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English Language Teaching Global Blog


Creative Writing in the Language Classroom

Jane Spiro, author of Creative Poetry Writing (2004) Storybuilding (2007), looks at how, why, and with what effect we can include creative writing activities in the language classroom. Jane will be hosting a webinar entitled “Creative Writing in the Language Classroom” on 9th and 15th March. You can find more information and register to attend here.

Why introduce creative writing activities?  

Our use of the mother tongue is full of the same ‘creative’ strategies that poets use when they are shaping a poem. When we tell jokes we are often playing with puns and the shape and form of words: when we use idioms we are often invoking a metaphor or simile that has become part of the language. The names of products, or the nicknames we use for people we like and dislike often play with the sound of words – alliteration and internal rhymes, the connotation of words, or multiple meanings.  So one reason that creative activities in the language classroom are worthwhile, is because they mirror the strategies we use in our mother tongue.

Another, perhaps even more important reason, is that an effective creative writing strategy brings the whole learner into the classroom: experiences, feelings, memories, beliefs. Of course other activities can do this too – but the creative writing activity can lead to an outcome which is memorable, which the learner may want to keep, or even ‘publish’ to others: a Valentine poem, a poem of thanks to a parent, a birthday poem for a sibling or friend.

How do creative writing activities fit with language learning?

Many teachers say there is no time for poetry activities, or creative activities, alongside all the language goals of the classroom. Another objection, is that the language of poems and stories is quite different from the everyday language students really need.

This webinar will answer these two concerns.  We will explore the ways in which creative writing activities can be developed as part of the language syllabus, helping to make vocabulary, structures and patterns memorable and engaging.  We will also consider how creative writing activities allow opportunities for connecting language skills so that writing leads to informed reading, and vice versa. Our discussions and activities will also prove that these strategies are within the capacity of all learners (and teachers too!) and do not require special ‘genius’ or talent to be achievable.

Don’t forget to find out more information and register for Jane’s upcoming webinar.

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Towards incorporating learner autonomy in language classes for children

Annamaria Pinter is Associate Professor of ELT/ Applied Linguistics at the Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, UK. Annamaria will be hosting a Global Webinar entitled ‘Towards incorporating learner autonomy in language classes for children’ on February 22nd and 24th. You can more information and register to attend here.

Autonomy is an undisputed educational goal for all. But does this apply to children as well? How can it be applied in language classrooms across different age groups? What can teachers do to help children become more autonomous learners? How does the teacher’s role change?

Why we can’t avoid autonomy:

Each year ever greater numbers of young children in various parts of the world start learning English, and by the time they become teenagers and/ or adults, the world around them will change beyond recognition, and they will need to adjust to new ways of learning. Training them to think for themselves is therefore an essential skill to teach today.

What benefits will this training come with?     

Autonomy goes hand in hand with motivation. If your learners are highly motivated, they will be learning English enthusiastically. Autonomy is also linked to making choices. When children make choices, they will invest more responsibility and effort into whatever they do.

This webinar will be devoted to ideas/ techniques and activities that can be adapted for any classroom. Teachers can incorporate as much or as little as they see appropriate into their practice, and these ideas will work in any classroom because there is also a strong link between developing learner autonomy and attention to individual needs and differences in different contexts.

Here is one idea:

  • Get the children to work in groups and take some photos ( for postcards)
  • Get each child to choose their favourite picture to write about (with a purpose, e.g. my favourite place to show a friend )
  • Get the children to compare their picture stories/cards within the group. Having seen/ read other cards, ask the children to add at least one more idea/ sentence/ to their original writing and/ or improve the writing in any other way.

Autonomous learners  – autonomous teachers?

If we expect children to become more autonomous, should we expect the same of ourselves?    What about ‘Teachers as learners’ and ‘teachers as role models’?              

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