In association with Pilgrims Limited
*  Would you like to receive publication updates from HLT? Join our free mailing list
Pilgrims 2005 Teacher Training Courses - Read More
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

Six Creativity Activities

Secondary adult
by Hall Houston,National Dong Hua University, Hualien, Taiwan
from a forthcoming book)

1 - Ranking

Materials: Blackboard, chalk
Time: 30-45 minutes

1. Put the following list on the board (or make your own list): composing an opera, eating dinner, making a sculpture, brushing your teeth, staring out the window, building a house, directing a movie, running upstairs, painting the ceiling, standing up.

2. Tell the class you want them to write the activities down in order from the least creative to the most creative. Give them 10 minutes to do this.

3. Call on a few students to tell you which activities they found the most creative and why.

4. Then, ask a few students to tell you which activities they found the most uncreative and why.

5. Now have everyone look at their lists again. Get them to focus on the activity they found the least creative. Challenge them to think of a way to do this rather mundane activity more creatively.

6. After a few minutes, ask students to share their ideas with the rest of the class.


2 - Clustering

Materials: Blackboard, chalk, index cards, pens
Time: 1 hour

1. Write a problem statement on the board in huge letters, but with the main words missing. For example, you might write: HOW CAN WE IMPROVE __________? or HOW CAN WE DO AWAY WITH _________?

2. Ask students to think of what could go in the blanks. Encourage them to shout out their answers. Write these on the board under the problem statement.

3. Take a quick vote to settle on one problem statement.

4. Give each student 6 index cards to write ideas on.

5. After 10 minutes, collect up all the cards and shuffle them. Give each student 3 cards, but tell them to let you know if they receive any cards they wrote. Make sure everyone has 3 cards written by other students.

6. While they read over their cards, you spread out the other cards on a table.

7. Students can now stand up and look over the other cards. You give them the option to exchange any of their cards with the cards on the table.

8. Next tell them to wander around and mingle with the other students. They need to exchange at least 1 of their cards with another student.

9. After 10 or 15 minutes, ask students sit in groups of four or five. Each group has 10 minutes to decide on its 3 best ideas.

10. Tell them they have 20 minutes to prepare a short presentation of the best 3 ideas to the class.

11. When time is up, ask each group to come to the front of the classroom and do their presentation.


3 - Conversation Brainstorm

Materials: Paper, pens, envelopes, adhesive tape
Time: 30 minutes

1. Before class, think of 4 brainstorming topics and write each one at the top of a sheet of paper. These should be related to the subject of conversation. (A few suggestions: 20 ways to start a conversation, 20 ways to keep a conversation going, 20 ways to make a new friend, 20 interesting conversation topics, 20 ways to change the subject) Put these in 4 separate envelopes, and hide them in clever places in your classroom.

2. When class starts, put your students into 4 groups. Tell them they need to look for an envelope with a brainstorming task in it. Once they find it, they must complete the task and tape it to the board.

3. When each group is finished, invite everyone to read over the papers.

Variation: You can make this more exciting by making it competitive and awarding a prize to the winning group.

Note: If a group is having a hard time finding an envelope, you can give them some clues.


4 - What If Questions

Materials: Blackboard, chalk, index cards, pens
Time: 2 class periods (1st class: 15 minutes , 2nd class: 1 hour)

1. Before the end of class, write a few "what if" questions up on the board. You might try some of the following:
What if people were born with the body of a 100-year old and gradually got younger not older?

What if someone invented a car that could fly?

What if it were illegal to sneeze?

(Feel free to use your own questions.)

Give students a few minutes to think, then ask them to tell you their answers.

2. Give each students 2 index cards. For homework, they write their own "what if "question on the first card, and get someone outside the class to create a "what if" question for the second card. They shouldn't write their names on the cards.

3. At the beginning of the next class period, take up all the cards and put them in a bag.

4. Have each student draw a card. Tell them to let you know if they drew their own card, so you can give them another one.

5. Tell them in a minute you want them to stand up and mingle. They should ask the question on their card, then answer the other students question. Then, they swap cards and go ask another student the new question.

6. Circulate and encourage everyone to talk to people they don't usually talk to.

7. After 15-20 minutes, students sit down. Ask for students to repeat some of the more interesting questions and answers.

Variation: You can use the sentence pattern:

If _____________________, what would you do?


If ___________________, what would happen?

Acknowledgement: This mingle activity is based on an activity in Natalie Hess's excellent book Creative Questions.


5 - Morphological Synthesis

Materials: Blackboard, chalk
Time: 45 minutes

1. After several weeks of lessons, ask students to recall some activities you've done in class (dictations, drills, freewriting, etc.).

2. Get students to call out the activities. You write 9 of them on the left side of the board, vertically.

3. Now draw a 9 X 9 grid next to the nine ideas.

4. Now ask students to tell you some things they would like to do in class. Write 9 of these at the top of the board, horizontally.

5. Have your students look over the chart and create new combinations of activities made by choosing 1 item on each column.

6. Ask them to think about which combinations seem the most appealing, and which combinations seem most unappealing.

7. Students go to the board and draw circles in the box for any combination they like and draw Xs for any combination they don't like.

8. After they are all sitting down, ask them to point out which combinations seemed the most popular.

Note: This is a good way of getting feedback on your classes.


6 - Switching Gender

Materials: None
Time: 45 minutes

1. Tell your students to stand up. Divide them into two groups, male students and female students.

2. Read out the following: "Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you had turned into the opposite sex. What would be the advantages and disadvantages?"

3. Give each group about 10 minutes to discuss, and circulate to make sure they are working.

4. Now ask each group tell the class their ideas.

5. Student return to their seats. Ask them to think of a problem they've been thinking about recently.

6. Ask them how they might approach this problem differently if they were a member of the opposite sex. They take notes for 10-15 minutes.

7. Go around the class and invite students to read their notes.

Note: Obviously, this works better when you have a roughly even number of male students and female students.


Hall Houston has been teaching ESL for over a decade. He has an M.A. in Foreign Language Education from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently a full-time English instructor at National Dong Hua University in Hualien, Taiwan. His articles have appeared in The Internet TESL Journal,, and It's For Teachers magazine. He is also the webmaster for the EFL in Asia website (

Please check the Creative Methodology Course at Pilgrims website.

Back Back to the top

    © HLT Magazine and Pilgrims