5. The Literacy Tapestry: Language Arts (the Warp) and Creativity (the Weft) (1/4) – Best Practices for Education Professionals

Chapter 5
The Literacy Tapestry: Language Arts (the Warp)
and Creativity (the Weft)
Peggy L. Snowden
INTRODUCTION
In this chapter, the author describes both her personal and professional experiences
with creativity and Language Arts. Theory and practice are both addressed. The author
uses a specific course, Creative Responses to Children’s Literature, to describe how
she combines creativity and Language Arts into a class that integrates both through
best practices approach to the class. The author provides justification for addressing
creativity in all educational settings and describes the personal journey that led to the
conclusion that creativity and Language Arts are a natural combination. The analogy
that the author uses for the integration of creativity and Language Arts is a tapestry.
Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an un-habitual
way.
––William James
Ideas come from everywhere.
––Alfred Hitchcock
I need to substitute only one word in the quote by William James to arrive at a suc-
cinct definition of creativity: Creativity, in truth, means little more than the faculty
of perceiving in an un-habitual way. The artist sees in unusual and unique ways, and
is receptive to the ideas and images that come from everywhere. In truth, there is an
artist in all of us, because we are born with innate creativity and the urge to express
and to communicate that creativity so that others can receive and participate in that
expression and communication. Creativity involves the artist in an ongoing, simul-
taneous dialog with self, other human beings, and the world. Creativity is, as such, a
parallel internal and external conversation, both spoken and silent. Communication
based on spoken and written language is likewise an expressive and receptive activity.
The Language Arts involve the expressive modes of speaking, writing, and represent-
ing visually, and the receptive modes of listening, reading, and viewing. The inherent
connection between creativity and the Language Arts comes with the two modes of
representing visually, for example painting, sculpting, and multimedia creations, and
viewing, looking at and interpreting the painting, sculptures, and the multimedia rep-
resentations.
As a literacy educator, I develop and teach courses in curriculum and instruc-
tion related to the Language Arts. As a general education professor, I am interested in
50 Best Practices for Education Professionals
creativity for several reasons, but primarily in terms of identication and subsequent
nurturing of creative abilities and talent. Since artists are involved in processes and
products that help us explore and understand what it means to be human, it would be
advantageous for educators to promote and support creative endeavors. “Artists are
our most perceptive commentators on the human condition” according to Rothenberg
and Hausman (1976, p. 5). Artists produce something that is original, unique, and that
has intrinsic value; artistic products are both enlightened and enlightening. Likewise,
the Language Arts involve engaging in original, unique communication.
Sadly, the challenge of understanding the creative process and what constitutes
“art” makes it difcult for educators to pursue the task of educating, supporting, and
encouraging budding artists. It is often prohibitively expensive to purchase the neces-
sary materials and supplies. Teachers often lack the training to provide curriculum
and instruction in the arts and sometimes confuse art with crafts. In times of budget
constraints and high-stakes testing, the “frills” are eliminated in order to focus on more
academically-oriented content, and among those extra-curricular classes eliminated
are those that address curriculum and instruction involving the arts. Even more unset-
tling, the push for “standards” and the resulting high-stakes testing have pushed visual
and performing arts into the outeld of education.
How can administrators and educators justify spending time and resources on the
arts when children have to pass these high-stakes tests and when everyone is being
held accountable for students’ mastery of academic skills? These skills can be mea-
sured by objective tests, as opposed to the more subjective aspects of appreciation,
positive responses, attitudes, values, and beauty. One answer to this question may be
found by examining the outcomes of including the arts in the daily lives of learners.
There are many reasons for and benets to integrating the performing and visual arts
into classroom curriculum and instruction and connecting creativity to literacy. As
Cornett (2007) writes, integrating creative arts into the curriculum contributes unique
gifts, including 1) enhancing intellectual skills such as creative problem solving, criti-
cal thinking, and comprehension; 2) contributing to developing social capacities, in-
cluding cooperation, collaboration, and compassion; and 3) deepening personal/emo-
tional engagement, such as concentration, condence, and competence. Cornett also
states that integration of the arts enhances communication, because “literacy includes
all communication processes used to understand, respond to, and express thoughts
and feelings. The arts are unparalleled communication vehicles” (p. 17). As both a
process and a product, creativity is both a direct/tangible and a circuitous/intangible
path to the higher levels of the Cognitive Domain (Bloom, 1956) and Affective Do-
main (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia, 1956), as well as fullling conduits to the highest
level, self-actualization, of Maslow’s Hierarchy (1970). Creating art also addresses, of
course, the Psychomotor Domain (Simpson, 1972), since it involves physical move-
ment, coordination, and use of both ne and gross motor skills.
