‘The photography project’: Pictures in EFL teaching

The Choutari team has initiated a new ‘photography project’. The aim of the project is to promote the use of photography/pictures in EFL teaching. In this project, the Choutari team members share with the larger ELT community a variety of photos they take in different times and places. We do not create our own stories out of these pictures, rather we leave it open for multiple uses (e.g., essay writing, story writing/telling, critical pedagogy, group work, participatory research)as per the need of EFL teachers . In acknowledging the importance of photos/pictures in EFL teaching, this project is influenced by the “Critical Photography Theory” (Wells, 2015) and the “Critical Art Pedagogy” (Cary, 2011). We encourage our fellow colleagues all over the world to use these pictures (of course, acknowledgement is appreciated) for the classroom purposes and participate in the discussion on various issues concerning the use of photography in EFL teaching.

To begin, we share the photos taken by Prem Phyak, our past editor, in different locations and times in Nepal.

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Talking about Creative Consciousness in Teachers

Jeevan Karki

I was having an informal talk with a boy of tenth grade regarding growing disinterest of students in the home assignment. To my question of why students do not show their interest in doing home assignments, he replied that home assignments are NOT interesting. He further said if the work is interesting, we simply cannot wait to complete it. We choose to do the interesting work first among others.

I pondered on his view. In fact, he is right. His views give us the insight that if teaching learning activities, including the home assignment are interesting enough, students get involved in them without knowing they are doing them. The same is the case with all of us. We all enjoy doing the compelling work because we do not feel that we are doing it rather we feel that we are riveted to it. The above instance shows that students expect some changes in our day-to-day teaching learning activities. Therefore, we need to review the activities we use in our classes and add some stimulating and compelling flavor to them. However, interesting activities should not be mistaken for some thrilling and adventurous activities. In my view, they imply the activities that are a bit challenging and allow students to use their wit, skills, imagination and innovation. It means that even usual activities that we use in our teaching learning process can be made interesting. However, there should be a little creative touch and modification from teachers, which necessitates teachers to be creative to some extent. Now my question is– can every teacher be creative? Yes, they need to be creative. Continue reading »

Storytelling for Learning Language with Fun

Santona Neupane

As teachers, we often ask ourselves, “How can we develop creative thinking of our students? How can we ensure that our lessons are fun making and useful for them?” We, the teachers today always seek to find new ways to help the learners unleash their creativity. In this post, I share with you some thoughts about how we can use storytelling to help our students learn language in effective and enjoyable ways.

When I was a young, my sister used to fascinate me and the rest of the family because she had a very captivating way of unfolding events that kept the audience glued to their seats. I remember getting so engrossed in the story that I fell off the stool. Stories, and creative and effective expression still fascinate me, because stories not only made my childhood fun but they also greatly enhanced my language development. As the old Nepali saying goes, those who can tell good stories are worth adorning with garlands of flowers and . Hearing a story is heartwarming and a storyteller can make the world come alive for the listener. The power of storytelling is attested by sayings like this in many cultures. And as language teachers, we all know that power. When telling stories, speakers develop language skills, as well as build confidence for communicating their ideas.

Storytelling in the Context of Teaching/Learning Language

In the context of learning language, storytelling allows learners to learn and express new ideas, use new vocabulary and grammatical structures, and put such language skills to use within the broader context of events and ideas in the story. Storytelling gives learners the opportunity to use language in a holistic way.

Highlighting how the use of story in language classroom is a powerful tool in the language learning process, Jones (2012) argues that “Once learners get into conversational storytelling, it is an enjoyable experience for both them and the teacher.” There’s no doubt that stories can be fun and also there is more to storytelling than it meets the eye. One has to ensure successful learning of language as well. According to Morgan & Rinvoulcri (2003), successful second language learning is “far more a matter of unconscious acquisition than of conscious, systematic study.” The stories could be such method of unconscious input that can ensure creative output. Stories unconsciously draw a learner towards them. “They capture and hold the imagination of learners; they create empathy as children identify with characters and situations in the stories; they present language in authentic contexts, thus promoting both grammatical and vocabulary development; they facilitate acquisition through multiple repetition (both of the language in the story, and as the story is told over and again)” (Maley, 2008, p. 4).

Hence, storytelling can be a powerful tool for teaching language. Stories also help students to be expressive, imaginative and capable of using language naturally in real context. Telling stories is a natural way of engaging students to communicate complex ideas. Stories when used in classroom help students practice communication and expression. If we as a teacher can help students love stories, we will pave way for them to be extensive readers in the future.

It is worth noting at this point that storytelling is more than just reading aloud. Actually it is NOT reading out loud. When a story is told live, the teller can engage listeners and can create an intimate bond through his/her voice and eye contact. Another obvious benefit of storytelling over reading aloud is improvisation through the use of mimes, gestures and body language.

What Type of Stories?

It  is not enough for us as a language teacher to go to a class with any story. If you plan to tell a story to a class full of eager minds, there are two questions to consider first.

Is this the story I enjoy telling?

Is this the story my students would find entertaining or thought provoking?

The stories that you choose to present in the class should touch you and your students should be able to relate to it the way you relate to it. Your reaction to the story and your enthusiasm can really ignite a desire in your students to be better recipient and eager participants. Choosing a good story is a crucial part of storytelling. Don’t tell a story just for the sake of storytelling. Let the story be a part of you. Know your students well and choose a story that might easily be their story.

For my English lesson, one day, I chose a fairly easy story about a tortoise, having a bad day, decides to run away from home. I planned my lesson around it and decided to use this story in two different levels: one primary and another secondary. I chose grade 5 in the primary level and grade 10 in the secondary level. I told the same story to the classes, improvising and detailing the story as per their level. After an initial round of storytelling, I got the students talking about their feelings. I asked them if they could relate to the  character and if they have ever in their life felt like running away. All the students responded with “Yes”. When I asked them to write down a similar story, I saw them eagerly opening their notebooks and writing energetically. In the story, the main character returns home after learning the value of his family and friends. The story not only helped them in their language learning process, it also helped them to meditate on their lives by relating themselves to.

Stories are everywhere; in fact stories are our way of life. “Stories are central to what it means to be human. The human mind seems to be hardwired for the creation and reception of narratives. It is even true to say that we are the stories that make us up: stories we have heard, we have told, we enact daily” (Maley, 2008, p.4). There are lots of sources of story. We can choose our stories from fairy tales, traditional folklores, culture, proverbs, pictures, newspaper clippings, films, personal anecdotes, rumors, imagination etc.

Who can Benefit?

As a teacher of language, I have found storytelling very helpful. However we should not just limit its use in language classroom. Stories can be used in a math, science and social studies classes as well. Stories are not limited to kindergarten only but can be useful for secondary classes as well. Stories can be told to any level of learner. Beginners can benefit through it and it will aid their literacy and language learning. Even advanced learners are benefited through storytelling; they can refine their already learnt language skills and polish their ideas. Stories give them opportunity to be creative with what they have already learnt.

Classroom Activities

Storytelling is an effective alternative to traditional language teaching activities. There are a lot of ways through which we can use storytelling in our classroom. As stated by Morgan & Rinvoulcri (2003), storytelling activities range from introspective to interactive, beginner to advance, written to oral, individual to group. Stories can be planned and delivered in such a way that it achieves its objectives. If our objective is to help students with grammar, then we can choose a story with recursive pattern of words and phrases. Our telling can give them exposure to the target language. Apart from grammar, we can focus on vocabulary, intonations and phonetics to help them acquire English language easily and successfully.

