Later on this month I will be giving a webinar for the British Council Teaching English website. I’m lucky enough to be talking about one of my favourite teaching topics, encouraging creative thought among learners. This webinar will firstly look at the barriers to creativity, then how might overcome such hindrances. The session will round off with a number of easily adaptable activities which facilitate creative thinking.
As a taster of what’s to come, here’s a great activity that you can use with any level of language learner and to reinforce / and put to practical use any language point you happen to have been teaching. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to set up and requires very little preparation.
Are you ready? Let’s do it…
What you need
Scan through all those old teacher’s books you have kicking around your place of work. Find one of those activities where there are a load of pictures. I’ve made low-resolution scans of a couple to show you the kind of thing I mean:
OK, I think you have the basic idea. Such activities will come with some kind of instructions, usually along the lines of ‘put these pictures in order.
Our only real requirement for making this a more creative task is to completely ignore any such instruction. You don’t believe me, do you? Well…
- Teach some grammar or vocabulary; whatever the coursebook suggests is appropriate for the particular class.
- Prepare a set of pictures, one for each group of three or four learners (I usually find this activity works best with that number in a group, although you should feel free to be a bit more flexible). If you can get your hands on enough pairs of scissors for one per group, let the groups cut out the pictures themselves.
- Explain that each group is going to prepare a story. The images on each of the pictures tell the story; each group has the freedom to decide on the sequence of events according to whatever makes sense to them.
- Stipulate that the story must be told using whatever input language has been taught before this. For example, you may require that every picture be accompanied by a sentence written in the simple past tense.
- Alternatively, you might make it a ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative, written using the present continuous for each image.
- If you’re wishing to focus on a lesser used tense, you could require that only one or two images be accompanied by the requisite verb tense, i.e. at one point in the story one of the pictures must have the explaining sentence ‘by the time ‘X’ arrived, ‘Y’ had already left.’
- If vocabulary has been your classroom focus, why not state that each picture must be explained using one of the words you’d studied earlier.
- You can make this a lovely writing activity, getting the learners to paste the pictures in their chosen order and write their narrative underneath.
- Alternatively, each group can give an oral presentation of their story.
That’s it. This is a really simple and yet incredibly motivating task that gets the creative juices flowing. It requires very little preparation and puts the emphasis on the learners to explore the language in a truly creative way.
If you like this and use it, please let me know how it goes. If you can think of any alternative techniques, please let me know, too!