Welcome to NeltaChoutari: November 2013

EDITORIAL

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:

  1. In the Mission of Young Creative Minds, by Jeevan Karki
  2. Exploring Creativity in Young Learners, by Sagun Shrestha
  3. My Experience of Learning English: A Reflective Account, by Kamlesh Raut
  4. Feedback and Language Learners, by Khem Raj Joshi
  5. Resource of the Monthby 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

Editor

November Issue, NELTA Choutari

References

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.

8 comments

  • Bal Ram, You and your co-editor of the month (Praveen?) have produced a wonderful issue again! Congratulations. This is a great set of khurak in professional conversation in ELT. You’ve also written a very powerful editorial. I’m inspired.

  • balramadhikari

    Thank you Shyam sir. It’s all because the previous team members like you trusted in me. Thank you again for the inspiring words.
    Balram

  • Pramod Kumar Sah

    I must thank my Guru for this inspiring editorial. Recently, I took part in a seminar at the University of Central Lancashire where I had a reflective presentation on My ‘Personal Teaching Methodology’- and I do praise for your insights in ELT., Creativity, as you have highlighted, is indeed an action word that drives a learner to a real learning; and this must be taken as revolution against parroting learning that is still existing in our ELT scenario, mostly in Grammar and Vocabulary teaching. In addition, I am very delighted with my friends, Jeevan and Sagun that they are promoting ‘creativity’ by making use of cyberspace. Finally, wish you all a very Happy Tihar and Chhath.

  • balram

    Great to hear from Promod ji. Thank you for your constructive and insightful comment. I’m fed up with ‘repetition sickness’ in our teaching. Now the young minds like you, Sagun, Jeevan, and others are awakened to this problem. I hope your generation can cure this sickness. Happy Tihar and Chhath.

  • Pingback: Bad English, Good Ideas, and Blogging to Change the World | ...Language, Literacy, Life...

  • Balram sir,
    It’s a very very powerful, substantial and salutable editorial!

  • sagun shrestha

    Balaram Sir, you have analysed minutely the plight of creativity and critical path in Neplease academia and rightly stated ‘ it is the most verbalized and sought for but least realized and materialized concepts in the ELT context like ours.’ The five different reasons you have given can make the concerned parties ponder at least provided they go through this powerful editorial. Needless to say, some young ELT enthusiasts( in terms of their practices and perception not as regards their age) have already started their creative voyage to materialize some changes in ELT situation in Nepal. Moreover such an advocacy through blog and public communication would empower the real practices these young minds are making. Who else can be there to oppose critical path and creativity in this highly creative world? Now its all creative and critical aspect ruling our daily business, let alone the academic sphere.
    Let we be change-makers and let the world realize the change. Reflecting, Post-reflecting and synthesizing would make us be a part of discourse to bring something innovative in ELT.

  • Appreciating the endeavor of the commentators, I would like to stand by the views expressed by Sagun ji. Yes, Balram Sir’s blog entry is powerful analysis of creativity in English language teaching based on his experience and expertise. It does not only inspire but also encourage creative writers especially the teachers to be creative so that the learners could replicate them in enhancing their creativity. Unless we teachers are creative and get our writing published, our learners’ creativity could not be unleashed. It reveals the fact that a space is required to nurture one’s creativity through interaction. Print media served for such a space for quite a long time. It is so traditional and it has many limitations too. Breaking the traditional mode of enhancing their creativity and professionalism, both the teachers and learners can create virtual space using social networks and blogging. They are free and do not require lots of time and physical space. Finally I would like to thank Balram sir for such a nice writing, which makes one stop and think for a while before they take effective steps for bringing change in Nepalese ELT in terms of creativity.

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