1. Encourage exploration. This seems pretty obvious, but sometimes we as educators get so caught up in data and assessment and test scores that we forget they are kids. And kids need time to explore and discover. I promise I won’t tell on you if you aren’t always teaching to the test.
2. Model creativity. Some times—okay many times—I was not scared to show my silly or imaginative side to my students. I found it actually helped us bond and encouraged them to take more risks.
3. Give them tools. As a teacher all I had to do was put some playdough or shaving cream out. We made it educational by making letters, sight words, names, etc. but I always let students have some time to just manipulate the tools. Actually, I found if they got it all out in the first five minutes then they were more apt to follow along while we were creating together.
4. Praise risk-taking. Always encourage your students. Make sure the class as a whole feels like it is a safe environment in which any idea—no matter how odd—is given consideration. This will also build self-confidence in your students.
5. Allow for mistakes. I always tell my students that in Japan mistakes are applauded because it means that person took a risk! I also tell them I make mistakes every day and you can learn from those mistakes.