When we think of creativity, we think of artists, musicians, or authors. But believe it or not, creativity is a very useful instrument in the classroom. It’s quite possible to be a very average TEFL teacher, but there is really no excuse to be one. Once you’ve got a handle on the basics of teaching English as a Foreign Language, it’s time to up your game and get creative in the classroom – and not just on a Friday afternoon!
The benefits of a creative classroom
But before we get into the how, let’s look at why we should be utilising creativity in the EFL classroom.
First of all – and possibly most importantly – nobody likes a boring classroom, not the teachers nor the students. Sticking to the coursebook day in and day out is one way of ensuring the boredom levels in our classroom go through the roof. Creativity is one way to make our lessons are enjoyable. And if your students enjoy your lessons, they are more likely to be engaged in the materials and interact in the activities – and learn.
In fact, lessons where our students forget they are in the classroom, are often our most successful lessons, and we can do this by incorporating activities like storytelling or music, or games. In this way, our students are focussing on the activity for enjoyment more than as a way to learn the language, but they are still learning.
More specifically, creative thinking is helpful when learning a language, so doing creative activities in the EFL classroom will help our students learn English. A lot of communication is dependent on creativity, so being creative with their language will make our students better communicators, which, after all, is the reason they are learning the language.
Being creative allows our learners to use their other skills in the classroom. Creative activities can help our students become more well-rounded learners. Plus, our learners will enjoy showcasing their other skills in the classroom. Creativity is multi-disciplinary, so it can allow our learners who may not be the best language learners to still contribute to the classroom and play to their strengths.
Being creative gives our learners a sense of achievement. Creative activities usually result in a finished product, something tangible which will give your students a sense of accomplishment.
A consequence of having a creative classroom is that your classroom is likely to be learner-centred. We learn by doing, and engaging in creative activities makes sure our learners are the ones doing the doing, so to speak. Let’s discuss the best ways of bringing creativity into the EFL classroom – it’s not as difficult as you may think!
How to be creative in the EFL classroom
Now let’s look at the how.
There are many different ways you can be creative in the EFL classroom. The first thing is to be open-minded when it comes to teaching methods. Rather than adopt one method and utilise it faithfully in every lesson, adopt the approach of principled eclecticism.
This is when you adopt certain features of different teaching methods and approaches. Maybe you think that using music a la Suggestopedia would be a great warmer for a certain lesson. Maybe you want to disregard the coursebook for one lesson and experiment with a Dogme lesson. Or it could be that you realise that using Cuisenaire rods is an excellent way of presenting a specific language structure. Instead of chaining your whole career to one teaching method, creative teachers can pick and choose what suits their lesson plans and their aims.
Read more: Teaching Unplugged in the EFL Classroom
On a more practical level, there are specific activities that effortlessly bring out the creativity in students:
- Use music
- Do a debate
- Play board games
- Have a puppet show (for Young Learners)
- Take some time out and do puzzles
- Have a class quiz
- Have students write and illustrate their own story
- Do a role-play
- Relate lessons to your learners’ lives
- Ask open-ended questions
- Flip the classroom
- Use authentic texts
- Do creative writing
Read more: Tips for Being Creative in the EFL Classroom
In a nutshell, creativity makes our lessons better, makes us better teachers, and our students better learners. But it even has more far-reaching consequences than that.
Creative teaching encourages our students to be creative themselves. In this day and age creativity is vital for success. Problem-solving, divergent thinking, and the ability to rethink old ideas are necessary skills in the workplace. Bringing creativity into the classroom will help our students become more creative thinkers outside the classroom. So we are not only teaching them a language, but we are helping them prepare for their future, which is pretty nifty when you think about it.