Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Creative pedagogy, language learning and technology

This was the title of a recent Cambridge English Teacher webinar presented by Graham Stanley and what follows is a summary of what he had to say.

Creative pedagogy

The idea of creative pedagogy was introduced by Andrei Aleinikov in 1989.  He said:

'Creativity should be a central part of what you do with learners to motivate them and better promote lifelong learning.'

Creative pedagogy is:
  • Helping learners how to learn creatively.
  • Transforming the classroom into a creative and flexible learning environment.
  • Allowing learners to innovate, to create.
  • Taking risks and thinking imaginatively.
Role of the learner

Help learners to develop:
  • self-motivation
  • confidence
  • curiosity
  • flexibility
Components of creative pedagogy
  • FLUENCY - generating new ideas
  • FLEXIBILITY - shifting perspectives
  • ORIGINALITY - doing something new
  • ELABORATION - building on existing ideas
How do we link creative pedagogy with language learning?

Here are some ideas for activities:

1. Island project
  • Put students in small groups and get them to design an island, using the lexis of geographical features and places.
  • Put the islands together to form a group of islands where students can be creative.
  • The island in the middle can be an unknown island - the teacher's island for students to explore.
  • This activity can be combined with the coursebook, with the island in the centre being used as a kind of narrative to what is going on in the core text.
  • The islands can be revisited throughout the course and added to - places, currency, social issues, government, crime, etc.
2. Werewolf

This is a roleplay game based on 'Mafia'.  You can read the rules here.  The teacher acts as the narrator or storyteller.  The students are 'werewolves' who have to eat the villagers, or 'villagers' who have to eliminate the werewolves. Each night, one villager is devoured by the werewolves.  During the day, the werewolves try to hide their identities and the villagers try to discover who they are. 

The aim is to promote fluency and encourage the students to speak a lot.  It is an exciting game which really engages the students.  You could personalise it by getting students to write themselves a role - baker, teacher, etc. - so that they have more to talk about.

3. Creative writing prompts

Writing prompts can come from a variety of sources, but a favourite would be  Here, students have a set of dice with images on them and they have to make up a story from the images.


In his book on creative thinking techniques, 'Thinkertoys', Michael Michaelko came up with this acrostic:

Substitute it
Combine it
Adapt it
Modify/magnify it
Put it to some other use
Eliminate it
Reverse/rearrange it

In our teaching, we can use this to look at activities we've always used and change them in some way.


We can take some of the ideas embedded in games and adapt them for ELT.

Graham gave us the example of a questionnaire carried out at the beginning of a school year which showed that students felt that writing was boring and they didn't like it.  To overcome this, he gave writing an element of gamification by introducing speed writing.  Not only does this engage students, it also improves quantity and fluency.
  • Give students ten minutes in every class in which to write (it's a good idea to use a special notebook for this).
  • Set a timer.
  • Students have to write as much as possible on a given topic.
  • Students have a table in the back of their notebooks giving the date and the word count (you can also have a chart on the classroom wall giving the results for the whole class).
  • Students count the number of words they've written.
  • The teacher circles the errors.
  • The score is recorded as word count minus the mistakes.
  • Students self-correct afterwards and can ask the teacher questions if they don't know what the errors are.
  • This is a competitive activity, with students competing both against themselves (to do better than their previous score) and against each other.
  • Introduce different levels that students have to reach.
  • Give extra points for special achievements - most original writing, fewest mistakes, most creativity, best introduction, etc.
  • Display the leader board prominently and award small prizes - badges, stickers or 'class money', for example.
Promoting speaking with an online game

Using computer games can be very engaging for students, but we must keep in mind a clear language aim every time we do so.  Here is a good idea for an activity to promote speaking:
  • Use screenshots of images from a computer game.  Students will be immediately engaged by the content of the pictures.
  • Show them to the students and ask them to remember as much detail about them as possible.
  • In pairs, get students to describe what they saw, using full sentences.
  • Ask one pair to share their ideas with the group.
  • Ask the group to improve on what they have heard.  It's important to push the students to be the best they can be.
  • Get the students to look at the pictures again and describe them again. What can be added to the original descriptions?
  • These activities generate lots of vocabulary.
  • You can extend by showing follow-up pictures and ask students to describe what has happened, what has changed, thus forcing the use of present perfect.
  • As homework, you could get students to write about what happened in the game.
Examples of screenshots you could use:

These are from the computer game, 'Droppy'.

1 comment:

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