The Creative Imagination and “Concentration Workouts”

Dec 18, 2015 by


Jeffrey Pflaum –

Two areas in ED that need a revival are the creative imagination and concentration. Creativity is making a comeback because it triggers open-mindedness in kids and shows them possibilities in school and life. It shows children their potential, the options and choices they have and can make outside the classroom. As an experimentalist in inner-city classrooms I have seen how teaching creative imagination lessons transforms students and the entire classroom atmosphere. (See my previous EDUCATION NEWS post/link at the end of the article.)

At the same time, I taught kids how to concentrate through fresh, novel, and innovative activities that were fun, yet challenging. Combining lessons that push children’s imaginative limits coupled with “concentration workouts” made a difference in their lives—and mine. These motivational exercises, in my experience, are crucial to students’ learning and everyday existence and can be taught separately, which I favor, or within a specific subject area.

I am including two podcasts on imagination and concentration. Podcast #1 (12 minutes), CREATIVELY SPEAKING – Jeffrey Pflaum | BAM Radio Pulse, can be found at two links:, or

Podcast #2 (12 minutes), CREATIVELY SPEAKING – Jeffrey Pflaum | BAM Radio Pulse, can be found at two links:, or

PODCAST #1 is really an introduction to ideas about the creative imagination and also includes a “concentration workout” called “Saying Your Name.” There is description of what I think the creative imagination is and how important it is for kids to understand, develop, and expand it.

“Saying your Name” is a quirky exercise where I ask students to say their name silently to themselves for 2 minutes, followed by writing about, and discussing the experience, with classmates. The aim is to keep concentrating on their names without losing focus. If they should lose focus, they have to bring their concentration back to their names, a la mindfulness meditations.

PODCAST #2 continues with two concentration workouts titled “The Staring Game” and “Contemplating Haiku.” Again, the key is to concentrate on two levels: the outer event and the resulting inner event. Concentration in my lessons occurs externally and internally, and in our discussions we talk about the significance of both. Each activity is followed by writing about the experience and by discussing their responses with other children, called a “cross-fertilization of

The Staring Game is an old childhood game we played to avoid boredom. After pairing up partners, I asked students to stare at each other for 3 minutes, eye-to-eye, without making faces, silly gestures, or talking. If they lost concentration (which happened quite often in this activity), I asked them to gently bring back their focus to staring at their friend. The writings were read out loud by the teacher. Questions were asked about each work, for example: “How did you keep your concentration? How did you re-focus if you lost concentration? Did feelings or thoughts throw off your concentration? What ‘buttons’ or ‘self-talk’ do you use to get your concentration started or re-started?”

Contemplating Haiku is a 15-minute non-stop oral reading of haiku. Kids focus on the haikus read (outer concentration) orally, and also, on the inside world (inner concentration), or what the poetry triggered such as feelings, thoughts, mind-pictures, meanings, and real-life experiences.

After the oral reading, students wrote about what their concentration efforts and we discussed sample writings together. Writing and discussion questions—cross-fertilizing ideas on, and experiences in, concentration—helped kids learn from other kids.

For example, I asked: “How were you able to keep your concentration while listening? How did you get it back if you were distracted or your listening weakened? Is listening concentration? Is visualization concentration? Did the writers get into the haiku? How would you prove it? Which kind of concentration is more difficult: outer, inner, or both?”

After spending many years in a tough NYC inner city school, I realized that teaching creative imagination projects along with concentration exercises led to new worlds inside my students: self-motivation and self-awareness.

For more information and background, please check out my recent article in Creative Teaching & Learning Magazine titled, “Concentration workouts.” You can access the article at this link:

CTL6.1_p16-23_Concentration workouts-1.pdf.

Or, please Google Concentration workouts – Imaginative Minds at:

Lastly, you contact the author, at, to receive the article as an email attachment.

My last post on EDUCATION NEWS (12/11/15), “The Creative Imagination and Its Impact on 21st Century Literacies,” can be accessed at this link:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.