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Creativity within the Common Core State Standards

Janelle Cox

Today’s students are preparing to enter a world that is driven by technology. To ensure that all students are ready to meet the needs in this new global economy, the Common Core State Standards were developed.

You can think of the Common Core State Standards as a mash-up—curated by experts and educators alike—for what every child should know and do within the K-12 space. The standards provide a way for teachers to measure students’ progress throughout their academic career, and ensure that students are on the right path for success. If you were thinking there might be a couple critical components left out, you’d be right. Where do creativity and innovation fit in to the equation?

While there may not be an explicit focus on creativity and innovation, there still is room within the standards for teachers to be creative. Which lead us to the all-important question—how?

Common Core State Standards: The Arts-Based Approach

There are ways that can foster students’ creativity and innovation while still being in the alignment with the Common Core State Standards. The arts-based approach, for example, can inspire students to be creative and give them a deeper understanding of what they are learning. Teachers can choose an anchor standard they want students to fulfill, then create and implement art-based activities around it.

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Regardless of the specific standard, you should always ask yourself these questions:

How can I present this information? Examples: Present information through a song, video or hands-on activity

What tools can I use to get my students’ creative juices flowing? Examples: Utilize play dough, markers, stick notes, Wiki Stix, stickers, or tablets

Once you’ve answered these, ensure you’ve also differentiated instruction within your classroom activities to reach all learners.

Using Nonfiction Reading Material

You would think that this text-driven direction that the Common Core leads us on may hinder creativity, but in actuality it’s the opposite. Nonfiction texts allow students to make real-world connections with the reading material—it’s your job as their teacher to find those connecting points. For example, in a recent Edweek article “Inspiring Creativity Through Nonfiction Texts(free registration required), Nathan Sun-Kleinberger talks about how he connects an 18th-century text to what’s relevant today. He teaches Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence as a breakup song. Then he has students compare it to a relevant artist today, like Taylor Swift. In addition, he instructs students to make their own declarations (to their parents, homework, etc.).  All of these activities inspire students to think and be creative.

Incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy

The new Bloom’s Taxonomy was updated to reflect the 21st century, and it puts creation at the top of the pyramid. This level of higher-order thinking requires students to move beyond basic understanding and use creativity to find a deeper understanding. Teachers can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create questions and tasks that require students to think creatively, generate ideas and how to use them, as well as develop innovative ways to solve problems.

Although creativity and innovation are not mentioned in the Common Core State Standards, both are essential components to help prepare students to become competitive adults in our global economy. After all, standards are just standards—it’s up to you to present them in a creative way that will keep your students engaged and thinking critically.

How are you creative within the Common Core Standards? Do you have any specific ways? Please share them with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators