Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 5: Very, Very, Very Smart Children vs. Creative Ones

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) Before reading this article, many just assumed that very smart children (prodigies) would become the most successful as adults.

2) They seemed interested to hear about prodigies that their classmates knew or that were in each other’s countries.

3) They were surprised by how important or unimportant approval by their parents was to their classmates.

4) They enjoyed comparing how creative they were and how much each of them was a conformist and/or non-conformist.

5) They liked to talk about their passions.

Here is the basis for this discussion: In his book, Originals, Adam Grant explains how many people believe that life would be easier and people would admire us if we were very, very smart. Actually, though, being creative improves people’s lives more.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.

2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.

3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their own experiences about the topic.

4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different questions in the form of Student A, B or C.   

About Discussion Activity 5: Very, Very, Very Smart Children vs. Creative Ones (and the handout).

Here is an excerpt from the article
The excerpt starts with paragraph 2.
 
2 Children like Braxton are called prodigies.  When he was 16, he graduated from both high school and Harvard University; he had been taking Harvard courses online while attending high school.  Some prodigies have learned to read when they were two years old.  Some are able to play Bach at four and others can easily do calculus at six. 
 
3 Many of us imagine that it would be wonderful to be so smart.  Life would be easier, and people would admire us.  And the dream for many parents is to produce super smart children.  However, very, very smart children may not improve other people’s lives as much as different kinds of children: creative ones.
 
4 When child prodigies grow up, they rarely become geniuses who discover original ideas that change the world.  At an early age, they learn how to play a Mozart composition magnificently, but they rarely create original scores.  They are good at learning existing scientific information but not at producing new insights.  They tend to work very hard to win the approval of their parents and to be admired by their teachers.  For prodigies, because they value achievement so much, they are often afraid of failure.  Thus, they don’t aim for doing something unusual and original.
 
5 In contrast to the prodigy children, there are the creative ones. Creative people will think of unique ideas that will eventually make things better for others.  Researchers have found that many creative children with their unusual ideas are non-conformists who like to make their own rules.  As a result, they are often their teachers’ least favorite students.  For example, none of Albert Einstein’s college instructors would write a letter of recommendation for him because they thought his ideas and behavior were too different from theirs, so he was unable to find a job for two years after graduating.
 
6 Another creative, non-conformist, Steven Jobs, the founder of Apple, often wore no shoes in his 20s …

Here are some of the personal experience discussion questions that students will discuss.

Pre-discussion Exercise

Think about these discussion questions.  You don’t have to write anything.

  1. Do you know anyone who was a prodigy or have you heard about any in your country?
  2. When you were very young, were you especially good at something, for example, math or playing music or reading?
  3. When you were a child, did you work hard to win the approval of your parents and teachers?
  4. These days, is it important to that your parents and teachers approve of you?
  5. What is one non-conformist thing that you have done in your life?
  6. Did you have many rules to follow when you were a child? Give some examples.
  7. When you were a child, did you have many different interests or were you focused mainly on thing?
  8. About your relatives, is there anyone who is very focused on mainly one thing?
  9. What are some things that you are curious about these days?
  10. What are your parents passionate about?
  11. Are your passions similar to your parents’ passions?
  12. Was there anything in this article that surprised you or that you don’t agree with or that you found very interesting?

Here is the link to the complete activity: Prodegies vs Creative children ART and EX

To make group discussion most successful, see these postings for activities

Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)
Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2)

Also see this posting Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

David Kehe

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