CREATIVITY IN LANGUAGE TEACHING
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicis
What is creativity?
Do you think you are creative? Do you think your students are creative? All of them? Some of them? Alas, only very few of them? Do you think you can call yourself lucky if you have one or two creative students in a lifetime? Do you think the younger the students are the more creative they are? Do you think your colleagues would answer these questions the same way as you do? Some think they aren’t creative at all and it is only the privileged and artistically talented, who can be considered creative. Others think that to cook a good dinner is already a clear sign of creativity.
Why is creativity important?
Before we set out and look at some theories and practice for introducing creativity into the language classroom, let’s see why it is worth making all this effort. Why is creativity important in language classrooms?
• Language use is a creative act: we transform thoughts into language that can be heard or seen. We are capable of producing sentences and even long texts that we have never heard or seen before. By giving learners creative exercises, we get them to practise an important sub-skill of using a language: thinking creatively.
• Compensation strategies (methods used for making up for lack of language in a communicative situation e.g. miming, drawing, paraphrasing used for getting meaning across) use creative and often imaginative ways of expression. Our learners will need these until they master the language.
• people cannot learn at all if they are not allowed to be creative. They do not understand the point in doing a language activity for its own sake, for only practising the language without a real content, purpose, outcome or even a product.
• My experience also taught me that most people become more motivated, inspired or challenged if they can create something of value, if they feel that in some ways what they do and how they do it reflect who they are.
• Creativity improves self-esteem as learners can look at their own solutions to problems and their own products and see what they are able to achieve.
• Creative work in the language classroom can lead to genuine communication and co-operation. Learners use the language to do the creative task, so they use it as a tool, in its original function. This prepares learners for using the language instrumentally outside the classroom.
• Creative tasks enrich classroom work, and they make it more varied and more enjoyable by tapping into individual talents, ideas and thoughts - both the learners’ and the teacher’s.
• Creative thinking is an important skill in real life. It is part of our survival strategies and it is a force behind personal growth and the development of culture and society.
Having read this list of why creativity is important in the classroom, may have these two questions:
• Am I ever creative?
• Do I ever get my students to do anything creative in my lessons?
I’m almost a hundred per cent sure that the answer is ‘yes’ to both of these questions. Let me show you why.
Am I ever creative?
Have you ever found that you wanted to do something but you did not have the right tool / material to do it, and then you found some way of using another object / material and managed somehow? E.g. You opened a bottle or a tin without a bottle or tin opener or substituted an ingredient in a recipe with another ingredient. Have you every changed an activity in your course book or a resource book to match the needs of a particular group you teach? YES? There you go, you are creative!
Are my students creative in my lessons?
Do you ever get your students to speak about, write about, draw about or mime what they think? Do your students say things in the foreign language they never heard or read? Do you ever get them to think about rules, problems and how things and language work instead of just telling them? Do you sometimes give them tasks where there is no one possible answer and the answers will vary from one learner to another? YES? There you go, your students have opportunities to think creatively in your classes already!
Schools want teachers who are dedicated, well-qualified, have a good command of English, who work well with their colleagues, who can engage and motivate their students and who are committed to helping their learners succeed. But above all they want individuals who are good teachers. Good teaching draws on many different qualities that teachers bring to their classes – reflecting the knowledge, skills and understanding they have built up from their professional education and from their experience of teaching. In this paper I want to explore one quality among the many that characterize effective teachers – the ability to bring a creative disposition to teaching.
Talk about creativity is everywhere today, driven by the need for companies and organizations to be more competitive and by the movement towards learned- centred rather than test-driven teaching in schools. Ministries of education in different parts of the world have encouraged schools to focus more on creativity in the curriculum across all
subject areas – something that is believed to have widespread consequences. For example a recent report in the UK concluded that “Britain’s economic prosperity and social cohesion depended on developing a national strategy for creative and cultural education”.
- - Creative teaching is said to increase levels of motivation and self-esteem on the part of learners and to prepare them with the flexible skills they need for the future. Developing the capacity to be creative is believed to have the potential to enrich lives and help contribute to a better society.
Creativity is usually described as having a number of different dimensions:
the ability to solve problems in original and valuable ways that are relevant to
seeing new meanings and relationships in things and making connections;
having original and imaginative thoughts and ideas about something;
using the imagination and past experience to create new learning possibilities.