Choosing a good story is a crucial part of storytelling. The main part is storytelling itself. Your relation and attitude towards the story matters a lot. Once the story has been delivered you need to plan various activities to help the students contemplate the impact. Group discussion based on various probing question can help the students relate to the story. You can prepare the questions beforehand and have the students talk about it with each other. The questions can range from their reaction to various elements or aspect of the story. If your students are advanced learner you can have them discuss the literary aspect of the story. Have the students paraphrase the story individually and they can even write a reflection on it. Another activity would be to write a similar story on a totally new context.

Dramatizing the story is another method of exploiting stories. Either you dramatize the storytelling itself or have your students retell it in a form of drama. Role playing and role taking helps the students with revision and in doing so they get familiarized with the grammatical, semantic, structural aspect thus unconsciously learning language. Retelling a story is fun and enjoyable. Getting the students to narrate their story in the class often creates a receptive environment in the classroom where more than one student will be willing to share similar experience. Tannen (1984) has stated that one person’s narrative may often be taken up by one or more of the listeners who will add similar narratives of their own to create what she refers to as  a “story chain”.

Apart from storytelling, creating similar stories through parallel writing helps them a lot. Get the students create a story with the help of theme words either individually or in a group. Instead of the teacher telling the story, students can also do the telling. This will help in a successful two way communication in a language classroom while giving an opportunity to the teacher to evaluate the learner.

Using pictures and shapes, together the teachers and students can create a new story to tell. Sometimes we can tell an incomplete story and have the students complete it and tell it. Taking an event from a newspaper clipping and telling it in a form of story can also help the students.

Conclusion

Storytelling, which is an integral part of human life, can be vital in language teaching. Basing the language lessons on stories have creative impact on the students. If we cultivate a love of stories in our students through storytelling, we can help them learn without giving them the monotonous drill and bland role play. Stories add a humanistic element in teaching making it quite effective. Various classroom activities based on stories not just make your lesson comprehensible and useful, it also adds fun to your teaching.

References

Jones, R. (2012). Creating a storytelling classroom for a storytelling world. English Teaching Forum, 2-9.

Maley, A. (n.d.). From story literacy to reading literacy. Literacy in the language classroom, 4-7.

Morgan, J. & Rinvoulcri, M. (2004). Once upon a time: Using stories in language classroom. Cambridge: CUP.

Tannen, D. (1984). Conversational Style: Analyzing talk among friends. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Wright, A. (n.d.). Creating stories. Literacy in the language classroom, 23-34.

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santona

Santona Neupane is a scholar pursuing her M. Ed. in ELT at Kathmandu University, School of Education. She is an English teacher in a private school in Kathmandu. She has recently joined the editorial team of Choutari.

Five Books That ‘Changed’ My Life

Hem Raj Kafle

‘Change’ is not my word in the title above, but I agree to use it. Do books change our lives? Someone said it is the reader who has the potential to change; the book only triggers that potential. And one who does not have that potential does not respond to the trigger. I agree to this, too.

But I am not here to present a thorough appreciation of ‘five classics’. Not that I avoid reading classics, but I am willing to write about those books that have told me their actual worth.  Each of the five books came to me almost ‘out of nowhere’ and left a lasting message. Not that any of them should ever satisfy your intellectual need if you someday decide to read.  I write here simply because I have deemed them contributory to my own growth as a teacher. An English teacher.

I was delighted when the Choutari Team asked me to write on five books that ‘changed’ my life. I decided to speak up: I have already read a book with the same title and loved it so much. It is The Book That Changed My Life (2006) by Roxanne J Coady and Joy Johannessen. A book about books, and about how books change one’s life – I had loved this idea long ago. The Book indeed was a reward, such as Coady herself would like to regard as a gift “from heaven”.01. The Book That Changed My Life

I bought it in the summer of 2008 at Books and Books, Coral Gables, Florida, only as a memento of my US visit. And, because it was a casual pick, my interest in it turned into epiphany as I read through the short essays inside. This was an opportunity to peek into seventy one writers’ celebration of “the books that matter most to them.” These seventy one people gave credit to certain books and their writers as their life’s important change agents. So, the writers’ appreciation of their favourites helped confirm that none of my previous and recent cravings for ‘good books’ were without meaning.  Anyone, even you, will subscribe to Coady’s prefatory justification for publishing this book, so will I.

Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to meet people we care about and want to know more about, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and to learn how to live.

One book that has made great sense to me as a teacher of English is The Elements of 02. Elements of StyleStyle, the tiny work of William Strunk Jr. and E. B White. You may wonder why such commonplace as ‘elements of style’ would strike anyone who boasts of degrees in English and years of teaching in a reputed University’s central department. But I realized, after having gone through the authors’ terse admonitions against verbosity and carelessness, that degrees and years of teaching do not make one a writer and a teacher of effective communication. The actual prerequisite of being a writer is not only the mastery in grammar and vocabulary, but craftsmanship in stylistic and rhetorical choices. 

The Elements offers an extremely concise treatment on style. I have nurtured the following assertion more than anything in life and, of course, for writing in Nepali as well:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Strunk and White made me aware of the beauty of brevity in writing. Then Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark, a writing instructor at Poynter Institute, Florida, helped polish this awareness. The “50 essential strategies,” more as rich illustrations of good and bad samples from various established sources than commonplace imperatives, have best corresponded with my zeal for learning rhetorical styles.  Clark taught me writing as an artful yet serious activity and knowledge of grammar a means to shape the artistry of expression.03. Writing Tools

Assuming the role of highly active, playful teacher along the “strategies,” Clark encourages every aspiring and established writer to become an entertainer, a performer. He likes to take writing for carpentry, and then has this to say: “You can borrow a writing tool at any time. And here’s a secret: Unlike hammers, chisels, and rakes, writing tools never have to be returned. They can be cleaned, sharpened, and passed on.” 

Clark’s metaphors of gold coins, ladder of abstraction, internal cliffhangers, X-ray reading etc. will surely tickle one’s sense of sufficiency as a writer and editor. Initially, he makes you skeptic about every sentence you write yourself and read from others. As you move on, because Clark will not allow you to drop midway, you become a better writer, better reader, better editor. Clark follows you directly into your profession. He is with me – in lectures, in instructions, in formal presentations – and now as I write these lines.

I got Wayne Booth’s famous book The Rhetoric of Rhetoric at a time I was trying to get clear knack on rhetoric in scholarly, philosophical and practical terms.  Booth proved a rescuer, and a guide to the fact that rhetoric is a vastly developed academic discipline way beyond its everyday currency as a signifier of a cheap lie or a political 04. The Rhetoric of Rheotricbombast.   

Booth observes rhetoric’s relevance as much in persuasive communication and study of such communication as in the resolution of conflicts, teaching of science and general upbringing of people. Of special value to me has been his idea of “rhetorology” defined as a “deepest form of listening rhetoric: the systematic probing for ‘common ground’”, which in other words involves a practice of paying attention to opponent views during a conflict situation.

Booth emphasizes that rhetoric is simply the way we think and communicate in the process of creating a better life, and eliminating slippery situations. So, I believe, after Booth, that “the quality of our lives, moment by moment, depends on the quality of our rhetoric.” Isn’t it then even more appropriate to say that the kind of political system and social structure we see/experience “depends on the rhetoric of our leaders and our responses to them”?  Booth is equally true in his belief that “our children’s future depends on how they are taught rhetoric.” That is, by us.

