The ABC of ELT

#ELTchat summary: How important is creativity in the classroom?

First of all I’d like to thank everyone who chose this topic…my topic ūüôā I have regularly suggested topic over the last year or so but this was the first one that people actually selected (and as the first choice) so thank you very much. Right on with the summary.

This choice was inspired by two articles One by Hugh Dellar (warning it is long!) warning about “creativity” in the classroom “the curse of creativity”. The other was from the Guardian teachers Website called “let creativity into the language classroom.” From the title you’d probably guess that these articles are very different but were there any similarities and what would the ELTchatters make of all this?

I’ve chosen to exercise my creativity and so present the summary in two formats. One is long form and similar to what I have done in past summaries using direct quotes and referencing the individuals involved (under certain categories) this can be found at the bottom. The other is a screencast presentation with some key quotes and thoughts. The video is¬†relatively¬†short at only 7 minutes long.

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First there was some general checking if people had read either or both of the articles. This wasn’t helped by some of the confusion over the links in the poll and the length of Hugh’s article (guess it just goes to show there is a reason all those “blog experts encourage people to keep their blog posts short”)

After which we had people asking to make a snap decision.

Creativity or not!

  • @Shaunwilden I’m somewhere in the middle on this topic. Depends on your Ss age/ needs / purpose for learning English.¬† #ELTchat (@elawassell)
  • #eltchat For me I guess it’s about principled creativity (bit like principled eclecticism)! (@teflerinha)
  • T creativity and S creativity both key elements in the classroom methinks #eltchat (@antoniaclare)

This seamed to be the main vibe that seamed to emerge as we progressed but let’s return to that later.

We soon moved on to “What is creativity exactly”

  • What do we define as creativity here?¬† #ELTchat (@elawassell)
  • there’s a wonderful quote “good artist steal, great artist copy” language is like that a lot #eltchat (@MrChrisJWilson)
  • #eltchat I quite liked the point that creativity isn’t completely linked to originality [this was a point made in the article that when people talk about creativity it is about being original] (@MrChrisJWilson)
  • @elawassell¬†added to this saying “#ELTchat @MrChrisJWilson – @carolread made this point very clear in her talk about creativity @ IATEFL PL conf. That was eye opener for me.”
  • Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity (which) becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better #eltchat [this was a quote of John Updike] (@TheTeacherJames)
  • @MrChrisJWilson agree. IMO, creativity often hinges in finding interesting ways to present dry topics that need to be covered, etc #eltchat (@ESOLCourses)
  • @elawassell So creativity in this case is you choosing the right approach for the class #eltchat (@Shaunwilden)
  • I think Ts can be creative just by trying something new, doing things differently.¬† They don’t need to be ‘artistic’ #eltchat (@antoniaclare)
  • Need 2 remember that little ‘c’ creativity is the small things we do every day, how we approach a prob, arrange flowers, cook a meal#eltchat (@antoniaclare)
  • @antoniaclare¬† creativity can also be a way of thinking about things I think too (like using mind-maps and lateral thinking) #eltchat (@rliberni)
  • @theteacherjames @MarjorieRosenbe @Shaunwilden my idea of creativity is delivering lessons in ways that motivate & engage learners #eltchat (@esolcourses)
  • Is creativity just trying sth new and different? #eltchat (@MarjorieRosenbe)
After 26 minutes @teacherphili asked a round up question “Did we get a definition?¬† Making materials from scratch? Adapting CB matrl? Originality? A cluster of skills to fashion a product? #ELTchat”


How are teachers creative in class?

  • I find that ideas come to me while I am teaching and I try them out on the spot. If they ork I try to remember them for future. #eltchat (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • @MrChrisJWilson If it’s done well¬† creativity shouldn’t be a task in and of itself. It should come fairly naturally. #eltchat (@TheTeacherJames)
  • (@MarjorieRosenbe)¬†Shared a creative activity “Soap opera. Sts think of small problem they had, tell so who changes a detail, tells next sts etc till T stops it. #eltchat rest in next”
  • Reteaching is creative. If some learners dont get it the first time find new and different way to present material. #eltchat (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Why should we be creative?