Let’s discuss three different dimensions of creative teaching:
1. The qualities creative teachers possess
2. How teachers apply creativity in their teaching
3. How creativity can be supported in the school
1. THE QUALITIES CREATIVE TEACHERS POSSESS
We can probably all recall teachers we know who were very creative in their approach to teaching. Of course we have all encountered teachers who make use of carefully developed lesson plans, who keep their lessons focussed on accurate performance of tasks, who are strict about getting homework in on time and returning it with detailed corrections and suggestions. Hopefully however we also have powerful and fond memories of a teacher who sparked our imagination, who inspired us by their individual and personal teaching style, who motivated us to want to continue learning and perhaps to eventually decide to become an
English teacher? What makes teachers like this different?
Eight aspects of teacher ability and cognition that characterize some of the qualities of creative teachers.
1.1.Creative teachers are knowledgeable
Creative teachers have a solid knowledge base. They know their subject – English, teaching English, and learning English - and they draw on their subject matter knowledge in building creative lessons. A knowledge base is important because without knowledge, imagination cannot be productive. Creativity doesn’t mean making unfocussed and unprincipled actions. It doesn’t mean making it up as you go.
Having a solid knowledge base means that the teacher has a rationale and purpose for the creative activities he or she uses. They have not been chosen merely for their novelty value but because they reflect the teachers’ knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning.
1.2. Creative teaching requires confidence
This attribute partly follows on from the preceding one, since knowledge of subject matter can provide a sense of confidence that enables the teacher to be original and creative. One feature of confidence is that it gives teachers a sense that they are in control of their classroom and that is the teacher – not the book or the curriculum- that can make a difference. Creative teachers see their input to the lesson as being decisive and so they have a sense of personal responsibility for how well learners learn.
1.3. Creative teachers are committed to helping their learners succeed
Conversations with creative teachers confirm that they are very committed to their learner’s success. The fact that they are creative means they are constantly adjusting their teaching in order to better facilitate learning. They want their learners to succeed and they try to find out as much as they can about their learners to enable them to best cater to their needs. They also seek to develop their learners’ self-confidence.
1.4. Creative teachers are non-conformists
Conformity is the enemy of creativity.
The creative teacher does not simply present lessons from the book. He or she looks for original ways of creating lessons and using the textbook and teaching materials and seeks to create lessons that reflect his or her individual teaching style. This is another way of saying that being creative means seeking to adapt and modify lessons to better match the learners’ needs. For this reason creative teachers are generally very different from each other.
Learning to be a creative teacher does not mean modelling or copying the practices of other creative teachers, but rather it means understanding the principles that underlie creative teaching. Individual teachers will realize these principles in different ways.
1.5. Creative teachers are familiar with a wide range of strategies and techniques
Creativity in teaching means having a wide repertoire of routines and strategies which teachers can call upon, as well as being ready to depart from established procedures and to use one’s own solutions. Novice teachers are much less likely to be creative than experienced teachers simply because they are familiar with fewer strategies and techniques. The danger is that once a teacher becomes comfortable in using a core set of techniques and strategies these become fixed.
1.6. Creative teachers are risk-takers
The creative teacher is willing to experiment, to innovate, and to take risks. Risk-taking reflects the flexible mindset of creative teachers as well as their self-confidence. They are willing to try things out, even if at times they may not work quite the way they are intended.
So the teacher is willing to rethink or revise, or if necessary abandon her original plan and try something else. But this is seen as a learning moment and not an indication of failure.
1.7. Creative teachers seek to achieve learner-centred lessons
A trait that is reflected in several of the comments above is that of learner-centredness. This is seen in teachers who listen to their learners and who seek opportunities for learners to take responsibility and control of their learning. An important feature of learner-centred lessons is the extent to which the lesson connects with the learners’ life experiences.
1.8. Creative teachers are reflective
Lastly, a quality that creative teachers seem to possess is what we can call critical reflectivity. They review and reflect on their own practice, seek to expand their knowledge and try to find new ideas and practices that they can apply in their own classrooms. They ask questions like these:
Do I try out new activities and assess their role in my classes?
Do I compare my teaching with the teaching of other teachers to find out creative solutions that they may have developed?
Can I find ways of making my tasks more creative and hence more engaging for learners? (For example by presenting a reading text as a jigsaw reading).