Literature, Science and a New Humanities by Jonathan Gottschall is one of my recent readings. It has made much sense in my decision to work across humanities and other disciplines in Kathmandu University. It has reshaped my understanding of the common tension of where humanities needed proper overhaul.

05. Literature, Science and a New HumanitiesGottschall makes readers aware of three main fault lines of the current humanities scholarship. The first includes the excessive use of jargons and “theories of human nature that are defunct.” The second is a methodological problem involving the impossibility of getting tangible evidences unlike in science because the “theory-generated hypotheses” in humanities are not “closer to truth.” The third problem involves attitudinal dilemmas where the dismissal of the “possibility of generating reliable knowledge” is critical among humanities scholars.

Reading Gottschall coincides with two very important contexts of my academic life. The first involves a larger concern of the humanities ‘fraternity’, to which I belong. This is the concern for the visible decline of interest and intake in certain traditional university programmes like geography, history, political science, psychology and philosophy. That some people still desired to study English literature or journalism is nothing of a solace to a career-ambitious young man in that it is gradually subjected to preparing ‘service’ writers or higher-secondary teachers. Personally, working in an institution heavily focused to profession-specific academic programmes in science and engineering, I have always felt the need of reconfiguring my disciplinary orientation to more goal- or job-centric terrains. The second context has to with the recent shift in my disciplinary priorities. I moved from where I liked to work (social sciences) to where I loved to belong and contribute (humanities and sciences). The move has also added a challenge of helping to interface the mutually complementary facets of communication, teaching, management, entrepreneurship, and economics in the promotion of engineering and science education.

I feel now that Gottschall’s book endorses my decision to work across these terrains. It lends adequate confidence in the goal “to establish a  new  humanities  on  surer  foundations.” The foundations would then take more conciliatory yet “diverse and sophisticated methodological toolkit, and the pursuit of disinterested inquiry.” I have subscribed to Gottschall’s “call to move closer to the sciences in theory, method, and ethos.” I have accepted this mandatory, though difficult, challenge to “participate more fully in revealing the ultimate subject of the humanities: humans.” To this my life is directed with tenacity. To reiterate, I have set conciliatory, empathetic performance in scholarship to be the main motto of my further scholarly priorities.

Finally, books do not respond to the extent of leading to change unless you approach them with love and passion. Love for books comes with birth.  This love becomes passion when books become a part of your upbringing. Books shape our thoughts which shape our actions. Thoughtful actions are change agents. A book’s contribution to change lies here. With this belief I seek to read good books, more and more.

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Hem-Raj-Kafle-bioHem Raj Kafle is one of the senior editors of NELTA Choutari. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the Humanities and Management Unit, School of Engineering, Kathmandu University. For more of his literary writings and works at his personal blog: http://kaflehem.wordpress.com/

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.

In the Mission of Grooming Young Creative Minds

*Jeevan Karki, www.merocreation.com

jk.pravat85@yahoo.com

Hello Sir!!!!! 

am (I’m) missing u a lot especially when the english periods go no quite monotonous. anwy (anyway) am f9 (fine) n doing gud. hope u r also f9 n u know wt(what) sir i started writing poem frm grade 10 n till date i hav completed 50 poems. shocking na!!!! n sir i would really lik to thank u as u inspired me to write the poems. eventhough that time we didn’t use to write bt (but) with the passage of tim i also got the knowledge abt why u were so eager regarding student’s creativity. all the credit goes to u. thank u so much sir!

really missing u sir!

Sakshi

I received this mail on July 20, 2012. The sender by now is obvious. She is one of the students I taught in grade eight, two years before the date mentioned above. I used to teach her both English language and literature. In the parents-teachers meeting, the parents often used to complain (and still do) about their children not being creative and just cramming overnight for exams. Most of the time, we teachers keep the issue of creativity aside by telling them it is the matter of innate quality, hard work of students and support of guardians. Blah, blah, blah. However, the kind of activities we do in the classroom and the sort of home assignment we assign also have something to do with students’ creativity. Soon after the parents-teachers meeting, a three-week winter vacation was going to kick off. As a vacation work, this time I thought of assigning a bit different work rather than telling them ‘do exercises from page number this to that’. I gave them some reading work and creative writing. As for the second one, they were supposed to come up with some kind of free writing such as poems, stories, songs, travelogues, essays, diary writing (memorable days), etc. First, they looked puzzled, for they were not used to this kind of assignment. So I gave them guidelines to write and also declared that best writings would be sent for newspapers in order to encourage them. The vacation was over. However, I was not very hopeful that everybody would bring their assignment. To my surprise, everybody brought some writing. Some even brought two writings. I went through them in my free time and found most of them original and creative. Now I was in trouble. As I promised, the writings had to be sent to the newspapers but there were too many. Then I decided to publish a class magazine and shared the idea. Then, I divided the responsibility, making sure that everybody is involved. They worked with their group members in their free time in school and at home without disturbing their regular studies. After a month, each class had their own mesmerizing wall magazine. The parents were pleased to see the outcome in the final parents- teachers meeting and the school administration also took the effort positively and published that news in the school news bulletin too. It could also be one of the reasons that I got a promotion the next session. However, I did not wish to continue working there because I got a better opportunity in another institution.

In the next institution too, I pondered some better ideas of developing creativity of these young minds through free writing. In place of a wall magazine I was thinking of other reliable and long- lasting alternative, which could also include young students from other schools. However, the session was towards the edge without materializing any concrete idea. There was one creative colleague, who belonged to computer faculty, Mr. Krishna Subedi. He is also a web designer and developer. I talked to him and finally we decided to do something on the Web. Then we launched a website or webzine on May 2012. We named it merocreation.com.

We started this small venture for giving young creative minds an open creative platform with the motto “encouraging and energizing the young creative”. Initially, only two of us used to work. Mr Subedi looked after technical aspects while I devoted myself to the content area. We started with the creative writings of the students of our schools. Later, the visitors multiplied and we started receiving the writing from other institutions too. We kept modifying and beautifying the site but because of the overflow of the visitors only we two could not handle it. So we developed a team of thirteen members, including an advisor. It was after two months of the inception of the webzine, I received the above mail from Sakshi.

The mission of creative writing has kept me in touch with so many old students, including Sakshi. There is a boy named Samyam Shrestha, who published few stories in the webzine (he had published not a single story anywhere). His stories are mostly read and liked by the visitors. He mailed me around six months back and said that he wanted to publish a story collection. He is an eleventh grader now. There is another girl named Reeti KC from the same level. She is very good in poetry and has published many poems in the webzine and also in the national newspapers. She mailed me recently stating she has made up her mind for publishing a poem collection and asked me to edit it. It shows that something is going on. Something is happening. The webzine has been grooming these young minds and providing them with an interactive platform. This is also a part of language teaching; language teaching through creative writing.

How to accommodate creative writing in the language class?

It is a frequently asked question by language teachers. They say that they have to complete the syllabus, focus on exams and all students expect good grades. Therefore, there is no time for creative writing. Please do accept that I also have the same problem like yours. We are the birds of the same feathers. Despite all these things, it is possible to accommodate creative writing in the language class.

