An unreflecting mind is a poor roof.
– The Dhammapada
Experience, Experiment and Interaction for Creativity in ELT
Creativity in ELT is an elusive concept with multiple interpretations. It has been one of the most verbalized and sought for but least realized and materialized concepts in the ELT context like ours. The reasons can be many. Some are i) the fallacy that creative writers are born not made ii) the practice of imitation and repetition deeply rooted in our mainstream education iii) the unreflective culture i.e. do and forget” iv) the culture that unduly gives priority to security in the examination achievement, which obviously discourages the experiment in teaching and learning, and v) the education culture that feeds itself into borrowed metropolitan experiences devaluing our own context-generated experiences.
English language teaching can never be appropriate, context-responsive and context-sensitive unless we integrate elements of creativity and ‘criticality’ into our teaching learning practice in all dimensions. Creativity needs not only insights but also experiences. Experiences need to be experimented in different forms which call for interaction amongst ELT practitioners. Interaction needs space. The conventional space for creation and interaction that we have been relying on is the print media. The conventional space available in the print media is both limited and limiting. An alternative as well as a complement to the conventional space can be cyberspace, the focal point of this issue.
Creativity calls for action and critical reflection. Most importantly, components of creativity and criticality should be valued from the lower level itself. Creativity is not something that erupts out of blue once our students reach a certain level. By nature children are creative and critical as De Bono (1972) remarks “a child enjoys thinking. He enjoys the use of his mind just as he enjoys the use of this body as he slides down a helter-skelter or bounces on a trampoline”. De Bono further notes that “children solve problems effortlessly. Their ideas may often be impractical, but they produce them with fluency, a zest and irrepressible imagination”. Let us capitalize on their flight of imagination, agility, insights to usher their everyday learning of English in the productive land of creativity.
Creativity should be incorporated in major pedagogical dimensions: i) English language teacher education; creativity in the English classroom begins from teachers themselves, ii) Resources; teaching-learning resources should give ample space for learners’ critical perspectives and creative expression, iii) Assessment; assessment of learners’ achievement should be creativity-driven, not fear-driven.
I quoted from the Dhammapada, “the unreflective mind is a poor roof”. Critical and creative teachers not only act but also reflect on their actions. At the same time, they encourage their students to do the same. The teachers who do not reflect on what they did, why they did, what they did, how it went, and what its impact was on their students’ learning, are like a poor roof. Such teachers cannot collect insights and knowledge from their experiences, no matter how many years they teach. In this regard, Jeevan Karki, an English teacher from GEMS, takes us to the self-initiated experiment in his English classroom. He reflects on how he acted relentlessly to explore creative treasure deep buried in the young minds and to unleash it. Since the human mind is ruthlessly pragmatic, i.e. purpose-driven, the students should be made clear why they are writing and with whom they are communicating their ideas. For this the writer offers an option of publishing their works in the class magazine, school magazine, local and national dailies, and the best alternative to all the print media that he offers is a webzine. Most of us dream of novelty in our teaching and of creativity in our students’ performance. But we often work individually. Prerequisite conditions for the materialization of these individual dreams are collaboration and communication, self-motivation for bringing about a change, passion for professional change, and compassion for our students. Advocating for and experimenting with the inductive approach to creative writing, Jeevan’s approach is exploratory, interactive and authentic.
Sagun Shrestha, a budding creative writer both in Nepali and English, shows how we can exploit cyberspace to help our “students learn more, create more and communicate more effectively” (Richardson, 2009). It’s important that we teachers understand why creativity is so important for our students. The takeaway from Sagun’s writing is that creativity is an action verb not an abstract noun. First those who preach it should engage themselves in the action. The teachers should be able to tap into the Internet for “creating relevant, interactive learning experiences in the classroom” (ibid.).
Kamlesh, a young teacher from the Terai belt, reflects on how he learned two different tongues in his school and how his mother tongue Bajjika served as the zone of contact with the both. He raises a crucial issue to be taken on board by teachers of young learners in the multilingual classroom. The issue is the strategic choice of a language other than English. The judicious use of mother tongue is permissible is what was accepted by Richards and Rodgers. However, when the teacher uses a particular language other than English in the multilingual classroom, the question is– Whose mother tongue is he using? His or his Students’? I often had the similar experience while teaching in one of the schools in Kathmandu where the majority of the students spoke Newari as their first language, not Nepali. Whenever I had to explain something difficult in ‘the mother tongue’, or translate into, obviously I would go for Nepali, my mother tongue, not the tongue of the majority of the classroom.
Khem Raj Joshi, a teacher educator from the Central Department of English Education, deals with one of the modes of interaction between teacher and students in the form of feedback. It has an appeal to those who are nurturing young minds. Dealt mostly from the theoretical vantage, the teachers of young learners have to be very careful, especially while providing them with negative evidence. However, his use of ‘deviant forms’, native-speaker versus non-native speakers’ needs further critical observation.
The last entry for November issue is a resourceful link, which is very useful for teachers of young learners. It offers free downloadable and printable resources/activities for teaching English to young learners.
Here is a list of the blog posts included in this issue, hyper-linked for navigating them:
- In the Mission of Young Creative Minds, by Jeevan Karki
- Exploring Creativity in Young Learners, by Sagun Shrestha
- My Experience of Learning English: A Reflective Account, by Kamlesh Raut
- Feedback and Language Learners, by Khem Raj Joshi
- Resource of the Month, by Choutari editors
Now I have three requests to make (1) Please share what you read and like. (2) Please leave comments to encourage writers and (3) Please join the conversation by writing new entries for future issues of Choutari.
Finally, I’d like to thank all contributors, my friend Sajan Kumar with whom I have been sharing my ideas and getting insightful feedback, and also Praveen for his relentless technical support.
Happy Dipawali, Chhath and New Dhayan Vintuna
Bal Ram Adhikari
November Issue, NELTA Choutari
De Bono, E. (1972). Children solve problems. UK: Pegnuin Education.
Osho (2013). The Dhammapada: the way of Buddha. Kathmandu: Osho Tapoban Publication.
Richards, J.C & Rodgers, T. S. (2002). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classroom. California: Corwin Press.