Creativity Project Explored

This is what I was seeing on blogs, Instagram, Twitter:

Don’t these pictures make you curious? I could not imagine what this was all about. Slowly I gathered clues and tried to make sense of it all, but it didn’t make sense.  The word prompt kept appearing and I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how creativity and prompt fit together.

I decided to wait until I knew more and placed my trust in Colby Sharp. I knew in my heart that Colby was not a teacher who gave a prompt and expected kids to write. I decided to wait and see, but I did pre-order this book.

Colby did several videos when he got the ARCs. He mentioned trying some of the prompts with his students. I was feeling a little hesitant, even though he said his students loved creating with the prompts.

I am not a fan of prompts. Prompts make me think there isn’t a choice in what to write or how to write. We are right back there being the turkey persuading you not to eat him. When I think back to my days of writing as a student, I don’t ever remember getting a choice in my writing. I remember wishing I could write the story from my pencil’s point of view. That was never an assignment and I only wrote to fulfill the assignments. I didn’t know I could just do it on my own.

The first page I read began with the heading WELCOME TO THE CREATIVITY PROJECT! Here he explained how the project worked. He challenged forty-four authors and illustrators to create a prompt that would get creative juices flowing. These prompts could take any form illustrations, photos, poems, anything that gets one thinking. Once he got the prompts, he sent them out to the authors and illustrators to create. This book contains the prompts (forty-four used and forty-four unused) and the creations from the prompts.

Now, I am understanding that these aren’t your everybody-writes-the-same-story kind of prompts. These are more like prompts for quick writes. I’ve been trying to understand quick writes. Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Rief write about having their students do a lot of quick writes off a prompt. I spent an evening talking with Ruth Ayres about the difference between a prompt and a quick write prompt. She helped me clear the fog that had been clouding my brain on this topic. I wish I knew a different word for quick write prompts.

As I read some of the prompts, then the response, I noted that sometimes the responder didn’t truly follow the prompt, but they made it their own, which is what is asked of the writer in quick writes.

Gary Schmidt is one of the contributors. I have been a fan of his writing ever since I read Orbiting Jupiter. I was curious what he wrote for a prompt. He had a half page of a story started, then Linda Urban finished the  story, but she included an author’s note that I very much appreciated because she explained her thinking on this idea of prompts. These words made all the difference: “. . . I want all the readers and writers who are looking at this anthology to understand that prompts like these are for play. They are for exploring and trying things out and seeing what skills you might have and where you might want to grow.” A few sentences later she said, “The project isn’t called the Perfection Project or the Judgment Project or the Published Authors Can Do No Wrong Project. It is the Creativity Project. I stretched my creativity a little here, to try to finish a short story. I’m going to call that a success. Now, how about you?”

I can see using this book in many ways in the classroom. It can spark an idea. It can be examined comparing the prompt to the response. Perhaps the response could be read, can you figure out what the prompt said? I see mentor texts in these pages. I love the range of writing and illustrations. However, I wish the illustration pages were in color, but I guess that would make the book too expensive.

What a unique concept for a book! Well done Colby Sharp!




15 thoughts on “Creativity Project Explored

  1. Alice Nine says:

    Thanks for your candid review. I, too, have been reading about this book. As for prompts.. I think there are different kinds and students need to know the expectations. We do quick writes and we also do free writes (Peter Elbow). With young students, I often offer a writing “trigger” for their free writes, e.g., “When it is cold, . . .” or “On Saturday, …”

  2. With all the hubbub I’ve been hearing about this book I am going to have to get a copy. I can think of several cases where this would come in handy.

  3. Leigh Anne Eck says:

    You have sparked quite the conversation here today. I have heard many wonderful things about this project. I may have to bump this book up a bit in my cart.

  4. Interesting to see your own hesitation, read about your discussion with Ruth and your growth toward accepting quick writes. I never used the word prompt. They were just quick writes and my students loved them. We frequently wrote quick writes after sharing a poem.

  5. Tamara Jaimes says:

    Ugh. SOL is costing me a fortune. 😉 Great post! I’m not a fan of prompts, so I have been actively avoiding Colby’s book. Now I’m intrigued.

  6. Elsie, you reminded me to read Colby’s book that I got at NCTE18. I have been following his videos and even saw the one when he opened his book for the first time.

  7. Just ordered my book this week and hoping it arrives today. I also wasn’t that sure what it was about, but now I’m super excited. I was also very intrigued by your question about prompts. I use quick write prompts all the time with my students, they get some of their best writing out of them, they usually discover the topics for their big pieces, and I could not teach writing or write myself without them. But there is another kind of prompt, very frequently assigned and used I’m guessing (by how often they appear when you Google writing prompts), that really shut down writing and take away choice. I do see this type of prompt quite often when I visit schools: “Imagine you’re the first person to step on Mars. What happens?” Etc. Hmmm, I might have to write about this now!

    • There’s a fine line of understanding with quick write prompts and the Mars type of prompt. I think it really has to do with the students understanding of how to use the prompt and take what speaks to them or not. Maybe I should call the quick write prompt a quick write cue, jolt or stimulus. Can you tell I just looked up some synonyms for prompts? 🙂

  8. Love this explanation! My book arrived the day it was released and I’ve been saving it (I’m on spring break and several other books jumped ahead in the pile). I can’t wait to use it with students and this post just made me even more excited!

  9. carwilc says:

    I have been reading a lot about this book too, but wasn’t clear exactly what it was about. Your post makes me want to track down a copy and try out some of the posts for myself and with teachers and kids.

Thanks for taking time to comment.

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