The first and basic thing is to be self-conscious about our students’ creative writing. When we assign them any writing, we have to make sure there is an adequate space for creativity. Whatever students do and write, we can give it a creative flavor. I call this process an inductive approach to creative writing. Here the teacher gives students the usual class assignment or home assignment, but it is given consciously having space for imagination, logic and noble ideas. Then when students submit the assignment, the teacher has to check the writing through the lenses of creativity. As per the feedback, the teacher can point out the area where the juice of creativity and elements of imagination, logic and noble ideas can be incorporated. Also, they should be asked to re-write so that their writing is publishable somewhere. Let’s take an example, how we can change letter writing into a creative activity.

Suppose, I am teaching students of the lower secondary level to write a letter to their brother or sister who is addicted to social networking sites. The letter can include some constructive suggestions to minimize the habit of always hanging on the sites and also the ideas of using social networking sites for educational purposes. If the letter includes these things, it will be an informative article for many people and hence it is publishable as a creative writing. However, the ideas need to be practical and the language needs refining. Here comes the role of a teacher. There should be discussion and brainstorming before assigning such an activity. After they write, the teacher can ask students to read each other’s writings and offer feedback. Similarly, he or she can also form a group of more-able students as the editors of the class. In the first phase, they can help the teacher to sort out the writing then the teacher can go through them. This will develop a habit of learning in collaboration, a sense of responsibility and togetherness in the language class, which after all will minimize the teacher’s burden.

Similarly, if I am teaching letter writing to students of secondary level, it is not necessary I always teach them to write letter to their fathers for asking pocket money and so on. I can also teach them writing letter to Prime Minister regarding how to stop corruption in the country.  It will be a highly creative writing and publishable in the newspapers, webzines and other magazines. The same technique can be applied to other types of writing like paragraph writing, essay writing and so on. To the same token, in a bit long break, we can give students the writing tasks which are creative by nature like poems, stories, essays, travelogues, songs, book/film reviews and so on. In my case, in the vacation like term break, Dashain-Tihar vacation, winter vacation, I assign them to read novels or story books and write their own reviews (applicable especially for the secondary level). In this way our students do creative writing without being much conscious that they are doing it. That is why I call it the inductive approach to creative writing. Without telling anything like, “Okay class, today we are going to do CREATIVE WRITING…!” we can engage our students in creative writing activities. However, the continuity of this process depends on teachers’ readiness and reward. As per the first one, as you are reading this article, it is sufficient that you are ready for students’ creative writing and now it is the second one to think of. It is very important that students be rewarded for their creative work, and the most valuable reward for them is publishing their work in magazines or webzines.

Why webzine?

I said that the publication of students’ creative writing is the best award and it is true. There is a girl in my class, who is very good in her study. Seeing her friend publishing articles in the newspapers and magazines, she also sent some but they never got published. She got frustrated and never tried again. Then she stopped writing completely. I came to learn about that and asked her to show her writings. I checked them, gave some feedback and asked her to rewrite. She did and it was published in the webzine. The publication of her article sparked a wave of euphoria in her and she resumed her writing. Now she often writes and publishes. There might be many hidden potential young minds not getting a suitable platform. Of course, there are newspapers and children magazines, which publish the creative writings of students but they are few and have to look all over the nation and hence cannot give space to all children. So we need to look for an alternative. In order to promote language and creative writing, we can publish school magazines giving space for all the students in school. Similarly, we can also publish the class wall magazine, which can give space to more students of a class. I tried these and found them only being confined to school and failing to be long lasting. Then I started this webzine, which has multiple advantages. Students can get their writings published instantly. It has global access and the writing can be viewed anytime from anywhere. Students can also share it with their relatives who are in another corner of the world. Similarly, another important thing is it is highly interactive. They can get instant feedback from their readers. In this forum, they can find so many like-minded young people writing, publishing, reading and commenting each others’ work. This will give students a creative and productive environment. All these things will encourage them to keep writing. However, they do not find all these facilities in the print media. In the same way, students (especially from the town area) today spend their time surfing the Internet rather than going through the printed materials. So this is also an attempt of developing a culture of doing academic activities in the World Wide Web. It is undoubtedly a great platform for developing language and creative writing among young learners.

However, it does not imply that all English language teachers need to have their own webzine. If you can have, that’s superb. If it is not possible, you can try the alternatives discussed above. In the same way, you can consider this webzine as your own and send the writings of your students to publish there or encourage them to send themselves. As being one of the content editors of the webzine, I suggest teachers that they read the writing of their students and give feedback before sending for publication. Spending some time in this webzine will help students develop their language and creativity. Besides creative writing, they also can find some useful academic and non-academic resources in this webzine. This is purely an academic and creative mission; a mission to develop language through creative writing. We are trying to teach language to our students but now let’s also try to teach the creative use of language. Let’s teach them to play with words and learn art of words. Children have a lot of energy and ‘crazy ideas’. They are highly imaginative. Let’s provide them with some scaffolding. Let’s convert their energy and ideas into creativity. Merocreation.com can be a forum to groom young and creative minds to be a creative citizen of the globe. So let’s join our hand together in this mission.

Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to Mr. Subedi, Kigan Khadka, a web designer and developer, and all team members: Akrin Adhikari, Jeevanpanee, KP Ghimire, Kumar Narayan Shrestha, Megh Raj Shrestha, Ranjana Khaniya, Richa Bhattarai, Sanjaya Karki and Upendra Subedi for their support and inspiration.

* Jeevan Karki teaches at Graded Medium English School (GEMS), Lalitpur. His areas of interest include creative writing, translation and documentary making. 

Exploring Creativity in Young Learners: An Analysis Within

       *Sagun Shrestha

sagunshrestha4@gmail.com

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Steve Jobs

Creativity is all about connecting and synthesizing. Maybe the process that takes place needs a little more of innovation. Put simply, it is a way challenging oneself by transforming and unleashing the forces and ideas within. When you do it, you think of going beyond the state of mediocrity. The pleasure comes within you and you feel your presence in pleasure. A ‘wow’ word resounds in your heart and memory.

Creativity in ELT

It is so awkward to see the practice of the same archaic methods being used in English Language Teaching in Nepal. A ‘chalk and talk method’ has been a common cliché to make criticism on present ELT situation in Nepal. The interception of modern technology is challenging our voyage to the academic world. What if we do not mingle technology with our teaching and learning and find a way-out to make them live and interesting? What if we do not change ourselves and our teaching practices to bring change in our academic world? We would be the losers? In this regard, Prof. Bhattarai speaks: ‘Doubt your beliefs and works, stop and question your practices, may be you were wrong so far, may be you can discover new unexplored areas which can open up new vistas in teaching.  Philosophies keep changing and so do teaching principles. You put a question: Is my method of teaching appropriate? Are we following appropriate curriculum, or do we need to stop and rethink over it?  All our socio-political values and norms have changed; they are changing so fast, so should not our system of education follow such changes endlessly?

This is in fact seeking and unleashing creativity within. Unless and until we become creative we cannot get, let alone imagine our students being creative. Again Prof. Bhattarai puts his words:

‘What happens if a farmer does not know about the new breed of animals or seeds and manures and continues with old practice? He will spoil everything and ruin himself. So we traders of truth should also be aware of the new brands of education on sale in the world market.’

Novelty, a paradigm shift, learner or learning centered instruction, multiplicity in methodologies are all the features that we gain in creative instruction, and needless to say these are the postmodern trends in ELT. By postmodern I mean going beyond what we have now or the modernity has brought, and seeking innovation, creativity and criticality to find the unexplored world is the postmodern trend.

