes University (Westminster Institute of Education) (2000) Series of briefing documents on specific aspects of gifted and talented education. No. 9, Questioning skills. (accessed May 2011)
    SAPERE (Society for Advancing Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education) This educational charity promotes philosophical enquiry for children (often known as P4C). (accessed May 2011)
    Teaching and Learning Research Programme (2005) The Teaching and Learning Research Programme was the UKs largest-ever educational research programme. It coordinated some 700 researchers in over 100 projects. is the link to the research briefing on the Improving Pupil Group Work in Classrooms project. (accessed May 2011)
    UN Convention on the Rights of the Child This link takes you to a poster on the rights of the child in child-friendly language. (accessed May 2011)

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