Creative learning

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Success in the Creative Classroom: Using past wisdom to inspire excellence. By Steve Bowkett, Tim Harding, Trisha Lee, Roy Leighton. Network Continuum. Pounds 19.99

How to Have Creative Ideas: 62 exercises to develop the mind. By Edward de Bono. Vermilion. pound;8.99

Huw Thomas gets help from Walt Disney and Socrates

A fair amount of hokum is being peddled in the accelerating market of brain-based, water-drinking, creative-learning theory.

The achievement of Success in the Creative Classroom lies in one basic feature: these writers have each explored a specific area of creative learning that brings out their passion and expertise.

The result is an eclectic scattering of subject matter, ranging from explorations of how creativity works, to diagrams about learning or the training of the memory. Along the way, we encounter stories, practical application and the thoughts of as varied a cast of characters as Walt Disney and St Thomas Aquinas.

Such insights provide a depth that is then consistently developed into ideas that can be readily applied to current teaching. This is particularly impressive in the chapters that take the concept of dialogue from Socrates to the classroom.

Each section is illustrated by a story, some of which drag along. However, the ideas they support are worth the read. Sections on peers teaching each other, narrative learning and questioning all have the potential to inspire. I doubt any teacher will be gripped by the entire book, although most will find enough to make it worthwhile.

For someone making a big song and dance about lateral thinking and creativity, it is ironic how much Edward de Bono tends to market the same old thing.

Readers familiar with Lateral Thinking will encounter in How to Have Creative Ideas a one-volume extension of his random-word idea. The add-on is a set of exercises that extends the concept, training the reader in the habits and skills of creativity. As such, it's a useful addition.

De Bono suggests that one of these highly-engaging exercises a day will boost the grey cells. There is much here that can be applied to children of all ages, as well as adults. The ideas will also be useful for in-service training.

The examples De Bono uses to illustrate his ideas are, sadly, rather limp.

Readers are better skimming these before applying the ideas to their own classrooms, where the universality of these games and activities will make them readily applicable. Good fun, stimulating good thinking Huw Thomas is head of Emmaus Primary, Sheffield

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