Friday 20 March 2015

Craft and creativity

Below you will find the Slideshare of the presentation "Be a crafty Languages teacher" that I gave at #ililc5 on February 28th and at Language World on 20th March.

I thought a lot about the meaning of the word creativity while researching and writing this presentation.  The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there is no one simple definition.  I believe that there are four types of creativity at play in the Languages classroom.

1.  Creativity in the curriculum:  Creativity in education, generally speaking, is about letting children be inventive and be discoverers.  It’s about imaginative thinking and behaving which is purposeful and directed towards achieving an objective.  When children are creative in this sense, they question and challenge, they explore ideas, they make connections and they reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes.  This kind of creativity can improve children’s self-esteem, motivation and achievement while developing the talent of the individual and developing skills for their adult lives.  This kind of creativity is perhaps not always possible in the primary languages classroom because of time constraints and the necessary amount of teacher input. 

Creative teaching methods:  There is no one-size-fits-all method for language teaching.  We often adapt our methodology to the children that we have in front of us, to their likes, dislikes and interests, incorporating things that they like to engage and motivate them, to make the learning more relevant.  We often devise creative and imaginative ways of presenting the language, and new contexts in which to put it.   These more imaginative approaches are a way of reaching out to the very diverse cognitive and emotional needs of the children in the room.  These creative teaching methods probably make language learning a very different experience to the one you yourself had at school.

Creative use of language: Creative use of language relates to using pre-learned vocabulary and structures, and adapting them to create something new and original, and often personal. Language use is a creative act.  We transform our thoughts into language that can be heard or seen.  Indeed the new Programme of Study for Key Stage 2 requires children to “write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences”.  The word “create” suggests something new and original, but it is also a recreation and redefinition.  It is this stage that we strive for our learners to reach.  We want them to use what they know, and adapt it to say what they want to say.  In the early stages of language learning, in KS2, language use is often reproduction and practice.  Language is governed by rules but there is still great scope for creativity and originality.
“Creativity lies in the ability to construct meaningful language from the building blocks available and to express ideas using the resources available”  Margaret Anne Clarke,
University of Portsmouth

Craft and creativity: There is certainly a place for artistic creativity in the languages classroom.  Designing and making things motivates children and often, if we choose the activity carefully, gives them a window onto the culture of the country or countries whose language they are learning.  It has to be said that many see this kind of creativity as the “bells and whistles” approach, as time-wasting activities which take up time that could be better spent on listening and reading, for example.  We need to strike the right balance of activities.  Craft activities cater for different learning styles in the classroom.
Of course in the primary context, creativity of this kind is an ideal opportunity for cross-curricular work.  The new Programme of Study for KS2 Art and Design says “A high-quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge pupils, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to experiment, invent and create their own works of art, craft and design."  No part of the Programme of Study says that this creative work has to be produced in a dedicated art and design lesson, or that it can’t incorporate aspects of other subjects.
The craft shouldn’t be the end of the learning cycle in the languages lesson – they should ideally be able to use the product in a meaningful way.
Artistic creativity will motivate children and will inspire linguistic creativity. Artistic and “crafty” creativity like this breeds linguistic creativity, and motivates children to be more creative all round.  Artistic creativity also allows an audience for the work.  It can be shared with the wider school community and it also makes for great displays!

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