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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Critical Creativity for Grownups: Teachers Try INTENTIONtheBook

When Dan Ryder and I wrote Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom we knew in the back of our minds that the first three “framing” chapters of the book  – about creativity and how it works – are really for everyone. You don’t have to work in the education sphere to get some takeaways or (hopefully) be inspired. We also knew that the activities we describe in the catalogue could indeed, as we claim be relevant in any curriculum with any age group. As we assert

Creativity is Content Agnostic

I love testing this out with workshops, and  just wanted to share some of the #rigorouswhimsy in action. This selection is by no means comprehensive – most workshops are 3-5 hours and we address at least 3 activities from each of the themes in the book: Creating with Words, Images, the Body, Social Media, Others, Sounds, and Stuff.


I love a smiling face! These B.C. Canada educators are exchanging camera rolls on their phones to serendipitously discover a metaphor for learning or teaching. If folks are squeamish about the exchange, you can have them search their own roll and do a pair/share OR have people drop photos into a shared folder.


By far everyone’s favourite…the creative constraint is 1 single Oreo cookie, but you can do anything you wish to it. I recommend adding in markers and perhaps clay..and definitely having a piece of paper as a foundation. For workshops we usually ask participants to teach a lesson from or “advertise” their content area. It’s great to have a gallery walk to view the others’ work.

Good ‘ole Midsummer Night’s Dream


In this instance, I asked my Canadian participants to teach a quick lesson about their country.

guess what? This is a penicillin shot and bacteria, created in Canada!


For this, we use modeling clay to illustrate an idea…it’s part of the exploration of minimalism and visual thinking. Clay can be used with the Oreo or Brick challenges as well, and of course is always great for stop motion video making.


Part of our “Creating with the Body” section…this gets the blood flowing. For the purpose of the workshop I gave each team the name of an iconic film and they needed to form a frozen scene within five minutes. When I did this with another group, I let them choose a film, novel, or even TV show…we had so much fun guessing! And don’t forget to use props (it’s fun making them, too!)

photos from Google Innovator Academy courtesy of Mark Wagner


Really, this is one of my favourite activities and you can do it on a sticky note! Basically, you must use the most minimal colour palette and simple geometric shapes (like Piet Mondrian’s art) to illustrate an abstract or more complex concept.


Portmanteaux! You can think of all kinds of prompts for these, plus add a layer by asking participants to write their mashup word in metaphorical type.

above: from the London Book event

ONEWORD (Metaphorical Type)

This activity requires participants to distill something into one single word, then draw it out with metaphorical typography. For the following, it was a word to describe your summer.


This is NOT in the book because I kind of made it up on the fly at one of the workshops and it is amazingly fun. The concept is using humans as cut-up poetry pieces. They have to mingle and find one another and connect with others to form a logical or more ideally, poetic phrase.The key is taking a photo once they’ve found their group and then letting them mingle again to remix. This would be great for learning vocabulary from the content, particularly with languages. I generally assign each person a part of speech (or write these on cards ahead of time), then they can write their own word in Sharpie. The finished phrase could also be a good story or poem starter, or, for artists, inspiration for a visual piece.

London Event

Thanks to Andrew at EdTechTeam, we had a little event in London when I was in town. Given the fact that it was more of an open-house type of affair, with people coming and going at different times and wanting to socialize, I decided to set up prompts in different stations. That way, they could work on the activity as they wished. This was perfect for Google Innovator Academy, too, as I set everything up on side tables for participants to tinker with at the break.

#edtechteam #London #professionaldevelopment #book #rigorouswhimsy #intention #creativity #teaching #canada #IntentionCriticalCreativityintheClassroom #education #pd #prod #amyburvall #learning #danryder

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