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Creativity in the English language classroom

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1. Creativity in the English language classroom Edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey www.teachingenglish.org.uk ©MatWright 2. Outside the Box Being inside the box was…
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  • 1. Creativity in the English language classroom Edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey www.teachingenglish.org.uk ©MatWright
  • 2. Outside the Box Being inside the box was comfortable – warm and cosy. We curled up with cushions of routine, wadded with words, blanketed by books, swaddled in certainties. A bit stuffy perhaps, and we sometimes felt cramped, but never mind, we were so used to it that it felt normal – and, as I said, comfortable. Out here we are exposed, and cold winds blow. We need to hold on tight, keep our eyes open for sudden snow squalls, hidden crevasses. It’s a precarious existence now – but here we can move and breathe, see clear to the far horizon. And if we come to a cliff, we know we can step off it into empty air, trusting it to bear us up. We have no fear of falling. Alan Maley Nagoya, November 2010
  • 3. Creativity in the English language classroom Edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey
  • 4. ISBN 978-0-86355-767-5 © British Council 2015 Brand and Design / F004 10 Spring Gardens London SW1A 2BN, UK www.britishcouncil.org
  • 5. Contents  | 1 Contents Foreword: Chris Kennedy............................................................................................................................................................................... 3 Introduction: Alan Maley and Nik Peachey............................................................................................................................................. 4 About the editors ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Overview: Creativity – the what, the why and the how Alan Maley............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 6 1 Medium: companion or slave?............................................................................................................................................................14 Andrew Wright This chapter focuses on the idea that a sensitive awareness of the characteristics and potential of the media and materials available to the teacher can lead to ideas which are fresh, relevant and efficient. 2 Challenging teachers to use their coursebook creatively ....................................................................................................24 Brian Tomlinson This chapter looks at how teachers can ‘open up’ the often closed activities to be found within coursebooks. 3 Seven pillars of creativity in primary ELT......................................................................................................................................29 Carol Read This chapter looks at children learning English as a foreign language at primary schools and how by using seven pillars of creativity teachers can help students with limited language skills exploit their creative potential. 4 Making thinking visible in the English classroom: nurturing a creative mind-set.......................................................37 Chrysa Papalazarou This chapter looks at how we can encourage creative thinking in the English classroom by using artful visual stimuli and the Visible Thinking approach. 5 Personal and creative storytelling: telling our stories............................................................................................................44 David Heathfield This chapter looks at the role of storytelling in the classroom and shows how the language classroom is a perfect environment for teachers and students to tell stories about their own lives and experiences. 6 Teaching grammar creatively.............................................................................................................................................................51 Jill and Charlie Hadfield This chapter looks at how applying creative techniques to grammar practice can motivate students by making what could be a routine and repetitious activity into something novel and exciting. 7 From everyday activities to creative tasks ..................................................................................................................................64 Judit Fehér This chapter provides a range of tips for teachers to help them integrate creativity into their everyday classroom practice and typical language-learning activities and exercises. 8 Fostering and building upon oral creativity in the EFL classroom....................................................................................73 Jürgen Kurtz This chapter looks at how placing strong emphasis on communication as participation and on learning as transformation of participatory competence and skill, we can engage foreign language learners in increasingly self-regulated improvised oral interaction in the target language. 9 Old wine in new bottles: solving language teaching problems creatively.....................................................................84 Kathleen M Bailey and Anita Krishnan This chapter documents a number of creative uses of images and objects by English language teachers who have worked in under-resourced areas in several different countries around the world and describes creative activities and tools that these teachers have developed, working entirely with free or very inexpensive materials.