Are we supposed to be stuck with a unitary method or do we need to integrate different methods to yield better instruction? The question is of multiplicity here. Multiplicity in thought, multiplicity in interpretation and multiplicity in methods and techniques. We need to mingle all from Georgi Lozanov idea of suggestopedia to communicative language teaching in all dimensions. Focusing on a single method may mean inviting a failure to a large extent. Similarly, the incorporation of modern technology demands us to bring cyber world in language instruction. Can we ever think that our language instruction can be complete without using the multimedia in our classroom in this flat world? NO! A big No! In fact, I have been learning these days how some young teachers (not in terms of age but as regards ideas) are different from  the teachers with traditional mind-set. They handle their classrooms bringing technology via blogging, virtual classes, webinars and multimedia instruction. Since they comprise audio-visual instruction, the young learners find them gripping and this is how these teachers win the young hearts through their instruction.

A giant shift in our thought or methodology is a paradigm shift: a shift from our traditional way of instruction. In these days our job is not simply to teach the students but to make them largely creative by inspiring and leading them to explore their own world so as to be professionally sound in future.

Different publications like the leading dailies of Nepal inspire our young learners for their write-ups. Once a week, they have allocated the supplements entitled ‘Classroom’ in The Kathmandu Post, ‘The School Times’ in The Himalayan Times, and ‘Kid’s Corner’ in The Republica. It is to explore their written creativity via different publications. Similarly, for other skills, elocution, extempore, a webinar can be the options. Why don’t we practice them? Why have we teachers remained detached from this sphere? How many of us have helped the children to publish their write-ups or just inspired them to write? Probably many of us have been stuck with the fixed and rigid curriculum and killed the creative power of the children. Writing needs reading, and reading can enable the students to unleash something new but we assume we are unaware of it for long. This is high time we analyzed and knew this fact to have a giant shift in our instruction.

Learner or learning-centered instruction

For so long, we advocated for the learner-centered instruction treating learner as its focal point. I personally believe that it is faulty to focus merely on learners. We maintained the teacher as a facilitator, guide, mediator and any more terms added while opting for learner-centered but in the meantime, we did not deal ‘how’ and ‘why’ aspects to a large extent which is subtly dealing with learning-centered instruction. Learning-centered means focusing on process and product both. The process leads to the product; therefore, the process has to be taken on board. How can learning be bettered? Why has it to be bettered? These have to be considered.

The learner is just a shape that gets molded as per the content that is exposed to him. It’s all learning that has a big role in him to get molded. For this the teacher too has to think more seriously with a kind of novelty. Again here comes creativity.

Creativity in instructors

George Bernard Shaw comes with these words: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” It’s sure the instructor should come the with ‘why-not?’ factor to explore much and bring newness. The ‘why’ factor makes us seek the things that they are in existence and it is simply knowing, and the ‘why-not’ factor makes us explore the things beyond knowing the things in existence. It means walking past knowing to the world of exploration.

In language teaching we can explore the new world and make our students explore much. More practically, it can be assisted with the different cyber means.

a. Online Virtual Classroom

Online virtual classrooms break away from the narrow confinement of formal classroom setting and invite both teacher and students for the discussion of the issues that is raised there. The discussion chain in the virtual classroom demands the learners to be more creative and critical which ultimately makes the learners and their writing adopt reformation.

There are so many online virtual classrooms, out of which to me the best ever I have used is www.nicenet.org. Once the account is opened, we receive a class key which is to be distributed to our students. With a help of class key they enter their class and take part in conferencing. This conferencing is basically used to get a discussion thread on any issue. The instructor posts a question and the learners comment or answer the particular question. They also comment on their friends’ answers along with their feedback which demands their critical voyage. The instructor is always with them, and he comments upon students’ answers if needed. This ultimately teaches students to have a feeling of respect as they are required to make some positive remarks on their friends’ writing in a discussion thread.

Conferencing, link sharing, having a class schedule and a list of students are the features of an online virtual class. It’s effective for all the levels from teen to adult learners.

b. Blogging

A blog is an electronic platform where we can post any document that can be reached out to anyone. It is more a free and mini-website with a fixed template. Depending upon the instructor’s need, you can create either a class blog, project blog, teacher’s blog or student’s blog which are for different purposes. To me, class blog and teacher’s blog are so much useful in the field of ELT as the class blog helps us to post our issues of the entire class and similarly, the teacher’s blog supports the teachers to provide notes, slides and hand-outs to his students.

Project blogs at times, can be useful to engage learners in developing projects on some sites . It will be more like getting discussion threads as done in Nicenet but for a different purpose. We can also appoint students themselves as editors and subeditors to post their friends’ issues and ask other non-editors to make their comments. www.eblogger.com, www.wordpress.com and www.weebly.com are the best blogging sites used so far.

c. Academic Project: A webquest

Academic project can be assigned online using some tools like www.zunal.com and www.questgarden.com which has its fixed format called webquests. They comprises introduction at the very beginning followed by tasks, process, and evaluation. Since webquest is a well-arranged set, it seems a perfect tool for assigning some project works to our  students. The rubric will help them get the right instruction that can be placed on evaluation obtaining from www.rubistar4teachers.com.

d. Academic Search Engines and Social Bookmarking
Search Engines, the generic are Google, Bing, etc. but the more academic that I use for language instruction is www.twurdy.com which shows the readability of each link. We can simply share the link checking the readability level. It is shown with the symbol of color, like the deep orange is a link having a complex text whereas faint orange is a link having a simple text. Moreover, it shows the age-level too.

The social bookmarking site helps us to have a record of each link. It can be termed as our online library since we have a tag to every site, and make a stack. Even other users can have access to our bookmarking if we have made it public. The private sites cannot be browsed by others besides the owner. The best social bookmarking site is www.delcious.com.

These all are the sites that I have been using in my classroom. At times I myself feel that the classroom setting has entirely been changed due to its intervention. Now the classroom’s formal setting has been distorted and everything needs redefining and regeneration, a feature of postmodernism. A Creative voyage indeed!

*Sagun Shrestha is an English Faculty at St. Lawrence College. He is currently working in capacity of Program Assistant in English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal implemented by NELTA in support of American Embassy.

Creative Writing for Students and Teachers: Some Practical Ideas

 Alan Maley

UK

 

Writing creatively is a joyful component of learning a language in real life. Creativity, as creative writers have tasted, adds flavor to writing. Many more language teachers might have a rigid mindset because of having had to be bound to the framework provided by syllabi, textbooks, exams, etc. Anyway, they can be hopeful for the change they really wish by introducing at least some elements of creativity in their teaching.

 

There are a number of general points which will help make implementing creative writing activities more likely to succeed:

Try to establish a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere, where your students feel confident enough to let go and not to worry that their every move is being scrutinized for errors.

Ensure that the students’ work is ‘published’ in some way. This could be by simply keeping a large notice-board for displaying the students’ work. Other ways would include giving students a project for publishing work in a simple ring binder, or as part of a class magazine. Almost certainly, there will be students able and willing to set up a class website where work can be published. Performances, where students read or perform their work for other classes or even the whole school, are another way of making public what they have done.

Encourage students to discuss their work together in a frank but friendly manner. We get good ideas by bouncing them off other people. Help them establish an atmosphere where criticism is possible without causing offence.

Explain regularly how important accurate observation is, and encourage ‘noticing’ things. They also need to be encouraged to be curious and to follow up with ‘research’ – looking for more information, whether in books, on the Internet or by asking people.

