How Creative are Your Classes?
Victoria Șerban is a teacher of English at ”Colegiul Național Gheorghe Lazăr”, Sibiu, Romania. She is a founding member of EDAR (Educational Drama Association in Romania) and also a member of the C-Group. She has written several articles on creativity and has contributed a chapter on drama and creative writing to the British Council publication Creativity in the English language classroom. Current professional interests include the creative use of new technologies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Creativity – a key to success in the 21st century
“Do you consider yourself a creative person?” That is the question I have encountered several times in the coursebooks I use in my classes. Surprisingly (or not) a lot of my students, especially older ones (15-19 years old) usually answer negatively. Sir Ken Robinson would have a very reasonable explanation for this: “Schools kill creativity.” So, I guess, the question these coursebooks should ask is “are we trying to develop students’ creativity?” To be completely honest, some of them, especially in later years, do that, or at least they try. The rest depends on us, the teachers. I would say that a lot of it depends on us, the teachers.
If I had been asked the same question years ago when I was still a student, I would have probably answered ‘no’ myself. Although I do consider myself (now, years later) a fairly creative person, back then school did not do much to help me discover and foster my creative streak. Did I feel I was bereft of something? Not really. But then again, I went to school in the 20th century when you expected or were expected to do the same jobs as your parents, and changes had not yet begun to skyrocket.
Nowadays, we are trying to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist and for tasks that we cannot possibly imagine. New things and ideas appear every day and we, as teachers, need to make the most of the situation and educate students for the unpredictable future. ‘21st century skills’ is a concept we have begun to focus on more and more. We recognize that skills like creativity, creative thinking, collaboration and communication are essential to develop in our classes. We attend seminars and conferences on this topical issue, we nod sagely, and we promise ourselves to do better in our classes.
However, one problem we come up against when we are in class is exams; maybe schools in themselves do not kill creativity, but exams definitely do. When students are preparing for exams, they are preparing for cheating, to a certain degree. They no longer read a text or listen to a conversation for its meaning but for the right answer; they no longer engage in real, meaningful communication but rather deliver speeches on different topics. Exams are something students, parents and school administration expect us to prepare students for. So what I do is try and adapt course material in order to meet both their expectations and those of our century.
Personalizing the content in order to make it memorable but also authentic and meaningful for the students is no easy task especially if the syllabus and the coursebook are exam-driven. Time constraints are also an issue, as well as large classes. However, whenever I can, I try to incorporate in my classes games and drama activities combined with storytelling and creative writing. Dry grammar problems can be brought to life using dramatization while serious issues (like poverty or bullying) can be discussed using fun and engaging digital resources that students like so much. Smore, Storyboardthat or Prezi are just a few that my students prefer, as can be seen in their work posted on this Padlet:
Exams are important, but they do not prepare students for life or give them the necessary skills for success in the future. On the other hand, with or without the use of technology, creative methods in school help spark students’ imagination and, used consistently, bring great results and make happy students and teachers.
4 O’CLOCK FRIDAY (Poem on bullying)
To raise awareness of the effects of bullying in school on an individual’s happiness and self-esteem and to arrive at possible strategies for dealing with incidents of bullying.
Drama and creative writing skills
- Adopting, sustaining and developing contrasting roles
- Experimenting with a number of drama conventions
- In-role creative writing
- Respect for other views
- Collaborative learning – negotiation
- Articulating a personal point of view
- Thematic vocabulary
- Everyday situations
Possible learning areas:
- Peer group pressure
- Teenage culture
Warm-up activity (5 min.)
Introduction – names and compliments – Students move freely around the room and stop when they hear a clap of hands. They face the person(s) next to them, then introduce themselves and compliment one another. This is repeated several times.
Linking activity (5 min.)
I am the same as you but different – students sit in a circle and try to find similarities with and differences from the person next to them.
e.g. I’m the same as you because we both wear glasses but different because you have green eyes and I have brown eyes.
Stage 1 – Introduction (5 min.)
The teacher reads the title of the poem to the class and ask for suggestions about what it might be about.
The teacher reads the whole poem. What are their reactions? Are any of the incidents familiar? Have they experienced or witnessed such events?
Stage 2 – Drama (15 min.)
The teacher divides students in 7 groups and assigns each group a verse. Groups expand on the incident via role play and begin and end with a freeze frame.
Groups are positioned round the room ready to enact their scene. The teacher reads a verse and the corresponding group carries out the role play. The poem is, in effect, performed.
Stage 3 – Creative writing (25 min.)
Writing-in-role – students imagine being bullied in different ways (including cyberbully) and write a short diary entry beginning with the words: I don’t know what to do…
In pair students exchange their diary entries and write an answer, trying to give solutions to the bullying problems. Their work can be posted on the class blog or a Padlet as an advice (agony aunt) column.
Reflection (5 min.)
Would your solution(s) work in real life? If not, why not? What have you learnt in this lesson? What can each of us do so as to prevent this from happening?
FOUR O’CLOCK FRIDAY
By John Foster
Four o’clock Friday, I’m home at last,
Time to forget the week that’s passed
On Monday break they stole my ball
And threw it over the garden wall
On Tuesday morning, I came in late,
But they were waiting behind the gate.
On Wednesday afternoon, in games,
They threw mud and called me names.
Yesterday, they laughed after the test,
‘cos my marks were lower than the rest.
Today, they trampled my books on the floor
And I was kept in because I swore.
Four o’clock, Friday, at last I’m free;
For two whole days they can’t get me.
Foster, J, (2007) The Poetry Chest, Oxford University Press. Available online at http://www.newbawnns.info/PositiveBehaviour/PDFs/Four%20o%27clock%20Friday%20Poem.pdf
Keitson, N, Spiby, Ian, (2002) Drama 7-11:Developing Primary Teaching Skills, Routledge
Please check the Methodology and Language for Primary course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Literature to Expand Possibilities of Developing Abstraction
Eugenia Carrión Cantón, Argentina
Working Together on a Project
Paola Diotallevi, Italy
Creativity as the Key to Linguistic Competence and Life Skills
Marlene Rebecca Gumhold, Austria
How Creative are Your Classes?
Victoria ?erban, Romania