My key quote “@theteacherjames¬† isn’t language a creative thing anyway? #eltchat” by @rliberni

  • #eltchat It’s important to be creative for both you and your students..but being effective and principled more important still. (@teflrinha)
  • #eltchat By principled I mean that T has reason for activity other than it’s creative or fun
  • Which lead @shaunwilden to lament “@teflerinha Arh that good phrase “I’m doing this cos it’s fun” #eltchat”
  • I personally think we need to build it into the course or programme as well as the day to day #eltchat (@rliberni)
  • @Shaunwilden @GemL1 Agree. Creativity can add to motivation. I have been doing workshops on engaging activities. Also creative. #eltchat (@MarjoriRosenbe)
  • Teaching in Saudi, I had to be ‘creative’ with CBs due to their very dry, ‘uncontroversial’ topics #ELTchat (@teacherphili)
  • @Julian_LEnfant think it’s sumtimes more important for Ts to try & b¬† creative if always use a CB to keep classes varied #eltchat (@GemL1)
  • @theteacherjames I would say that if we don’t tap into sts’ creativity, then real learning is unlikely to happen #eltchat (@Antoniaclare) [perhaps¬†eluding¬†to blooms taxonomy of learning]
  • @Shaunwilden¬† it is a current buzz word yes –¬† in all edu #eltchat (@rliberni) an interesting point as Sir Ken Robbinson, Seth Godin et al are certainly promoting teachers to be more creative and original. Which lead @CeciELT to ask “@MarjorieRosenbe @rliberni Is the buzz around teaching creatively or teaching our SS to be creative with the language? #eltchat” and that ”¬†Maybe it’s the buzz word because we’re trying to move away from trad teaching? #eltchat”
Perhaps @MarjorieRosenbe hit the nail on the head when she said “@theteacherjames Do we need to justify it? If something works for me I do it but it might not work for someone else. #eltchat”

Why shouldn’t teachers be creative in the classroom

  • @esolcourses @MrChrisJWilson #eltchat Yes, agree. Can be painful seeing T forcing stds to be creative (or trying anyway) (@teflrinha)
  • #eltchat What I got from @hughdellar blog was that being too open with tasks can lead to ss going blank- constraints can be helpful (@teflrinha)
  • Playing devil’s advocate, are ELT teachers over reliant on creativity & not focused enough on the (hard) work? #eltchat @MarjorieRosenbe (@TheTeacherJames)
  • @theteacherjames definitely think sometimes creativity can be seen as more important than a focus for the lesson #eltchat (@GemL1)
  • Does anyone else have a feeling many ppl relate being creative w/ “fireworks” and a show – when it is not necessarily that? #eltchat (@ceciELT)
  • @ceciELT asked if there was anything as being too Creative and @ShaunWilden replied that he thought there was, where everything gets too complicated.
Perhaps the best moment of the chat was a brief discussion and reminiscing about a sketch in which a couple who are EFL teachers are having breakfast cutting things up for a jigsaw activity. (thanks to @SophiaKhan4 and @teflrinha)
@antoniaclare and @ESOLcourse had a discussion about how some teachers might think that they aren’t creative (thinking artistic) but being creative isn’t¬†necessarily¬†linked with¬†artistic¬†and that this can lead to statements like “but¬†I’m¬†not creative, I can’t do that!”
@rliberni asked a brilliant question about how can a teacher being creative help students to be creative? Which unfortunately seemed to pass everyone by, perhaps you could add your thoughts bellow.

Is creativity the reason some teachers go into teacher English abroad?

Before getting on to the “shoulds and shouldn’t” of being creative @julian_LEnfant made the point that “#ELTchat Some teachers who follow CBs (100-120hr courses) feel their creativity is being suppressed, or they don’t have time to be creative.” (a point also made in the articles above that teachers are attracted to English by the¬†possibility¬†to be creative themselves.) but @teflrinha replied that time pressure and paperwork got in the way AND that she found coursebooks could be useful to bounce off and adapt, thus being creative. A point that @Shuanwilden agreed with.