Can I adapt the activities I use so that they increase the personal value of my lesson to my learners? (For example by adapting an activity so that it centers on the students’ lives rather than on characters in a textbook?)
2. HOW TEACHERS APPLY CREATIVITY IN THEIR CLASSROOMS
How does having some of the traits I have described so far influence the way a creative teacher teaches his or class? We see a creative disposition reflected in several different dimensions of creative teachers’ lessons.
1. Creative teachers make use of an eclectic choice of methods
2. Creative teachers use activities which have creative dimensions.
3. Creative teachers teach in aflexible way and often adjust and modify their teaching during lessons
Flexibility in teaching means being able to switch between different styles and modes of teaching during the lesson, for example if necessary changing the pace of the lesson and, giving more space and time to learners. The teacher may not need to refer to a lesson plan because he or she is able to create effective lessons through monitoring the learners’ response to teaching activities and creating learning opportunities around important teaching moments.
This kind of teaching can be viewed as a kind of skilled improvisation. Here a teacher describes how he makes use of “teachable moments.”
4. Creative teachers look for new ways of doing things
Learning to teach means mastering the formats of different kinds of lessons – reading lessons, conversation lessons, listening lessons, and so on.
5. Creative teachers customize their lessons
Creative teachers develop custom-made lessons that match their students’ needs and interests or adapt and customize the book to match their students’ interests. While in many cases a book may work perfectly well without the need for much adaptation, in some cases different levels of adaptation may be needed. Through the process of adaptation the creative teacher personalizes the text, making it a better teaching resource, and individualizes it for a
particular group of learners.
6. Creative teachers make use of technology
7. Creative teachers seek creative ways to motivate students
Creative teachers express a desire to motivate students, to challenge them, to engage their curiosity, to encourage deep learning rather than surface learning. They try to develop a classroom atmosphere that encourages and motivates students in their learning.
When less creative students are linked with more creative and imaginative ones, they can benefit from seeing the techniques, strategies and approaches that others use in the creative
3. HOW CAN CREATIVE TEACHING BE SUPPORTED IN THE SCHOOL?
One way of considering creativity is to take a laissez faire approach and assume that it is over to the individual teacher. Schools have other concerns and are judged by how well their students perform on national exams, on how much use the school makes of technology, or on the quality of the students the school is able to attract. But a commitment to creative teaching requires a change in mind set within a school.
There are a number of ways in which schools can discourage creative teaching:
When the curriculum, tests, and constant monitoring drives teaching and teachers
cannot depart from established or approved practices. There is too much of an
emphasis on book learning, rote learning and test scores.
When teachers are not given time to be creative.
When teachers are not encouraged to be creative and innovate or to develop an individual and personal teaching style.
When teachers are stuck with fixed routines and procedures.
The creative school is a place where individuals, pupils and teachers are:
-purpose, ultimate goals and shared destiny;
- openness to new ideas, innovation and enquiry;
-passion to succeed, willing to take risks, accepting difference and diversity;
Given time and responsibility for creative activity, involving;
- all in the search for creative solutions;
- being tolerant of mistakes in the search for better solutions;
- avoiding impulsivity, allowing time for practice and for ideas to come;
Able to collaborate with partners to share creativity and ideas including:
- learning partners to generate, extend and provide feedback on ideas;
- collaborating as part of a team on creative projects and productions;
- developing creative connections and links beyond the organization.
The school encourages creative partnership.
We are often most creative when we get the support and encouragement of others. There are several ways in which this can be achieved.
Through team teaching
Through peer observation
Through shared lesson planning
Using shared lesson-planning
We have been implementing the process of shared lesson-planning. How it works is we work in groups of three or four and take a unit from our textbook or some other materials that we might use as the basis for a class, and brainstorm different ways in which the material could be taught. We try to be as creative as possible and it’s amazing how many different ideas people can come up with. Then we teach the lesson to our own class and the other group members observe the lesson. Later we meet again to discuss and review how the lesson went.
– M, English teacher, Peru
The school provides resources to support creative teaching
If teachers want to develop creative teaching resources to support their teaching they need access to a good resource centre with up-to-date books, magazines, realia, projectors, technology, whiteboards, etc. that teachers can make use of to complement their lessons. An environment and culture that encourages creativity and provides the resources teachers need in order to realize their creative potential is a key component of the creative capital needed to support creative teaching.
