The Creativity Thermometer

Purposes: (1) Cultivate students' alertness to occasions to think creatively – about problems, decisions, inventions, points of view, and so on. (2) Help you, the teacher, learn more about students' thinking around creativity.

The creativity Thermometer routine focus on helping students spot occasions to use their creativity. Of course, as the creativity map indicates, there is another aspect of creativity as well – finding the creativity embedded in things and ideas. The Creativity Hunt routine is specially designed to help students spot these kinds of opportunities. So it's not the focus here. 

We certainly want students to be able to think creatively on demand. But we also want them to recognize occasions when it is important to think creatively, even when we're not around to encourage them to do so. This activity asks students to practice spotting occasions where it might be important for them to think creatively. It is a reflective activity that asks students to think about the events of the day or week and identify times where opportunities for creativity were present. The activity is especially appropriate in the middle of the Creativity Ideal as a way of sharpening students' sensitivity to issues of creativity in everyday life. It can also be used at the beginning of the Creativity Ideal as a warm-up for students and a way of revealing to you their ideas about Creativity. (If you use it there, you would probably not ask students to do it every day for a bit, as you would in the middle.)

Launch: How do I begin the activity?

Walk students through the four basic steps of the task:

  • Identify a situation in your daily life where it might be possible to think creatively – about a decision, a plan, a problem, a difficult situation, an idea, a point of view, or something else. 
  • Briefly describe the situation.
  • Rate how important you think it is to think creatively about the situation on a scale of 1-6, 1 = not that important, it doesn't really matter;  6 = really important, because finding a creative way forward could really make a difference.
  • Explain your rating.

Here's how you might introduce the activity in more detail:

With the whole class, ask students to identify a situation outside of the classroom where creativity is possible, either from their own experience or perhaps something they have seen or heard. Take a student's example to use as an example for the whole class. After the student has described the situation to the class, write a brief description of the situation on the board so that students can see an example of how to do this.

Draw a simple thermometer on the board. Ask the student how they would rate the situation in terms of how important it is to think creatively about it, ranging from 1 = not that important at all, to 6 = very important because approaching the situation creatively could really make a positive difference. Shade in the thermometer according to the student's response. Ask the student to explain his or her rating. Again, model writing a brief explanation on the board to serve as an example.

Pass out the Thermometers Recording Sheet and have students practice filling in one example of a situation where creativity might be possible. Have students do a Think, Pair, Share.

Timing: How much time should I allow?

Introducing and modeling the activity should take around 20-30 minutes.


When you are using the Creativity Thermometer at the beginning of the Creativity Module, it's probably best just to ask students to do it once in class, or as one night of homework. They haven't yet had a lot of experience with creativity so it will be difficult to identify opportunities. Later, in the middle of the Creativity Ideal, students will be better able to identify many creativity situations and it makes sense to reinforce students' attention to situations of creativity over an extended period of time – say, a week. For example, mid-way through the module, students might complete a Creativity Thermometer for several days as part of their homework or as an in-class reflection at the end of the week. But do use the routine at least once at the beginning of the module, as it sends an important message about the importance of alertness to creativity opportunities.

Closing: How do I wrap up this activity?

At the end of a week of collecting creativity situations, you will want to have students share, discuss, and in some way analyze the situations they identified. How you do this will depend on the age of your students, your time, and your personal goals. Some examples of how you might debrief the activity are:

  • Have students select one example of a situation involving creativity to share with other students in a small group. You might ask students to select the situation rated by the thermometer as most important to share. In sharing, students first describe the situation and then ask the other members of the group to ask questions of clarification to better understand the situation. Each student might then offer a rating for the situation and explain his or her rating.
  • In small groups, students examine all of the occasions identified and look for common types of situations that arise. Students come up with their own category labels for these groups. For instance, situations of decision-making, problem solving, situations where it's worthwhile to think outside the box or look at things differently, etc.