Dimensions of Creativity: Elaboration

Elaboration: the ability to add details, fill in the gaps, add finishing touches, embellish, answer "what else?"

Elaboration is often the easiest creativity skill for teacher-pleasers and most students in our school culture. It is safest to add details and embellishment to an idea already accepted by authorities and peers. Perfectionists love elaboration. Often safer ideas elaborated on by a student will gain more recognition than risky but original ideas. Elaboration can easily turn to "glitz" and valuing "more" as "better," so be careful how you recognize quantity of over quality of detail. Elaboration grows along with other FFOE skills. As students become more fluent in generating ideas, for example, they want to explain and embellish upon them.

Why does elaboration matter?

Elaboration is part of fleshing out the ideas in a group of collaborators, carrying an idea to fruition, and adding the details to make something real, understandable, or aesthetically pleasing. Elaboration takes an inspiring or original idea and completes it. Sometimes "the devil is in the details" to accomplish a creative task.

Elaboration Builders

Activities and projects that build upon a starter, a template, or a partially-completed work help build elaboration. Adding more detail to a graphic organizer, diagram, or timeline can build elaboration, especially if the student must find and decide on what else to add. Variations on a theme or following a pattern such as a letter poem are also options. Visual elaboration grows from adding to drawings and basic shapes to make detailed works of art. Interactive whiteboards provide a place to draw and add detail to student-generated "starters" that can be passed to a series of students, each adding his/her own touches. Collaborative sequential stories build elaboration in writing. More ideas:

Math: illustrate a process on a poster or glog, decorate cylinders and other 3D shapes to show their dimensions and characteristics

Science: make an annotated diagram or image of an insect, plant, cell, etc., add details or examples to a graphic organizer on a science concept such as characteristics of living things, given an image for a concept, explain it in detail verbally

Social Studies: make campaign posters for colonial quotes or civil war slogans, annotate a map or timeline with photos and explanations of events/locations, make a poster of community helpers and their roles, design a new facade for the U.S. Capitol, make a complete, annotated map of a "green" city

L.A./Reading: write from a story starter, write a paragraph using a required list of words, add adjectives or figures of speech to an existing passage, add story details to a basic story map, add setting details to enhance a literary work, compose an illustrated character study

Music/Art: variations on a theme, complete a drawing or musical phrase, add facial details, manipulate "filters" on digital images

Elaboration tools on the web: Any tool can add details. If promoting only elaboration is the goal, the actual project will make the difference.

  • Blabberize (reviewed) make an uploaded image "talk" with a moving mouth to explain the details
  • Szoter (reviewed) add voice bubbles to images to explain the details
  • Bubbl.us (reviewed) graphic organizer maker- add details to concepts
  • Captioner (reviewed) add captions/voice bubbles to images to explain the details
  • Comic makers (see many reviewed) make comics to explain/illustrate the details
  • Draw.Chat (reviewed) draw the details on an online whiteboard
  • Inkscape (reviewed) create animations to illustrate the details
  • Pixorize (reviewed) add annotations to any image
  • Adobe Spark for Education (reviewed) make detailed online posters
  • GifMaker (reviewed) create animations to illustrate the details
  • Mr Picassohead (reviewed) add picasso-esque details to a face
  • Pixlr (reviewed) online photoshop-type tool to elaborate on images
  • Prezi (reviewed) add extensive visual detail to an online or downloadable presentation, including zooming and paths
  • Queeky (reviewed) create detailed artist's drawings with full variability and techniques. Record the details.
  • MyScrapNook (reviewed) create a detailed online scrapbook page of images, text, and more
  • Ryeboard (reviewed) draw with details
  • Spell with Flickr (reviewed) add details to letter shapes (such as the image on this page)
  • PhotoCollage (reviewed) illustrate a concept visually with a collage of related images
  • Thinglink (reviewed) add written and audio detail/narration to uploaded images/slides
  • Timeline JS (reviewed) add details to events using a visual timeline
  • Padlet (reviewed) add details to a concept with a "bulletin board" of web content
  • and many more. See idea sharing for specific activities/projects or to add your own ideas

Image credit: Image created by Spell with Flickr.