  • 6. 2 |  Contents 10 A creative approach to language teaching: a way to recognise, encourage and appreciate students’ contributions to language classes .............................................................................................98 Libor Stepanek This chapter offers a practical insight into a creative approach to language teaching which has been developed as a reaction to recent changes in, and the growing demand for, creativity, flexibility and advanced communication skills in the current knowledge and communication society. 11 Teaching children with mascot-inspired projects..................................................................................................................104 Malu Sciamarelli This chapter explores some basic features of project-based learning, then shows five examples of mascot- inspired projects with the fluffy toy Brownie the Bear and its friends. Based on these projects, teachers will be able to create and elaborate their own original and creative projects with a mascot of their choice. 12 Creating creative teachers ...............................................................................................................................................................115 Marisa Constantinides This chapter looks at the role of teacher training courses in supporting the development of teacher creativity and helping new teachers to understand the importance of approaching course materials in a creative way. 13 The learner as a creativity resource............................................................................................................................................123 Marjorie Rosenberg This chapter looks at how we can exploit our students’ experiences and use them as the basis for creative language tasks. 14 Practising creative writing in high school foreign language classes ............................................................................134 Peter Lutzker This chapter looks at how story writing techniques can be applied within the younger learner classroom and how this creative writing process can help to aid the development of language and thought and shape the imaginative and emotional life of a child. 15 Fostering learners’ voices in literature classes in an Asian context ............................................................................. 142 Phuong thi Anh Le This chapter looks at the role of creativity within the context of a graduate level American literature course being taught to EFL students in Vietnam. The activities focus on a reader-response approach to exploring the literary texts. 16 A framework for learning creativity .............................................................................................................................................150 Tessa Woodward This chapter looks at the established stereotype of the creative individual and provides a more inclusive framework for developing our students’ creativity. 17 Drama and creative writing: a blended tool .............................................................................................................................158 Victoria Hlenschi-Stroie This chapter looks at activities and techniques that can be used to encourage younger learners to engage in drama and creative writing activities that will lead to greater linguistic, personal and social development. 18 A journey towards creativity: a case study of three primary classes in a Bulgarian state school ...................165 Zarina Markova This chapter looks at various ELT techniques for leading young learners step-by-step into a more creative process, which would support a more product-orientated approach to creative writing.
  • 7. Foreword  | 3 Foreword It is worrying in our market-driven world that, in domains such as politics, business, and education, certain concepts, and the words used to express them, lose their value through over-use or ill-definition. We can all think of such items and we have our pet hates. The danger is that such terms may be hijacked by public bodies and private institutions which employ them as convenient but opaque policy pegs on which practitioners, including educators, are expected to hang their approaches and behaviours. ‘Creativity’ is one such term, and UK government reports on the subject in the last few years show the concept of creativity being used to support a particular instrumental political view as a means of promoting the economy, rather than as a focus for developing individual skills and talents. It is refreshing therefore to see Nik Peachey and Alan Maley, the editors of this volume of articles on creativity in ELT, adopting the latter focus on individual development. They are not especially concerned with defining terms, avoiding a narrow definition of creativity which would be open to contested interpretations. They prefer to present a kaleidoscope of practical case studies to illustrate what practitioners regard as creative. Readers may then work ‘bottom-up’ towards their own meaning, though the writers of the case studies do almost give an implicit definition in their description of varied activities that stimulate the imagination and result in something new and of value to the individuals and groups concerned. Developing creativity is not an easy option and poses future challenges. It has been compared to a muscle that needs the constant constraining discipline of exercise to strengthen individuals’ innovative thinking and problem-solving. There is a tendency to devote time to its development with children and young learners, when it is as important to extend its use to give positive satisfaction to all ages. Finally, we need to consider ways of diffusing good practice, and perhaps most important of all, ways of integrating approaches across the curriculum and across institutions so that the professional innovations represented in this volume can influence not only ELT situations but other, more general educational contexts. I would like to end with an amusing but revealing anecdote from one of Sir Ken Robinson’s talks on creativity with which readers may be familiar. A six-year old pupil in a drawing class said she was going to draw a picture of God. The teacher said: ‘But nobody knows what God looks like’. ‘They will, in a minute’, the child replied. Chris Kennedy March 2015, Birmingham
  • 8. 4 |  Introduction Introduction This collection of chapters on various aspects of creativity in language learning and teaching arose partly from discussions at the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) Conference in Harrogate in 2014, in the context of the newly formed C Group (Creativity for Change in Language Education). A majority of the contributors to the volume are, in fact, members of the C Group. The call for papers attracted over 200 proposals, from which we had the unenviable task of selecting just 18. It was the aim of the editors in sorting and selecting these chapters to show that creativity isn’t something which is reserved for a specific part of a course or a lesson, but that it is something which can and should be integrated into every aspect of our classroom practice and at every level of our learners’ experience. The final selection comprises chapters which cover a range of levels – from young learners, through secondary school, to adult and tertiary settings; a number of geographical contexts worldwide – from Brazil and Vietnam to Greece and Bulgaria; and a number of different perspectives – from focus on learner creativity, to focus on teacher creativity, and on the contributions which materials and teacher training can make. This volume mixes contributions from a wide range of authors, from those with many years’ experience and previous publications to those who have just started their journey. We feel that this demonstrates that creativity in the language classroom isn’t limited to the ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ but is something that any teacher can try to apply. Creativity is an endangered species in the current model of education, which is increasingly subject to institutional, curricular and assessment constraints. We hope that this collection will serve to encourage and inspire teachers to allow their creativity to flourish, and to foster it in others. For more information on the C Group, see: http://thecreativitygroup.weebly.com Alan Maley and Nik Peachey
  • 9. About the editors  | 5 About the editors Alan Maley has been involved with English language teaching for over 50 years. He worked with the British Council in Yugoslavia, Ghana, Italy, France, China and India (1962–88) before taking over as Director-General of the Bell Educational Trust, Cambridge (1988–93). He then worked in university posts in Singapore (1993–98), Thailand (1999–2004), Malaysia and Vietnam (2004–11). He is now a freelance consultant and writer. He has published over 50 books and numerous articles. He is a past President of IATEFL, and recipient of the ELTons Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He is a co- founder of The C Group. Nik Peachey is an author, blogger, teacher trainer and educational technology expert. He has worked as editor and consultant on many major web-based language learning initiatives around the world and has more than 20 years’ experience in the field of ELT. At present he works as Head of Learning for a web-based language school and is a frequent presenter at ELT conferences.
