Weirdness is one of our most precious resources; it’s weirdness, by definition, that drives all creativity and innovation. Too often, however, our educational system suppresses anything that deviates from the norm. By the time students have progressed through a few years of school, they’ve learned to suppress their uniqueness in service of fitting in. 

When you encourage your students to stay weird, you help them be more innovative, and you help them stay true to their authentic selves. And when you inject a little weirdness into your own teaching, you help your students deepen their understanding and remember your content more effectively. Here are a few ways you can leverage the power of weirdness for good. 

Strategies for Weird Innovation

Innovation requires weirdness. After all, creativity is just another form of weirdness that we use to think bigger. Here are a few strategies to cultivate a culture that celebrates nonconformity.

  • What Else? — Playing games that encourage students to think of unique answers can put them in an innovator’s mindset. What Else? is a simple, free example!
  • Change the Conversation — Reclaim the word “weird” by using it in positive contexts and with positive modifiers. Encourage your class to strive beyond the normal, the ordinary, and the boring to be wonderful weird innovators. Don’t let weirdness get a bad rap!
  • Open Ends — Include tons of questions that encourage divergent thinking. Here are a few ideas:
    • Try Another Way — Encourage inquiry learning by asking students who know how to solve a question or find an answer, “How ELSE might we do this?”
    • MAWNs — This acronym stands for “Most, Always, Worst, Never,” and it refers to the practice of using the language of extremes to push students to think weirder (and more innovativer.)
    • Analogy a Day / Square Pegs — Want weird answers? You need some weird questions. Use the Analogy a Day Generator or the Square Peg Generator to create bizarre wonderings for your students to wonder.

Strategies for Weird Authenticity

Your students come into your class interesting, different, and unique. Letting them express that uniqueness helps you understand them more deeply and allows them to be their authentic selves. Here are a few ideas about how you can create a culture where students can be their authentic selves:

  • Nicknames of Greatness — Find out what your students love, and give them corresponding nicknames. Your student who loves space can be called Astronaut Sam, if their name is Sam. Your student who loves sea life can become The Shark. A kid who loves music can be called Carnegie. Reaffirm your belief that they can do great things if they work hard and follow their passions.
  • Open Their Gifts — Show your students that you see their talents and that you value them, and save yourself some time and energy while you’re at it. For each student, identify a few of their gifts, and then think of ways you can put that gift to work in the classroom. The Gifts Organizer will help you get started!
  • F is for Fantastic Failure — Students CANNOT be their authentic selves if they’re not free to fail. So celebrate failure by building a culture where students know that if they never fail they never grow. This is a classic way to build a growth mindset in your students, and also to create a culture where weirdos know that it’s okay to try new stuff, even if it flops.

Weirdness to Promote Understanding

We pay attention to and remember things that stand out. Put that fact to use by injecting novelty into your classroom to boost student retention and understanding.

  • The Baboon Effect — Take a normal, ordinary, boring task and inject a little levity by adding a baboon, a weasel, a poodle, some mayonnaise, or a supervillain named Fred. Little tweaks and twists like this make things more fun and keep your students in that weird frame of mind.
  • Mystery Box — Put something related to your content in a box. Have students try to guess what it is by reaching in and feeling (if it’s slimy or furry or it moves), by playing Twenty Questions, or by giving them a series of ascending clues. They’ll raise their hands and be really excited, like this.
  • Diversify Your Toolkit — Check out our Strategy Explorations for a ton of different ways to do just about anything, from building relationships to managing your work-life balance. When you’ve got lots of different options, you can be more novel!

You’re weird in your own wonderful ways, so not all of these strategies will work for you. Hopefully, however, you were able to find a few ideas that you can use right away to embrace the power of weirdness in your classroom to promote innovation, authenticity, and understanding.

For more educational resources, check out these free tools and strategies from Blue Apple!