@teacherphili went further though and said that “Creativity is something I guess most of us do or would like to do, but constraints (eg Ss must pass exam by ‘x’) get in the way #ELTchat”

What about “principled creativity” (trademark @teflrinha)

  • @teflerinha Can you give quick definition of principed? #eltchat (@MajorieRosenbe)
  • Hugh’s conclusion –¬† If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!¬† Think it was mostly referring to coursebooks and not changing for sake of it #ELTchat (@teacherphili)
  • #eltchat so if i’m right we all believe in changing activities/creating new ones but we need to have some reason behind our changes. right? (@MrChrisJWilson)
  • I also mentioned the difference between complete overhaul and¬†Incremental¬†improvements
  • @MrChrisJWilson #eltchat agree that creativity and pedagogy should not be in conflict; hence need to understand it. (@Marisa_C)
  • @MrChrisJWilson¬† yes, but fun or change of pace or relaxation could be valid reasons as well as pedagogical ones I think #eltchat (@rliberni)
  • #eltchat As well as principles, I think structure is important too. Constraints can spark creativity more than too much openness (@teflrinha)
  • everything in moderation¬† #eltchat (@GemL1)
  • To thine own self be true. Dont do sth because it seems creative but because it works at that time & place. #eltchat (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Final thoughts: Creativity is good, but too much is as bad as none. #eltchat (@theteacherjames)
Addressing @hughdellar’s blog post in particular @Marisa_C said that it takes an extreme view based on extreme circumstance. Some CELTA trainees getting things wrong doesn’t invalidate the whole idea in the same way that Trainees getting drilling wrong doesn’t invalidate it.

What about the students!

One of the notable features of the Chat was the focus on teachers being creative and not about students being creative (or “creative”). Perhaps this is the subject for another chat but there was some limited chat about students being creative.

  • @shuanwilden commented about students creativity “@rliberni To be honest I would rather the sts could use the language for themselves then be creative with it #eltchat” but added “@rliberni¬† though i would encourage creativity in the taking a risk and having a go sense #eltchat”
  • Sts get reward stickers from me when they find alternative answers to questions I set. Esp if I hadn’t thought of answer myself. #eltchat (@MarjoriRosenbe)

Finally some little quotes about creativity for you.

  • #eltchat If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Henry Ford (1863-1947)- trying new things gd.. (@teflrinha)
  • We shouldn’t forget that it takes a lot of hard work to be successfully creative. No art without graft. #ELTChat (@theteacherjames)
  • I do like that idea of creativity being the act of making sth complicated seem¬† simple.¬† Is that not what a good T should do? #ELTchat (@teacherphili)
  • a little creative quote “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.#eltchat (@MrChrisJWilson)

Some links

  • @antoniaclare’s on creativity¬†
  • @dbr_wn asked for feedback on his presentation at KOTESOL next weekend regarding his framework for creativity¬†
  • @Cybraryman plugged a link to his creativity page (in his only appearance in the chat)¬†
  • HughDellar’s follow up comments (who made no¬†appearance¬†in the chat but read the transcript)


About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

5 Replies

  1. Patrick Jackson

    Excellent summary, Chris. Liked the format very much indeed. Although I missed the chat (as usual) this was a nice way of feeling part of it. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Patrick, I’m glad you liked it. Hope to see you at one of the Chats sometime in the future.

  2. Ela Wassell @elawassell

    Fantastic work Chris! It was such a chaotic chat – your summary makes it much clearer.
    Thank you!

    I’d like to clarify one bit:
    >>>@elawassell added to this saying ‚Äú#ELTchat @MrChrisJWilson ‚Äď @carolread made this point very clear in her talk about creativity @ IATEFL PL conf. That was eye opener for me.‚ÄĚ

    It definitely wasn’t and argument why teachers shouldn’t be creative in the classroom.

    My tweet was a reply to yours:

    “I quite liked the point that creativity isn’t completely linked to originality”

    So that would be under the definition of creativity…

    Carol Read made a point that creativity always comes from something. “It doesn’t come from a thin air.”
    So being creative doesn’t mean that you have to create something new and original.

    Also, I love your creative twist! #ELTchat summary video! Brilliant!

    Ela Wassell

    1. Sorry Ela! It’s pretty hard to keep track (especially as the transcript seems to go alphabetically and by minuets so a post can be posted after one and yet appear before hand.

      Sorry once again I’ll try and find a nice way to update it.

      1. Ela

        Aww. No need to apologise! I know how hard it is to follow threads when writing the #ELTchat summary.
        Thanks for updating it!

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