Make it clear that what they do in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg. To get real benefit from these activities, they need to do a lot of work outside class hours. Most of what we learn, we do not learn in class. You can capitalize on that fact.

Do the activities regularly in order to get the best effects. Maybe once a week is a sensible frequency. If you leave too long between sessions, you have to keep going back to square one. That is a waste of time and energy.

The following are simply a sample of some possible activities:

Hello/Goodbye poems

  1. Tell the class that they are going to write a poem. It will have only two lines, and each line will have just two words. The first line will start with ‘Hello’, the second with ‘Goodbye’.
  2. Give students one or two examples:

 

Hello sunshine,

Goodbye rain.

 

Hello smoking,

Goodbye health.

 

Hello paper,

Goodbye trees.

 

Then, ask if they can think of any new ones. Note them on the board.

  1. Ask students to work in pairs (or alone if they prefer), and try to come up with at least two new poems. Allow 10 minutes for this task.

 

  1. Ask for their examples and put them on the board. Ask students to give feedback on each other’s examples.

 

  1. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them onto the class/school website.

The activity is very simple yet it does require students to call on their vocabulary store and to think about words that have a mutual or reciprocal relationship of meanings (smoking/health etc.) If you prefer, this can be used as a short warm-up for other activities.

Stem poems

  1. Explain to students that they will be writing some lines that will fit together into a poem. Then, write up the stem you intend to use. For example: I wish I could…

Elaborate further by eliciting samples of completed sentences, as in these examples:

I wish I could have an ice cream.

 I wish I could speak French.

 I wish I could visit Australia.

 

Then, ask each student to write three sentences following the same pattern.

  1. After about 10 minutes, ask students to work in groups of four and to share their sentences. They should choose six sentences that they think are most interesting and then decide what order to put them in to form a 6-line poem. There is no need for the poems to rhyme but if they do, fine. Lastly, tell them to add one final line, which is: But I can’t.
  2. Ask groups to read their poems aloud to the class. Can they suggest any ways to improve the poems?
  3. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class noticeboard or upload them onto the class/school website.
  4. You can decide on other stems to use in subsequent classes. For example:

 

Loneliness is…

 I used to… but now…

 I love the way…

 Nobody knows…

 Who knows…?

 I don’t know why…

 

It would be a good idea to choose stems that give practice in language points you are working on with the class at that time.

Acrostics

An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. The letters then each form the first letter of a word, and all the words are related to the meaning of the original word. For example:

Docile

Obedient

Growling

 

  1. Explain what an acrostic is and write up one or two examples on the board. Then, ask them to write an acrostic based on their own name or the name of someone they know well. The words they choose should somehow describe the person. For example, Vuthy:

 

 V Very

 U Unlikely

 T To

 H Help

 Y You

  1. Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them onto the class/school website.
  2. Ask students to write at least one more acrostic before the next class. This time, they can choose any word they like (it doesn’t have to be someone’s name). For example:

 

Lying

Everywhere –

Autumn

Falling.

 

Acrostics involve a kind of mental gymnastics that engages students in reactivating their vocabulary in an unusual way. Acrostics do not usually produce great poetry but they certainly exercise the linguistic imagination.

Acknowledgement: Some of the ideas were developed by Tan Bee Tin.

If you were …

  1. First you make copies of this outline:

If I were a fruit, I would be ….

 If I were a vegetable, I would be…

 If I were a tree, I would be…

 If I were a flower, I would be…

 If I were a fish, I would be…

 If I were a bird, I would be…

 If I were a book, I would be…

 If I were a song, I would be…

 If I were the weather, I would be…

 If I were a season, I would be…

 

Then distribute the sheets that you have prepared. Ask students to work individually for about 10 minutes, completing the outline of the poem with words they prefer. For example: If I were a fruit, I would be a grape.

  1. Let students share what they have written in groups of four. Then conduct a class discussion and go through the poems line-by-line, asking for examples of what they have written.

 

  1. Ask students to think of someone they like and to write the person’s name as the title of their poem. They then write a 12-line poem addressed to that person using the following format:

Line 1: describe the person as a kind of food.

Line 2: describe the person as weather

Line 3: describe the person as a tree

Line 4: describe the person as a time of day

Line 5: describe the person as some kind of transport

Line 6: describe the person as an article of clothing

Line 7: describe the person as part of a house

Line 8: describe the person as a flower

Line 9: describe the person as a kind of music/a sound

Line 10: describe the person as something to do with colour

Line 11: describe the person as an animal

The last line should be the same for everyone: ‘You are my friend’.

So, their poem would look something like this:

 

For Sharifa

You are mango ice-cream

You are a cool breeze on a hot day

You are a shady coconut palm

You are dawn

You are a sailing boat crossing the bay

You are my comfortable sandals

You are the sunny verandah

 You are jasmine

 You are a soft gamelan

 You are light blue

 You are a playful kitten

 You are my friend.

 

Metaphor poems

  1. Make copies of this list of words and phrases for use during the class:

Love an egg Hate a tooth brush Disappointment a vacuum cleaner Marriage a spoon Friendship a knife Hope a mirror Life a window Work a cup Time a banana

  1. Check that students know what a metaphor is – a form of direct comparison between two things. Give examples of metaphors in everyday life:

 

  • A blade of grass
  • A sharp frost
  • Spending time
  • Save time
  • Opening up a can of worms
  • She’s a snake in the grass
  • He clammed up
  • He shelled out
  • A wall of silence

In fact, everyday language is so full of metaphorical expressions that we hardly notice them. They have become an accepted way of speaking. Explain that poets make great use of metaphor to make their words more vivid and easier to visualise.

  1. Hand out the sheets. Tell students to write three metaphors by combining one item on the left with another on the right (students will have to join the words using ‘is’). They should not spend time thinking about the combinations. For example:
  • Life is a window.
  • Friendship is a knife.
  • Love is a vacuum cleaner.
  • Marriage is a banana
  • Hate is a mirror.

 

  1. Now, ask them to choose just one of their new metaphors. They should now write two more lines after the metaphor to explain what it means. For example:

Marriage is a banana:

 when you’ve eaten the fruit,

 only the skin is left.

 

 Hate is a mirror:

 it reflects back

 on the one who hates.

 

Tell students not to use ‘because’ as it is unnecessary, and to keep the lines short.

  1. Ask students to share their metaphor poems with the class. Students should then make an illustrated display of their work. Acknowledgement: This idea is adapted from Jane Spiro’s brilliant book, Creative Poetry Writing (OUP)

Now we can have a good start to enjoy learning some ‘real’ language.  Creative writing promotes self-motivation and makes language teaching and learning effortless. You are always curious to find out something and encounter new things and learn them willingly. How interesting this can be! Good luck and happy writing!

Motivation Through Writing

Myrtis (Doucey) Mixon, Ed. D.

University of San Francisco

 

How can we motivate our students to be excited about their classes? One way is to tell them stories. Another way is to ask them to write stories.

 

Stories educate, enrich, and entertain everyone.  Find easy stories in English.  But for now, I will whet your appetite by sending you two of the stories that will be published in the forthcoming book of stories called “Untold Tales” written  by English ACCESS Microscholarship Students in Nepal, These are the stories that they wrote at the winter camp in 2013 in Pokhara.