  • 10. 6 |  Overview: Creativity – the what, the why and the how Overview: Creativity – the what, the why and the how Alan Maley Introductory chapters to collections like this usually offer some kind of summary of the content of the following chapters. I have decided against this. Instead, I shall attempt to trace common threads running through the chapters in this book. Many of these threads then feed through into the second part of this chapter, where I shall try to clarify what we mean when we talk about ‘creativity’, to explain why I think creativity is important in language teaching, and to offer some generic ideas for implementing creative ideas within our practice as teachers. Some common threads There are quite a number of themes and beliefs which recur right across this collection. I shall take up most of these issues in the second part of this chapter. Unsurprisingly, virtually all the chapters subscribe to the view that creativity is really important both in life and in teaching and learning a language. Creativity is widely believed to be a ‘good thing’, enriching the quality of life and of learning – but these chapters offer a practical demonstration of how this belief can be realised. There is also a good measure of agreement that the current educational ethos is damaging to creativity. This is largely due to the increasingly tight curricular constraints, the obsessive concern with objectives to the exclusion of broader educational aims, the intense focus on testing and measurement, and the love-affair with ‘efficiency’ expressed in statistical terms and quick results – all of which characterise so much of what currently passes for education (Robinson, 2001). The following chapters, directly or indirectly, all propose ideas which seek to restore a balance, so that creative teaching can find its place in this otherwise hostile and increasingly sterile environment. Many of the chapters do not seek to define the nature of creativity, assuming perhaps that we all know it when we see it. Those which do attempt to define it, admit the difficulty of finding an inclusive definition. Many of the chapters subscribe explicitly to the belief that everyone has the capacity to exercise creativity, that it is not the preserve of a privileged elite. While not everyone will have the big ‘C’ creative genius of an Einstein, a Picasso, a Mozart or a Dostoevsky, everyone can exercise what some have called little ‘c’ creativity, which is inherent in language itself. The chapters also demonstrate how creativity extends right across all age ranges, all levels of competence, all teaching contexts and all geographical regions. And it applies equally to teachers as well as learners. Creativity is universal, though its manifestations may be specific and local. Creativity is widely believed to be about letting the imagination loose in an orgy of totally free self-expression. It is, of course, no such thing. Creativity is born of discipline and thrives in a context of constraints. It is therefore reassuring to find this view repeatedly expressed throughout the collection. The issue of the value of constraints both as a stimulus and as a support for creativity will be addressed again later in this chapter. Related to the issue of constraints is the frequency with which low-resource teaching environments are cited. Many of the chapters amply demonstrate that we have no need of expensive and elaborate equipment and technological gizmos to stimulate the latent creativity of our students. In a sense, the less we have, the more we make of it. And no classroom lacks the single most important resource – the human beings who make it up, with their richly varied personalities, preferences and experience (Maley, 1983; Campbell and Kryszewska, 1992). It is also clear that creativity in the classroom does not have to involve epochal changes. Even very small changes can bring about disproportionately large creative benefits. There is also broad agreement that creating the right atmosphere is central to fostering creativity. Encouraging an environment of trust – between teacher and class and among class members – is absolutely crucial. Among other things, this implies curbing the teacher’s impulse to constantly intervene and over-correct. There is an acceptance that creative effort and communicative intent trump accuracy and correction in this situation. ‘Creative thinking cannot be purchased, downloaded or guaranteed but it can be fostered with the right environment. Developing individual conceptual frameworks for understanding and interpreting the world also means encouraging individuals to have the confidence to question and deconstruct dogma and traditional views, to possess the courage to make new associations without fear of the opinions or cynicism of others’ (Greenfield, 2014).
  • 11. Overview: Creativity – the what, the why and the how  | 7 Ove
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