Before I explain how I support and encourage artistic endeavors, I would like to
explain my own beliefs about and denitions of creativity. I believe all human beings
are born with creative abilities. Communication based on language involves creativity;
engaging in communication is a generative, constructive process with a unique and
The Literacy Tapestry: Language Arts (the Warp) and Creativity (the Weft) 51
original product. I believe, as many early childhood educators do, that young children
are joyous and joyful creators of art. Look in any preschool or kindergarten classroom
and one will see aspects of artistic development in the early years and the use of art
as a communicative medium. Young children engage in painting, drawing, sculpting,
singing, making music, paper folding, creating stories, and many other forms of art.
Young children are more than willing to engage in imaginative play and divergent
thinking. Sadly, something happens after these early years. Artistic pursuits are laid
aside for more “valuable” academic pursuits. Most traditional classrooms, those that
focus on academics and objective-type tests to indicate mastery of academic skills and
convergent knowledge, are not designed to be responsive to enhancement of creative
talents. Creativity is squelched, and along the way, people forget that they are creative
beings. At least, that was true for me. Pica (2010) asks us to “… imagine a world in
which people have lost the ability to imagine” (p. 7). Pica goes on to paint a very bleak
picture of a world with no artists, paintings, sculpture, novels, or movies; a world with
no advances in science, medicine, or technology; a world without problem-solvers,
divergent thinkers, and most frightening, a world without empathy, since empathy is
“dependent upon being able to imagine what it is like to be someone or something
else” (p. 7).
I accept as true that all creative endeavors have innate value and are mediums
for communication. Putting random dots of paint on canvas is valuable because it
connects us to our essential nature as creative beings. I believe that creativity is a syn-
ergistic process; that is, the behavior of the whole system cannot be predicted by the
behavior of its parts. I observe synergy occurring in my college classes every semester.
The parts that contribute to this synergistic process involve the aforementioned three
“familiar” domains––the Cognitive Domain, the Affective Domain, and the Psycho-
motor Domain. Although synergy can, and does, occur in traditional classrooms, it is
more likely to occur in classrooms that focus on critical and divergent thinking, rather
than those that focus on convergent thinking, facts, rote memorization, and basic skills
to the exclusion of higher order thinking and levels of the Affective Domains.
Guilford (1968) and Torrance (1974) are two of the most important gures in terms
of articulating the important distinction processes and products involving convergent
and divergent production. Guilford rst proposed the concept of “divergent think-
ing” in the 1950s and subsequently devised several tests to measure the intellectual
ability of creative people. Torrance, often called the “Father of Creativity,” built
upon Guilford’s work to devise tests of creative ability, quantifying creativity with
his Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) in 1966. The tests, rst published in
1974, measured creativity by using four scales––uency, exibility, originality, and
elaboration (although exibility was folded into the other three categories in TTCT
revisions that occurred after 1984). Of course, there are numerous critics of tests of
creativity, just as there are critics of any and all tests, but that is an issue that is, at
this time, not directly relevant to this chapter. My best practices connecting Language
Arts and creativity is based on the premise of the innate value of all forms of com-
munication. I will rst address creativity and the creative process, then aspects of the
Language Arts, and nally describe how I combined creativity and Language Arts in
one graduate-level university course.
52 Best Practices for Education Professionals
CHARACTERISTICS OF CREATIVITY AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS
A synthesis of Barron’s work (1968, 1969, and 1988) produces what I consider the
four important aspects of creativity––risk-taking, complexity, curiosity, and imagina-
tion. Clark (2002) drew on the work of numerous experts and researchers, including
Guilford, (1968), Torrance, (1974), and Maslow (1968, 1970), to compile a list of the
Characteristics of Creative People (p. 84). She developed four categories of creative
individuals: 1) Cognitive Rational Creative Individuals; 2) Affective/Emotional–So-
cial Creative Individuals; 3) Physical/Sensing Creative Individuals; and 4) Intuitive
Creative Individuals. Creativity and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) seem to me to be
harmonizing processes; creativity is also enhanced by social interactions (Bandura,
1986).
Combining Barron’s, Guilford’s, and Torrance’s work, among others, with the
three Taxonomies of Educational Domains, I arrived at the following connections.
In the Cognitive Domain (thinking, mental processes), behaviors involved in creativ-
ity include uency, exibility, originality, and elaboration. In the Affective Domain
(emotional, valuing processes), behaviors involved in creativity include risk-taking,
complexity, curiosity, and imagination. In the Psychomotor Domain, ne motor skills
(small muscle) are usually the most important when creating art, although gross motor
(large muscle) abilities also play a part, as in performance art, “painting” with one’s
body, and sculpting. Likewise, as described by Simpson (1972), adaptation (modifying
motor skills to t a new situation) and origination (the ability to develop an original
skill that replaces the skill as initially learned) play major roles in the creative process.
