Creativity exercises and games are activities designed to quickly engage students with a new medium, skill, or concept. They are ideal for classroom teachers looking to energize lessons. I use them with students ranging from kindergarten through college, often as a warm-up, sometimes to mix things up mid-lesson, and sometimes as an enjoyable ending to the day. I have found this practice to be especially useful with clay.
This article will give some background information on benefits and challenges of using clay in the classroom, show how creativity exercises and games can support or negate challenges of working with clay while enhancing benefits, and finally, it will describe four creativity exercises and three games that can all be done with clay. The activity descriptions will provide directions for use, and list some benefits that I have observed in the classroom.
Benefits and Challenges Clay is a versatile material that can take on nearly any shape or texture. It can be used to create 2-D or 3-D work, and can be shaped into organic, free-flowing forms, or hard-edged, geometric forms. The tactile nature of this medium makes it especially useful for kinesthetic learners. I have seen many students who had difficulty with flat media really shine when they were given the chance to work with clay. And with an average 25-lb bag of clay costing between $7 and $12, the material is literally dirt-cheap.
Despite its benefits, teachers are sometimes hesitant to use clay in the classroom because of its technical challenges. Even when used properly, there is always the risk that works will crack, break, and even fall apart completely if accidentally bumped or dropped. Clay work is messy and takes time. In many cases, projects must be done in stages to allow for hardening and drying of the material. In order to turn fragile raw pieces into durable and finished artwork, they must be fired in a kiln, an expensive piece of equipment that many schools don’t have on site. Creativity exercises and games can help to support or negate these challenges.
Enhance Clay Instruction Creativity exercises and games can positively engage students with clay, whether or not a kiln is available. These activities need not be fired to be effective. Clay can be re-hydrated and used again and again for these activities. As an added bonus, re-using clay helps students to be less attached to each individual thing they make. When each piece is less precious, students are more willing to experiment and push limits. When time is short, exercises and games can be fun and easy ways to get kids involved with clay. In combination with longer projects, these can work well as introductory activities. When starting out with a new medium or technique, a quick activity is not nearly as intimidating as a long-term (often graded) assignment. Many exercises and games involve collaboration and help students to get to know one another and to be more comfortable working together. This encourages a classroom atmosphere that is more open and engaged.
Creativity exercises and games can help engage students with clay, to teach them through experience how the material reacts to different techniques, and to support a positive and collaborative classroom environment. These activities are adaptable for different learners and effective with almost any age. Regardless of classroom circumstance, creativity exercises and games with clay are a wonderful addition to any curriculum.
K–12 students will …
• experiment with clay through the use of creativity exercises and games.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• enduring understanding: Creativity and innovative thinking are essential life skills that can be developed.
• enduring understanding: Artists and designers experiment with forms, structures, materials, concepts, media, and art-making approaches.
• Creating: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
• Creating: Organize and Develop artistic ideas and work.
• Clay (any firing range)
• Water, soap, paper towels
• Paper bags, plastic bags
Tara Carpenter is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Art Education area, at Brigham Young University, Provo Utah.