Languages are as alive as the people who speak them. They live, breathe, evolve and are influenced by their social and historical context. Therefore, a rigid non-flexible approach is ineffective in teaching as in order to own a language our students need to live it. We, as teachers, need to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to get our students to engage with their lessons and to do this we need to make sure we are creating a creative classroom.
Some areas to consider when lesson planning
How am I going to use my teaching space?
As a teacher, in most contexts, you have some level of control over how you want your students to be sat. And I don’t just mean whether you choose the horseshoe desk formation or arrange your students in lines. Can we take it one step further? Do you even want your students sat at desks? Do you want to transform your teaching space into a cafè, aeroplane, safari truck? Do you want your students sat on the floor or are you going to abandon tables and chairs completely and have a gallery style lesson? The key to creating a creative classroom is in how we look at our teaching space.
The classroom is a blank canvas and we as teachers can paint the pictures to set the scenes. Even with permanent, immovable desks, sprinkle a little imagination and our classrooms can become literally anything we want them to be. It’s amazing how much roleplay and imagination can stimulate learners’ production skills.
What is the focal point of my class?
Are you presenting using the board? a powerpoint presentation? some images displayed on the walls of your class? Or are your students going to become the narrators of whichever language point you want to focus on?
What variety of activities am I going to use?
It goes without saying that to keep pace and interest levels high it is important to use a variety of activities, ideally which utilise different mediums. When I first started teaching I would spend hours making various materials in order to provide a series of different activities. But that isn’t important, there are a multitude of ways to exploit one material to provide numerous different activities. Short, engaging activities give your students plenty of opportunities to practice the target language and allows them to tap into their own imaginations and create a creative classroom.
How am I giving my students the opportunity to escape?
I don’t mean from the lesson, I mean from their everyday lives. Whether you are a high flying businessman or an apathetic teenager, you are likely to experience some sort of monotony which will stem your language. By allowing our students to change character through role plays, storytelling or writing activities we are allowing them to enter a whole new world where they can lose their inhibitions and really feel free to expand linguistically. It’s amazing how donning a mask, in the form of a ‘character’ can encourage even the most self-conscious of learners to let themselves be free, and therefore let themselves experiment with language and be free to make mistakes because this is where real learning happens.
How am I going to play with the senses?
An experience that causes an individual to have an emotional response is more likely to be remembered than one that doesn’t (Willis, 2006). Everyone remembers their first day of school, what they were wearing, how they felt and even some minor insignificant details. It’s because we are emotionally invested and if we can get our students to connect with our lessons on an emotional level, they are far more likely to remember them. So how can we exploit this in our lessons? Are you going to use music or sound effects to make an activity more emotive? Is there a poignant or shocking image that you want to use to trigger a debate? How can you inject humour and laughter into your activities?
How are you creating a creative classroom? Let me know how you encourage creativity with your learners in the comments below.