One thing I think sadly is dwindling from the lives of our young kiddos is using their imagination. I don't know what is to blame-the technology-heavy culture or the focus on strictly academics (I mean standardized tests certainly don't test creativity). I just know that one of my goals for my students is that I leave them not just a little better than I found them, but also a little more imaginative. My advice (for what it's worth :) on helping foster imagination in students.
1) Use literature that models it for them.
I love this story, not only for the message it sends but also how creative are those illustrations! The fish look like painted rocks.
I know, this is probably one of your faves by now too-but what a perfect example-you can be creative with a dot! (it's on Tumblebooks too by the way, you can find it for free through public libraries).
One you may not have heard of and how perfect for Valentine's Day. The author takes a play on words and just runs with it! It amazes me the ideas authors come up with!
A simple, sweet story about a grandfather and the way he remembers his memories.
2. Read them books with no pictures! In my class that's chapter books. At first they roll their eyes because they have no pictures to rely on. But then they realize-I'm making a picture in my head. My impression of the character might be totally different from yours (any Gone Girl novel fans hear that Ben Affleck is going to play the protagonist in the movie--not what I pictured at all when reading it!). Everyone can visualize using their own imagination.
3. Let them PLAY! I know, I know basically a 4-letter word when it comes to curriculum today. Sneak it in! That's what I do. The dollhouse they are playing with is great for vocabulary *wink*. I love joining the kids at recess to find out what they are playing. Sometimes it's zombies, sometimes princesses-the other day it was even firefighters (probably inspired by our surprise fire drill). My sister and I used to spend hours playing with paper dolls on the stairs, creating stories. Kids today, don't have those same experiences-we need to encourage them.
4. Let them make up the games. We all have games in our classroom for workstations-why not allow the kids to make one up as a product. What a better way to apply what they learn? Let them make up the rules as well-they love to do that anyway.
5. Make art! I know, I know, I'm a broken-record. But it's soooo good for them! Give them a blank piece of paper and let them create what they are thinking. Do you know how many times I have seen kids try to paint with the wrong end of a paintbrush? They have literally never painted before. Look the water turned blue! I know, wait until you use yellow! I have taught kids who struggled in everything else-but with art, they could be proud. Look at what I made! I love to see the different ideas they come up with.
Learn about the masters and then paint like them. Make papier-mache designs-every time I start that activity I get some new gray hairs because it's so messy, but that's what they remember. I've had kids go home and ask their parents to do those activities because they loved them so much!
I am truly grateful for all the technology we have available to us today, but there are some things that I think suffer because of it. This Youtube culture we live in now doesn't require much of our imaginations. I started a chess club on Saturdays at my school and a number of kids thought they knew how to play because they play it online. That would be like me saying I excel at poker because I play it online--that's not the way works-so much of that game is based on what you observe from the other players. There are aspects of the game that they are completely missing out on. Where will the future creators come from if we don't lay that foundation?