FOR TEACHERS WHO DON’T WANT TO BE “DRILL AND KILL” EXPERTS: PART I- CREATIVITY IN THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM

The C Group that aims to foster creativity for change in language education offers a provisional definition of creativity as: ‘thinking and activity in language education that is novel, valuable, and open-ended, and that helps to enrich learning in our students and ourselves’. Being creative is a must in the language classroom not only because
creativity is an important life skill in the century that we live in, but also because it motivates, inspires, and challenges the learners and increases their engagement. In this post I will try to give some examples that will help the learners think about and use the language creatively.

Before giving your students creative challenges, you can start by brainstorming on what creativity is discussing all aspects from generating original ideas and narrowing them down to not fearing making mistakes. Helen Buckley’s poem, The Little Boy may be a good starting point to do that. Here is a video you can share with your students while you are discussing creativity with them.

You can also share Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk or other TED talks on creativity with your students,

discuss them in the classroom and ask them to prepare a TED-style talk on the significance of creativity.

My favorite website to assign creative tasks to students is The Literacy Shed where you can find a wealth of visual resources together with creative ideas for literacy teaching that you can extend. Creative Educator is another great site by tech4learning where you can find ideas for your Language Arts classes.

Teach with Movies provides teachers with lesson plans and learning guides on movies and film clips. You can also create your own lesson plans for English Language Arts and Literature classes based on the movies. Here is a  project assignment for students who have used Teach with Movies website together with the novels they are reading and here is a blog post on why use film to teach literacy.

Classtools is a free site for teachers created by a teacher. He has created tools for students including timeline tools, diagram makers, hamburger paragraph makers, SMS generators, video games maker, a QR code treasure hunt, and breaking news generator. The Fakebook page is great for character profiles. Ask your students to choose one of the characters in the book they are reading and prepare a Fakebook page for them considering what links and photos they would share, who they would friend, what their updates would look like. You can find the help sheet for Fakebook here.

Russel Tarr, the creator of the Classtools website has also designed Twister, which is a fake tweet generator. Students can create tweets as the characters in the book they are reading or as the author of the book using Twister. This link will take you to his blog where Russel, shares different ways you can use Classtools.  Alternatively, you can use Twiducate, which is a social networking tool for schools. If you need ideas on how to use twitter to teach, check this post and share this guide on Twitter Lingo with your students.

Read Write and Think is another site where you can find several activities to teach creatively. Your students can use the Cube Creator while reading or writing biographies or stories. They can also create their own cube by filling in their own questions and responses to a topic. Read Write Think offers a Profile Publisher that your students can use like Fakebook. You can see an example on how to use it in this project that we gave to our students last year. In this project the students have been asked to prepare a book trailer instead of writing a book report. Book trailers are creative alternatives to traditional book reports.

Sharing the book trailers of your students with the school community is a great way to encourage reading as their friends’ recommendations excite the young readers much more than anybody else’s. You can also ask your students to prepare alternative book covers for the books they have read by designing creative artwork and a compelling blurb. A worksheet like this one may be helpful before you ask them to design their book covers. The students who want to make digital book covers can use the Book Cover Creator by Read Write Think. In this post, Catherine Reed, a creative teacher explains how she built excitement for reading in her class through the augmented reality book talk and the book blurbs her students have created.

This worksheet can be used to foster higher order thinking skills at the end of a novel project. You can also ask your students to rewrite the story they have read by adding themselves as another character or write an alternative ending for it. They can prepare a flyer to describe the setting of the novel they are reading by using Canva, Smore, Tackk, or Lucidpress. Here you can find a series of creative tasks for novel projects prepared by a creative teacher, Caiti Joly. Here is another great post on book talks and literature circles.

If you are teaching letter writing, Read Write Think has a Letter Generator that your students can use. You can ask them to write a letter to one of the characters or to the author of the book they are reading. They can also write a letter as the novel protagonist to an Agony Aunt Column presenting the character’s problems. Students can then swap the letters and write a well-written response as the Agony Aunt.

Talking avatars are great tools for language classes. Visit Web Tools for Kids for different types of avatars, talking pets, postcards, robots. Ask them to choose one of the Talking Avatars from the website and create an Avatar for their blog about the internet safety rules they have learned. They can also create avatars to send New Year messages, postcards to their friends or on other different occasions throughout the year. Introducing yourself to your students and the parents using Voki on your blog or class website may be a nice beginning for the year.

If you are using a textbook, you can ask your students to add several pages to the unit they are studying to make it more student-friendly. If you are studying a topic or a global issue, you and your students can save articles, photos, and videos about it onto Flipboard to create a digital magazine. You can ask your students to work in pairs and prepare questions about the articles in Flipboard. Groups then can swap the questions and answer them. Here is a video on how to use Flipboard in education:

When you are giving these projects make sure to give options to your students to choose. Never assign only one project for one task. Keep some of the projects your students have submitted and share them with your students the following year when you are assigning a similar project so that they have a better picture of your expectations.

For more ideas you can check this post by Matt Miller and this booklet published by the British Council. You can find Nik Peachey’s presentation based on the ideas in this book here:

All these creation-based tasks promote higher order thinking skills, enable students to make connections with their own lives, to construct meaning and to make sense of the world around them. Many of these tasks also encourage collaboration, which is another important skill in the century that we live. While the students are expressing themselves creatively in the language they are learning, they improve their language skills naturally and become more competent users of that language.

What kind of activities do you do in your classes to enable your learners to think about and use the language creatively?

 

2 thoughts on “FOR TEACHERS WHO DON’T WANT TO BE “DRILL AND KILL” EXPERTS: PART I- CREATIVITY IN THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM

  1. Thanks for another great post, Ayşin. It’s nice to see some great new links as well as be reminded to the ones we know.
    These days our students are reading a novel with a partner class in the USA. They are working indepentantly from their teachers on creating a presentation (google slides and other options) related to themes of the novel. They have discussed their ideas together on skype and facetime. Aside from that, they have already written a script and role played scenes from the story by paraphrasing, and making their own additions.

    • Thank you for your comment, dear Aisha. Would you like to write a post on the Global Read Aloud as a guest blogger?

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