A school can acknowledge the value of creative teachers be recognizing their contributions in different ways. For example:
by acknowledging them when appropriate
by giving them opportunities to mentor novice teachers
by encouraging them to share their ideas with others through brown-bag lunch sessions, participation in seminars and workshops
I have focussed here on just one aspect of teaching. There are many other important dimensions to effective teaching. But adding the concept of creative teaching to our understanding of what it means to be an effective language teacher has benefits for teachers, for learners, as well as for schools.
Creativity helps teachers stay fresh. Creativity helps motivate students and keep them on their toes – they won’t know what’s coming next. Creativity could be the difference between a student engaging in a lesson or becoming (staying?) disengaged through boredom .
There are many creative teachers in the world. Many! Teaching is about sharing knowledge, skills, understandings, character and more. Many of these creative teachers also share their ideas, resources and skills with other teachers. And so they should! We all know that we shouldn’t ‘reinvent the wheel’.
One thing that makes a good teacher (there are many!), is that they don’t give up. If they try something and it doesn’t work, they might try it again after tweaking it, or they will try something else. They find what works for them and their students.
My advice (for what it’s worth), is that if you’re like me, and don’t feel particularly creative in your teaching, then do more of what you’re doing now! Find education/teaching blogs and read them. Learn from them. Be like a sponge and soak up everything they’ve got to offer. Jump onto twitter and follow some of the 1000s of teachers that are sharing and reflecting on what they’ve tried with their students. Get along to education conferences and soak it all up as well as getting to know others who just want to learn so that they can be a better teacher too!
Now, for those of us who don’t feel creative – we’ve got other things to offer! Figure out what they are (if you don’t already know) and give back!
Bruner, J. 1962, cited by Nickerson in Sternberg 1999.
Cremion, Teresa, Barnes, Jonathan and Scoffham, Stephen (2009) Creative Teaching for
Tomorrow: Fostering a Creative State of Mind. Kent: Future Creative CIC.
Fisher, Robert (2004) What is creativity? In Robert Fisher and Mary Williams (eds.)
Unlocking Creativity: Teaching Across the Curriculum 6–20. New York: Routledge.
Dörnyei, Zoltan (2001) Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom. Cambridge, U.
K.: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, Rodney (ed.) (2012) Discourse and Creativity. Harlow: Pearson.
Maley, Alan 1997. Creativity with a small ‘c’. In Clyde Coreil (ed.) The Journal of the
Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching, 4. Retrieved on 15 April 2013 from
Sternberg, Robert J. (ed.) (1999) Handbook of Creativity. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge
В условиях, когда происходит невиданное смешение народов, языков и культур, особенно важно формирование у учащихся знаний, навыков и умений, которые позволяют им приобщиться к этнолингвокультурным ценностям страны изучаемого языка. Совокупность таких знаний, навыков и умений составляет коммуникативную компетенцию учащихся.
Поэтому на уроке иностранного языка особое место следует отводить таким формам занятий, которые обеспечивают активное участие в уроке каждого ученика, стимулируют речевое общение, способствуют формированию интереса и стремления изучать иностранный язык.
Хочется еще раз подчеркнуть, что при использовании аутентичных материалов следует отдавать предпочтение тем материалам, которые могут способствовать формированию коммуникативной компетенции, отражают общепрофессиональную направленность, элементы социокультуры, которые передают особенности национального менталитета, особенности национального общения.
При таком подходе вся лингвистическая информация вводится, усваивается и закрепляется в действующей форме, а живая иноязычная речь становится смыслом и сутью преподавания иностранного языка.
Таким образом,использование аутентичного материала как эффективный метод делает занятие интересным, познавательным, повышает мотивацию учащихся к изучению иностранного языка, а также способствует развитию их коммуникативной, социо-культурной, профессиональной и общекультурной компетенций.
МИНИСТЕРСТВО ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ И НАУКИ РЕСПУБЛИКИ КАЗАХСТАН
АКЦИОНЕРНОЕ ОБЩЕСТВО «НЦПК «ОРЛЕУ»
ФИЛИАЛ АО «НЦПК «ОРЛЕУ» «ИПК ПР ПО АКМОЛИНСКОЙ ОБЛАСТИ
«Creativity in teaching language»
Руководитель: Кожанова Куаныш Токаловна
Подготовила: Адильшинова Айжан Кемелбековна
Учитель английского языка
Жаксынской средней №1
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