 

These anecdotes and tales of exprience provide an enjoyable opportunity to increase vocabulary, reading comprehension, listening and speaking and, ultimately, writing. The stories and exercises together are a whole-language anthology designed to improve communication skills. These stories include exercises that employ the cooperative/collaborative learning philosophy and address multiple learning styles.

 

Using stories is a magical way to teach, effective at any age.  Here’s a summary of how stories aid language-learning:

  • provide motivation for reading
  • heighten listening skills
  • develop speaking skills
  • use cooperative learning strategies
  • foster creative language growth
  • provide content-based material
  • Serve as model for further writing

All learners, from babies to grandmothers, learn better with stories; they are energizers. Integrating stories as an adjunct to the teacher’s repertoire in the classroom setting is not only simple, but makes perfect sense.  We hope you use these stories to open new worlds of content and learning possibilities.  We also hope they serve as a springboard to motivating your own students to write stories.

 

Enjoy the stories. If you want some more, write to me at “myrtis101@mac.com” and I will send you more. These two are from Kathmandu and Gorkha, but I have many  others, some from Butwal and Birgunj.

 

My Story

 

One early morning, on my way to temple, I saw sparkling eyes in ragged clothes.  I saw their creative hands and bright smiles.  These children are strangers to me but no different from our own children whom we always love and support.

 

Two days later, I visited the prison of Sundhara, Kathmandu, for my class in social work.  I saw many such faces who reside in prisons alongside their incarcerated parents and I became sad.  These children have done nothing wrong.  They are simply caught up in something they don’t understand.

 

I couldn’t forget them so a few months later, along with some friends, we opened up a child daycare centre in a rented house.  My parents were not happy and they told me to leave it.  However, I was determined to take those children out of prison and look after them and educate them for the future.

 

When I started this, I was 21, and nobody believed in me.  People thought I was crazy.  They laughed at me.

 

After two years, in 2005, I established The Butterfly Home for the children.  Then, I travelled to many other places, speaking with jailers, parents and authorities, preparing to bring children out of prison.  My own parents now understood and helped me.  We were so touched by the children’s plight, that they are forced to live with their impoverished, incarcerated parents because there is no one to look after them on the outside.

 

It has been eight years since I began gathering the children from Nepali prisons and bringing them to live in a centre in the capital, Kathmandu, providing them not only with food and shelter, but also education and motherly love.  I am happy to be recognized as their mamu.  Now I have become the second Nepali woman to win the 2012 CNN Hero Award at the star-studded award ceremony held in Los Angeles.  But still 80 children are living in prison and I am going to take them out of the prison soon.

 

My name is Puspa Basnet and children are my hope.  I believe the world is their place where they can carve their future with their own hands.

Prashanna Mahat, 15

Kathmandu

 

Exercises

Understanding the Story

How did Puspa Basnet get involved with helping the children?

 

Vocabulary

sparkling    reside    incarcerated         determined   plight    impoverished  carved

1. The stars were ______________________________________________ in the sky.

2. The children’s parents  are __________________________________ in the prisons.

3. The children have nowhere to ____________________________ out of the prisons.

4. Puspa Basnet was _______________________ to get the children out of the prisons.

5. Many people were affected by the ______________________ of these poor children.

6. To make something out of something can be to ____________________________ it.

7. The parents in the prison have no money; they are __________________________ .

 

Now you Talk

1. What would it be like to be one of those children living in the prison?

2. Where do they go to school?

3. Is there a way you could help these children?

 

Now you Create

1. Write a letter to the mayor of your town asking for help.

2. Draw a cartoon strip about this problem.

 

Role Play

1. Mother in prison, her son: talking about his going to school.

2. That son, another student: talking about where he lives.

3. Two Girls who live with parents in prison: talking about their lives.

4. Two guards in prison: planning to help the children

5. Puspa Basnet, mayor of town: talking about helping more children.

 

 

 

The Kidnappers

 

This is a true story that happened in Dada Gaun village near Laxmi bazaar in 2012.

 

One Saturday, Rina and Rehan, a brother and sister asked their  parents if they could go to the park.  Their parents said, “Please, go safely.  There are so many bad people in the road.”

 

Rina said, “Don’t worry.  We will be careful.”  They crossed one town where many busses went here and there.  They went to the park.  While they were walking on the road, a micro bus stopped just beside them.  The door opened and a man jumped out, grabbed them both and put them in the micro bus.

 

They were taken to the jungle which is near the park.  They were so afraid and they cried a lot.  Many hours went by.  The kidnapper went near Rina and laughed. Rina asked, “Why are you laughing?”

 

The kidnapper said, “You are my one corore rupees.  That is the ransom we will get from your parents.  Give me your phone number.  But Rina didn’t give it to him.  He slapped her and said, “If you don’t give me your father’s phone number, I will kill you right now.”

 

Rina was afraid of him and gave the number.  Meanwhile, the children’s parents were worried when they didn’t come home by evening time.  Then their mobile phone rang.  The kidnapper demanded one corore rupees as a ransom.  The kidnapper said to him, “If you don’t give me the ransom money, you will see your children’s dead bodies.”

Hearing this, the father became more afraid.  Then the father thought of a trick.  “Where are you?”  asked Rina’s father.  The kidnapper said, “I am in the jungle near the park.”

 

While the father kept talking to the kidnapper, the mother called the police station and said,  “Please save my children.  They have been kidnapped.  They are in the jungle near the park.  The kidnapper demands one corore rupees as ransom.  I don’t have even thousands.”

 

The police hurried and drove very quickly.  They stopped the car in the park and walked into the jungle.  They surrounded the microbus and caught the kidnapper.  The children were saved.

 

Their parents gave many thanks to the police.  They told the police not to let the kidnapper free because if he is free he would kidnap other children.  After that he was put into the jail for his whole life.

 

Kasam Ale,  15

Gorkha

 

Exercises

Understanding the Story

What is a moral for this story?

 

Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks of the summary with the words below.

ransom     surrounded      kidnappers     tricked

microbus     worried      careful      grabbed

 

The children wanted to go to the park.  Their parents were __________________ They said, “Be very _________________ .  While the children were walking, a _________________ stopped and a man jumped out and _______________________ them.  The men were __________________________.  They demanded  a _____________________ .  The father ________________  the bad men.  The police ____________ the kidnappers.

 

Now You Talk

1. What would you do if a kidnapper grabbed you?

2. How can you solve a crime with a mobile phone?

 

Now You Create

1. Draw a picture of the kidnappers.

2. Write another ending to this story.

 

Role Play:

1. Mother, girl: warning about bad people.

2. Girl, kidnapper: he asks for her phone number.

3. Sister, brother: planning how to get away from kidnappers

4. Father, police: planning to catch kidnappers.

5. Mother, girl: talking about their capture.

Interaction in English language classrooms to enhance students’ language learning

Chura Bahadur Thapa & Angel M. Y. Lin *

Introduction

EFL contexts like Nepal seldom provide students with opportunities for authentic communication in English. Therefore, deliberate ‘interaction in the classrooms’ is emerging as one of the leading conventions to enhance the students’ linguistic resources as well as equipping them with appropriate skills for communication. The major intent of this entry is to share a teacher’s insider experiences of developing interactions in an ESL classroom in Hong Kong while fully recognizing that the contextual differences between Hong Kong and Nepal will necessitate teachers’ own creative adaptation or re-invention of whatever tips shared from elsewhere. We shall, first of all, present the concept of interaction from sociocultural perspectives and discuss various challenges for the front-line EFL teachers to plan and implement lessons that incorporate interactions in ESL or EFL classrooms. Then, insider experiences of the first author of this entry in overcoming those challenges are shared. Assuming that the textbooks and teaching materials play a vital role to promote and facilitate the interactions in classrooms, a sample activity designed for the Secondary Two (Class 8) ESL students in Hong Kong is also included and discussed.

