How can I help my struggling students be more creative?

After writing draft one of my philosophy statement, a peer left a comment on the discussion that made me think deeper.  When I think about creativity and innovation, this leads me to think about my ‘average’ students who need a bit of a push, I think of my strong students who need a challenge, I think of the 95%.  However, what about those who have trouble in one or more areas at school? What about the one who struggles with anxiety? The one who has a reading disability? The one who needs extra support for behavior?  Then this topic becomes a bit more complex.

But, is there really ANY average student in our classroom? No. And we wouldn’t want there to be.  Each student is unique, and so we as teacher must try to help each of them.  I think regardless of what we are teaching, we must keep this in mind.

The attached document had some very great basics for teaching the variety of students in our classroom.  As a summary:

Mastery students:

  • when these students do not feel that it is practical, or when they are unable to master it, their motivation will lag.
  • Four general principles for these learners:  1. Clear, clear, clear (they are motivated by clarity, competence, and success.  Set clear expectations, and goals)  2. model, model, model (the more explicitly the teacher teaches the skill, which could be a creativity-related task, the better they will perform) 3. practice, practice, practice (rather than reducing the task, give more time for practicing) 4. organize, organize, organize (use visual organizers, as well as practice of study skills).
  • All of the above four can be closely related to tasks of creativity.  If these students do not feel capable, they will not try, so it is important to model the creative process, give them lots of time to practice, and give them strategies for when they are stuck.

Understanding students are those who can work well in a structured environment (listen to a lesson, do something with it, etc.) but get unmotivated when ideas are poorly organized, when questioning is not allowed, and when the work does not include discussion, debate or critique.  When they withdraw from their learning, the following principles should be in place:

  • increase the intellectual content of the curriculum and the complexity of the thinking tasks.
  • Provide clear reasons for routine work and a system that permits them to measure and assess their own progress.
  • emphasize the role of reflection in deep learning.
  • All of these principles will directly correlate with creative thinking… and these are the students who are most likely to WANT to be given the freedom to be creative and innovative. The goal for these learners will be to challenge them to go deeper, farther.


Self-expressive students are those who desire inspiring or stimulating content, opportunities to explore their own interests, and regular feedback.  Some principles for these students (who also WANT to be creative!)

  • increase imaginative stimulation in the content through focusing on large and engaging ideas, investigating curious and mysterious objects, and imaginative projects.
  • Provide more sustained time for reading, writing, problem solving, and research.
  • Ensure that there are frequent opportunities for coaching and conversation.
  • Explicityly model and practice all routine and organizational skills.


This document also includes helping other styles of students… so if you are interested take a peek at it!

For me the biggest theme I got out of this, is that regardless of end goal (mastering a math topic, encouraging creativity, writing a paragraph), all students will need something a bit different, so staying conscious of these different learning styles, and the instructional strategies to be support each of these, is essential.


styles and strategies for helping struggling learners overcome common learning difficulties




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