Sufce to say that almost every discipline has its own orientation toward and dis-
cipline specic denition of creativity. Great thinkers from Plato to Freud to Jung to
Skinner have speculated about the nature of creativity and creative individuals. Ad-
ditionally, there are those who have made creativity and its related aspects, such as
imagination, their primary focus, including Guilford (1950, 1968), Torrance (1974),
and Alex Osborn (1953), the developer of brainstorming and creative problem solv-
ing. Almost all of these individuals emphasize that “special kinds of psychological
factors and processes” are involved and that “these psychological factors and process
are characterized by an unrestricted, unruled, ‘free’ quality, as well as by a tendency
to incorporate broad areas of experience” (Rothenberg & Hausman, 1976, p. 21). Cre-
ative endeavors are both familiar and unfamiliar, involve both making and breaking
connections, and incorporate what is seen and not seen. Creativity is a perplexing,
chaotic, and confusing concept, yet, as De Bono (1992a) explained, “At the simplest
level, ‘creative’ means bringing into being something that was not there before” (p. 3).
As an educator, I am comfortable with knowing and feeling that, despite the complex-
ity involved in dening and understanding creativity, I know it when I see it and I feel
it when I do it!
Creativity involves many subtle and complex aspects, including those domains
mentioned previously. To be creative and to produce something creative, the artist
engages in: 1) prediction (process activity); 2) risk-taking (process activity); 3) enjoy-
ment (attitude goal); 4) condence (attitude goal); 5) satisfaction (attitude goal); 6)
acquisition and beginning mastery of artistic skills and techniques (process goals); 7)
The Literacy Tapestry: Language Arts (the Warp) and Creativity (the Weft) 53
problem-solving; 8) meta-cognitive control (process and content goals); and 9) meta-
affective behaviors, a term I invented myself.
By meta-affective behaviors, I mean the behaviors that go beyond the areas in
the Taxonomy of the Affective Domain––Receiving, Responding, Valuing, Organiz-
ing, and Characterizing by Value (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia, 1956). The Affective
Domain describes the way people react emotionally and their ability to feel another
living thing’s pain or joy. The domain deals with emotional response, and progresses
from least committed to new information or stimuli (receiving) to the most committed
(characterizing by value, making the information part of oneself, and exhibiting new
attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors). Affective objectives typically target the awareness
and growth in attitudes, emotions, and feelings. At the highest level, characterizing
by value involves adopting a value and acting consistently with that value. When en-
gaged in meta-affective behavior, an individual is rmly committed to aspects of the
value, and demonstrates this commitment openly and consistently. Aspects of Golemans
Emotional Intelligence (1995) and Social Intelligence (2006) are, I believe, reec-
tive the Affective Domain, which then, in turn, leads to what I call meta-affective
behaviors. The fundamentals of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, manage-
ment of feelings, motivation, empathy, and social skill (Goleman, 1995). I believe
that characterization by value and self-awareness (knowing oneself deeply and using
one’s intuition to make decisions that one can live with happily) combine to produce
meta-affective behaviors. At the top of his pyramid is what Maslow (1968, 1970) calls
self-actualization, which involves self-fulllment and the realization of one’s unique
potential. I was inuenced by Goleman, Maslow, Bloom, Krathwohl, and others when
I developed the term meta-affective. Just as metacognition involves thinking about
one’s thinking, knowing what one knows and how to use what one knows, and know-
ing one’s learning strengths, I propose that meta-affective behaviors involves a deep
understanding of one’s emotional strengths, one’s unique life path, and a willingness
to commit one’s time, energy, and resources to following the path, including the path
involving creativity and creative expression. I explain my personal experiences of
meta-affective behavior in the following section.
The descriptions in the preceding paragraphs merely skim the surface of the body
of knowledge about creativity, creative individuals, and the creative process. Many
other factors enter into the equation, such as prior experiences, temperament, home en-
vironment, time management, community support, educational background, and even
nances (creating art can be expensive).
MY EXPERIENCES: BECOMING AND BEING CREATIVE
Reflection is an integral part of informing one’s life experiences. Reflecting, espe-
cially in writing, allows for deep contemplation about one’s actions and feelings and
often leads to change. A major focus in teaching is on reflection, especially recently,
thus I think it is appropriate to reflect on my life as a creative individual. I imagine
that my experiences with creativity are similar to many other people’s experiences. My
experiences have, until the most recent decade of my life, been sporadic, erratic, and
unfocused. In addition, of course, I developed a very unhealthy dose of the I-can’t-do-it