Friday, September 18, 2009


Our son, Jason, and I at the "imagine" mosaic in NYC Central Park in 2007
Favorite Creative Imagination Quote: “The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old questions from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”—Albert Einstein

When I served as the Florida Department of Education State Consultant for Gifted Education, I was frequently asked to provide technical assistance to school districts regarding strategies to improve creative and critical thinking skills for school-age students. In this article, I have identified some terrific strategies for learning to think creatively by using our imagination, including applications for both children and adults.

Strategies for Identifying and Developing Imagination in Children
Fluency, Flexibility, Originality, and Elaboration are the four primary strategies for developing and improving creative thinking or imagination.

Fluency is the ability to think of many answers to a question, to list many possible solutions to a problem, or to generate a number of responses. Fluency is being able to think of lots of plans or ideas. You are fluent when you can:

  • Think of a long list of reasons for not cleaning your room.
  • Make a very long list of games to play at a party.
  • List many uncommon uses for a common thing, like a shoelace.
Flexibility is the ability to change your way of thinking about a problem or situation. It is the ability to think of alternative ideas and to adapt to different situations. You are flexible when you can:
  • Think of indoor games to play when your birthday party has been rained out.
  • Think of another way to reach the top shelf when you can’t find the stepladder.
  • Invent an interesting way to wash the kitchen floor.
Originality is the ability to think of fresh or unusual designs, ideas, responses, or styles. People who are original are independent and creative in their thoughts and actions. They create things that are new, different, or unique. You are original when you can:
  • Suggest a unique name for your new baby sister.
  • Devise a tool that will help you hold a pencil while your broken arm is in a cast.
  • Design a get-well card for a sick friend and write your own message inside.
Elaboration is the process of expanding an idea by adding detail. To elaborate, you must understand the original idea and see a way to clarify or improve it by adding specific details. You are elaborating when you add to, enlarge, enrich, or expand descriptions, designs, drawings, explanations, instructions, reports or stories. You are using elaboration when you can:
  • Add extra details to a community map so that a friend can find your house more easily.
  • Tell more about a character in a story so that a reader can identify with him or her.
  • Explain the instructions for a game in greater detail than was used by the manufacturer of the game.
Application of Imagination Strategies for Adults

Our imagination is a powerful entity. It can cause the hair on the back of our neck to stand up, our spirit to soar, or our face to blush. Imagination is the power that holds our beliefs together; we believe with our imagination. The imagination is the wellspring of faith and hope. Our biggest and best dreams for ourselves and others rise from the imagination. As adults, when we have been hurt, our imagination is wounded. As a result, alienation and belief in bad news replace belief in good news.
  • We may have a feeling response that can become frozen into resentment.
  • We may have an anger response that can become frozen into negative reactions of rage or passivity.
  • We might have an interpretation response that can become frozen in negative attitudes, perceptions, biases, and beliefs. As a result, our imagination becomes paralyzed. Attending to our wounded imagination is a path through forgiveness.
Forgiveness expands our horizons and invites us to retrieve the positive and work through the negative. Is the glass of water half-full or half-empty? The answer depends entirely on how you see it. “How you see it” is called “perception.” There is the story about the blind men and the elephant. Each man named and described the animal according to his experience of touching only one part of the elephant’s body. The man who held the trunk “perceived” the elephant to be a large snake; the man who held the leg “perceived” the elephant to be a sturdy tree. In the same way, we “perceive” life—depending on what our experience is. Our experiences generate our expectations and our perceptions. We interpret life experiences, and we form expectations and perceptions, attitudes and assumptions. All of this activity is the work of the imagination. It is likewise the work of the imagination to reinterpret and reform repeated assumptions and expectations.

Forgiveness demands that we take another look so that our imagination can reframe our narrow interpretations. Forgiveness includes the decision to refocus or enlarge the context. Native Americans speak of walking a mile in another’s moccasins. When we enlarge the context, we refocus, or we see it through a wider lens. Imagination is the work of seeing through a wider lens. If we stick to a negative interpretation of an old offense, we will experience resentment whenever we think about it, or about the offender. We will never be able to grieve and let go; we will seesaw between rage and resignation; we will never allow anger to surface and put us back on the journey of forgiveness. If we insist on telling and retelling our bad news stories of the past, we simply recycle the bad news and pass it on to the next generation. We pollute the emotional environment; we remain stuck in lifeless memories instead of looking for a more positive side of things long past.

When you enlarge your perceptions, using your imagination, you at least allow for the possibility of healing. You give yourself the opportunity to turn from the negative aspects of your past, to get rid of the excess baggage, and to face the journey into the future with hope...What are your thoughts?


  1. Thanks Beth- this will be mighty useful- will share it with work-mates who work with struggling students at my school- some solid gold tips here- thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Mary, thank you so much for your encouraging comments! I appreciate so much your willingness to share this with others, it means so much to me <3


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