Autor: Justyna Górecka
In the process of learning foreign languages, creativity makes it easier to memorize and recall information thanks to deep linguistic processing. In addition, creative and engaging tasks together with innovative learning methods make students more motivated to improve their language skills.
In the process of learning a foreign language, creativity is a crucial quality.
Language in itself is a creative being, it is constantly evolving, new words are made, and we can express one thought in many different ways.
A creative approach to language learning increases effectiveness of learning, and the learning process becomes more attractive for students.
Below are some examples of creative exercises to help shape various aspects of language skills which can be used while learning, both at school or at home.
Creativity vs memorizing vocabulary
In order to remember words and phrases better, it is worth using mnemonics, or strategies which use creative thinking to learn. By using these techniques, we activate both the left (analytical) and the right (creative) hemispheres of the brain. As a result, the absorbed material is better remembered and easier to recall. Mnemonics are often based on imagination, visualizations and associations. Here are some examples.
- The keyword method
The keywords method is based on associations. We associate a word from a foreign language with a similar word from the mother tongue and imagine a connection between them. For example, word BROOM – can be associated with the Polish sound BRUM made by vehicles – and the mental image we create is, for example, a brush on four wheels driving on the highway.
- Association chains
Having a few word to memorize, you can combine them into one story, creating a visualization in your head. It may happen that at first glance words have nothing to do with each other, however the more non-obvious associations come to mind, the better.
Calligrams are words written in the drawing in a way that reflects the meaning. For example, we can illustrate the word fall by writing letters falling down, and with the word tornado we can draw the letter T as a whirlwind.
Creative methods of learning grammar
Although grammar is often associated with monotonous exercises, you can work creatively and interestingly also in this field.
- Grammar memes
One example is the creation of memes with a specific grammatical structure, for example, with conditionals. In this task, we use images and humor – factors that are more engaging and thus are easier to remember. That way, instead of just remembering the rule of creating a given conditional, the student remembers the example, which becomes a model for creating other, similar sentences.
Another example is, for instance, illustrating the meaning of phrasal verbs. In order to draw these phrases, one has to imagine a specific situation. It is possible that the created pictures will be linked to the student’s interests and own experiences, and thus they will be better remembered. For example, the verb look for will be illustrated by one person as a lady looking for a phone in her purse, by someone else as a child looking for a toy in their room, and by another person as a tourist looking for a monument in the city. We can go a step further and make the illustrations include film characters. That way, we will make even more interesting and unusual associations.
Reading & listening comprehension
Exercises for reading and listening comprehension in textbooks usually include closed exercises. These are multiple choice questions, combination questions, true/false tasks. It is important that teachers use the textbook creatively. Not every included exercise needs to be done, and some of them can be transformed in an interesting way, for example:
- 1Students in groups create their own exercises to the text for their peers;
- 2Students interview the protagonist of the text;
- 3Students complete the story from the text they are listening to.
Writing & speaking
In production-oriented skills, such as writing and speaking, stimulus plays an important role. In the traditional approach, it is usually a subject, a picture, an example to recreate, or guidelines in a form of a list. Below are some ideas to activate creativity in this area:
Pupils listen to a piece of music with their eyes closed, then during the second listening they write down all the words associated with the music they heard. Then, based on the written words, they write a short story.
Students are asked to describe the picture orally, but instead of the whole picture, they are given halves or parts of the pictures, and the missing parts are left to their imagination. An interesting element of the exercise is comparing the statements of various people who have different parts of the same photo.
We can achieve interesting effects in written and oral statements if we look at the discussed problems, phenomena, pictures or texts from different perspectives: for example, representatives of various social and professional groups, nationalities or people of different ages.
Role-playing and dialogues are activities which students enjoy very much. Let us suppose they are intended to present a shopping scene at a grocery store. This exercise is made more attractive by suggesting to the students that they choose themselves who will be the protagonist of their dialogue, it may be, for example, the English queen or a famous footballer. The choice of people will of course affect the course of the role-play and the language used.
Which factors influence the development of creativity in learning foreign languages?
- a creative teacher stimulating students to use their imagination, to look for unusual connections,
- students open to innovative learning methods who transfer the learned methods of working at school to learning at home and creating their own way to expand their language knowledge,
- tasks which give space for experimenting with language,
- encouragement to generate as many ideas as possible,
- learning atmosphere based on students’ trust in the teacher and peers, a sense of security to take risks and make mistakes,
- non-standard approach to problem solving,
- connecting language with various stimuli, for example, movement, images, music.
It is worth using creativity in the process of learning foreign languages, because it improves remembering and understanding thanks to deep linguistic processing and increases students’ involvement. In addition, stepping outside the box makes learning a foreign language an adventure and makes students more motivated to work.
Learning foreign languages should use multimodal materials, that is, materials which combine linguistic, visual, spatial or sound means. That way, we work with authentic material, which, in addition to language skills, shapes the ability of critical thinking. The multidimensionality of the message during the lessons reflects communication in the world around us.
What is Multimodality?
Multimodal messages, that is, messages combining more than one dimension of communication.
Nowadays, we are inundated with information in various forms: Internet, email, instant messaging, social networks, videos and much more.
An important skill of the modern citizen of the world is to understand and interpret announcements resulting from various aspects of the message, such as:
- language aspect: selection of vocabulary, grammatical structures, sentence structure, stylistic devices,
- visual aspect: colors, style, size, pictures, symbols, fonts,
- spatial aspect: layout, distances, organization,
- sound aspect: music, sounds, pace, volume,
- aspect related to gestures: body language, gestures, facial expressions, interpersonal interactions.
Multimodality in practice
Multimodality is an important element of teaching a foreign language. In the latest IB MYP guide for foreign language teachers, great emphasis is placed on the multidimensionality of texts, which should be present in the practice of listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.
Here are examples of multimodality in relation to specific skills:
Multimodality is also important in productive skills. Stimulating material for speaking and writing tasks should contain different forms of communication. As students understand the essence of different aspects of the text in a listening and reading comprehension exercises, they will also apply the learned elements in their oral and written statements.
Below are some examples of student-created multimodal works:
- a list/email in which they use the appropriate register and spatial layout, emoticons;
- a poster with visual aids;
- multimedia presentation.
What possibilities does working with multimodal texts give?
In the multidimensional approach to the message, written or spoken language is no longer the only carrier of information.
Here are some sample questions for analyzing conventions and relationships in relation to a variety of forms of communication. As can be seen in the above questions, an important element of working with multimodal material. Is also the interaction of the student with the text: drawing conclusions, reflecting, relating to own views, looking at the text from different perspectives, shaping cultural attitudes, critical thinking.
At higher levels of advancement, it also includes exploring concepts such as point of view, empathy, and bias.
- Language acquisition guide IB MYP, September 2020
- Multimodality: Out From the Margins of English Language Teaching – Margaret Early, Maureen Kendrick, And Diane Potts
- Blog: Prodigy
- Dyskurs multimodalny – nowa kategoria badawcza? Maciej Kawka