Alan Maley suggests some excellent ideas for how to set up the conditions in the classroom in order to enhance creativity.

Alan Maley suggests some excellent ideas for how to set up the conditions in the classroom in order to enhance creativity in this extract from the British Council publication 'Creativity in the English Language classroom'.

"I will first of all suggest some ways we can lay the foundations for a more creative climate. These are important because creativity in teaching does not simply happen in a vacuum. We need to create favourable conditions for it.

  • Establish a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere, where students feel confident enough to let go and not to worry that their every move is being scrutinised for errors. This means attending to what they are trying to express rather than concentrating on the imperfect way they may express it.
  • Frame activities by creating constraints. Paradoxically, the constraints also act as supportive scaffolding for students. In this way both the scope of the content and the language required are both restricted. By limiting what they are asked to write, for example, students are relieved of the pressure to write about everything.
  • Ensure that the students’ work is ‘published’ in some way. This could be by simply keeping a large notice-board for displaying students’ work. Other ways would include giving students a project for publishing work in a simple ring binder, or as part of a class magazine. Almost certainly, there will be students able and willing to set up a class website where work can be published. Performances, where students read or perform their work for other classes or even the whole school, are another way of making public what they have done. The effects on students’ confidence of making public what they have written is of inestimable value.
  • Encourage students to discuss their work together in a frank but friendly manner. We get good ideas by bouncing them off other people (Johnson, 2010). Help them establish an atmosphere where criticism is possible without causing offence. This implies creating a ‘storied class’ (Wajnryb, 2003) – a co-operative learning community.
  • Explain regularly how important accurate observation is, and encourage ‘noticing’ things. Encourage them to collect data which may be used later: pictures, games, DVDs, videos, websites, books and magazines…. Students also need to be encouraged to be curious and to follow up with ‘research’ – looking for more information, whether in books, on the Internet or by asking other people.
  • Do not try to do too much. Take it easy. And be kind to yourself (Casenave and Sosa, 2007). Try introducing small changes over a period of time. And allow time for activities and for talking about them. Johnson (2010) among many others talks about the need for the slow burn of hunches and ideas.
  • Make it clear that what they do in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg. To get real benefit from these activities, they need to do a lot of work outside class hours. Most of what we learn, we do not learn in class.
  • Do the activities regularly in order to get the best effects. Maybe once a week is a sensible frequency. If you leave too long between sessions, you have to keep going back to square one. That is a waste of time and energy.
  • Be a role model. This means working with the students, not simply telling them to do things. This is especially true for reading and writing activities. If they see you are reading, or writing, they will be more likely to engage in these activities themselves.
  • Never underestimate your students. Their capacity for creativity will astound you, if you can help them unlock it.
  • Make sure you offer a varied diet – of inputs, of processes and of products (Maley, 1999). This diversity helps to promote an atmosphere of ‘expectancy’ (I wonder what will happen today?), rather than the feeling of ‘expectation’ (Here we go again. Unit 4 …).
  • As a teacher, apply the four golden principles: Acknowledge, Listen, Challenge, Support. Acknowledge the individuality of students who make up the class group by showing that you value what they bring to the group. Learn to listen carefully and without pre-judgements to what they say or try to say. Make sure that you provide the right level of challenge in what you ask them to do. And offer support to them while they struggle to meet that challenge. It sounds easy but of course, it is not."

Extract from the overview to 'Creativity in the English language classroom'. The overview to the book is written by Alan Maley.

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