Interaction in language classrooms

Classroom interaction has been considered one of the most important pedagogical research topics in language classrooms in recent decades, mostly due to the influence of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotskian sociocultural theory (Hall & Walsh, 2002) views the act of language learning as a social activity in which children build their knowledge through the help and scaffolding of more knowledgeable peers or teachers. Interactions in language classrooms are important social activities for students through which they not only construct knowledge, but also build confidence and identity as competent language users (Luk & Lin, 2007). In an in-depth ethnographic study of teacher-student interactions in Hong Kong, Luk and Lin (2007) found out that students develop multiple identities through their classroom interactions with their language teachers. Although the study took place in an ESL classroom where native English language teachers are available, Luk and Lin (2007:188) present a telling story about how students negotiate identity and cultural resources, which are “translated into non-institutionally sanctioned language practices and identities”. Perhaps, the social knowledge students bring into the classrooms might be those “non-institutional language practices”, which schools and teachers are supposed to build on in order to enhance their learning.

Interaction in the classroom refers to the conversation between teachers and students, as well as among the students, in which active participation and learning of the students becomes vital. Conversations are part of the sociocultural activities through which students construct knowledge collaboratively. Conversations between and among various parties in the classroom have been referred to as educational talk (Mercer and Dawes, 2008) or “exploratory talk” and “presentational talk” (Barnes, 2008:5). Presentational talk is the one-way lecture conducted by the teachers in the classroom, mostly featured in Nepalese EFL contexts, which contributes little to encouraging and engaging students in a communicative dialogue. Exploratory talk is a purposeful conversation, often deliberately designed by teachers, which provide opportunities to students to engage in “hesitant, broken, and full of deadend” conversations enabling them to “try out new ideas, to hear how they sound, to see what others make of them, to arrange information and ideas into different patterns” (Barnes, 2008:5). Given the limited linguistic resources the EFL students possess in their school years in EFL contexts like Nepal, these hesitant, broken and deadend conversations could be developed into spontaneous conversational skills. When students engage in interactions, they produce “symmetric dialogic context” (Mercer & Dawes, 2008:66) where everyone can participate, get respected and get the decisions made jointly. Students’ participation in interactions, therefore, can help them enrich their linguistic resources and build their confidence to communicate with others in English.

Designing interaction: challenges and ways ahead

When I started teaching English in a Hong Kong school, I noticed that students in Hong Kong like to talk a lot. These talks are often characterized as responses to the multiple stimuli such as various gadgets and social media. To realize the importance of students’ talks in their knowledge building was a paradigm shift in me, as my high school days in Nepal still remind me of the very quiet classrooms where often only the teachers talked. The process of designing lessons with meaningful interactions in my ESL classroom in Hong Kong posed several challenges such as incorporating various forms of interactions, achieving the lesson goals through such interactions, participation of students in meaningful interactions, and making sure that all the students engage in conversations and learn from the teachers as well as from themselves.

Secondly, of course students’ varying language abilities, topics that generated the conversations among them and matched their abilities presented a micro level challenges in managing interactions. Students in my class came from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and I believed that they brought with them their own unique knowledge base. Their varying English language ability might sound simple to some or unnoticeable to others, but addressing them in the classroom would very much influence how they view themselves and others (Luk & Lin, 2007) and make them feel how their cultural and linguistic knowledge base could be important in furthering their academic journey.

To overcome the underlined challenges, I took a closer look at other teachers’ practices and suggestions by researchers (Jong & Hawley, 1995). I found Jong and Hawley’s (1995) suggestions particularly setting up group roles, teacher monitoring and evaluation, peer evaluation, appropriate group size and configuration quite useful. Assigning group roles and group configurations could be thought during the planning stage. Teacher monitoring should be conducted at the while-teaching stage, and teacher and peer evaluations are elements to be incorporated at the post-teaching stage. I often incorporated three stages of interactions in my lessons.

  1. Interaction of the students with the teacher (Teacher Student Whole-Class Interaction): I often asked students to respond to a certain question related to a emerging topic or a topic that was already taught as part of the whole-class interactions. For the responses, students were randomly selected based on their ability, seating arrangements, gender and cultural groups to make sure that they all get represented in the interaction process.
  2. Pair Interaction (Interaction with their peers sitting together or next to them): This interaction often took place during the pre-teaching stage, for example to activate their schema on a topic. As part of assigning group roles, students were usually asked to interact with their partners on a topic given by the teacher and present it to the whole class.
  3. Group Interaction (Groups of 4-5 students): This form of interaction often took place during the while-teaching stage. After students read a text, for example in a reading lesson, they could pick up a concept for discussion. Their discussion could dwell on expanding the practical meaning of the concept, finding solution to a problem or bring up a creative issue out of the topic. Based on Jong and Hawley’s (1995) suggestions, students’ roles were often divided based on the nature of the topic such as a note taker, a facilitator, a presenter, and so on. Assigning these roles was crucial to prevent the students to digress from discussion their topics or and contribute meaningfully in the whole learning process.

The idea of teacher monitoring took place during the process of pair or group interactions. Teachers could evaluate the extent and forms of interactions students conducted during the process, and at the same time, provide feedback and support to the weaker students. I often walked around the class and monitored the students’ interactions to make sure that they are up to the tasks and are supported when in need.

Timing the interactions was another important aspect handling the students’ conversations purposefully and meaningfully. I often gave the students 5-10 minutes to interact among themselves and prepare a presentation poster or speech. The timing depended on the topic’s extent of difficulty and students’ ability as well.

Students were often asked to present the outcome of their interaction to the whole class in poster or speech forms. In order to ensure every students’ participation, they were trained and assigned with roles to make contributions individually even during group presentations. This was at this stage that the teacher and peer evaluation took place. I often adopted a range of techniques to evaluate students’ performances such as asking students to fill in an evaluation rubric or asking students about their peers’ performances and grade them on the board. Sometimes this process generated heated debates and quarreling, friendly though; among the students because they thought that some of their peers were not evaluating them fairly.

Last, but not the least, I also created teaching materials and worksheets conducive to the diversity of the students particularly in order to scaffold on their linguistic and cultural resources. Textbooks nowadays are found incorporating activities for some forms of interactions, but they often become irrelevant in the classrooms because these textbooks cannot address the range of students’ ability levels, skill levels and their cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Most textbooks in Hong Kong, for example, incorporate elements of Chinese and Christian festivals and ask the students to interact on that. However, students from Nepal, Pakistan, India, or Sri-Lanka in Hong Kong would not be able to use their cultural resources and construct knowledge from the interactions. Although English language textbooks in Hong Kong are considered to be the most advanced resources for ESL students, modifications often needed to suit to my students’ needs. These changes sometimes also needed to address the students’ willingness and skills to spontaneously engage in interactions. For example, some students in my class were very poor in English and found it hard to even properly construct questions to ask their friends, while others were at a native English speaker’ level.

Taking these questions into consideration, we present an activity (Activity 1) that can potentially be used to promote pair interactions in an EFL classroom. This activity is a modified activity from a secondary two (Class 8) English language textbook in Hong Kong, which is believed to suit students with moderate English ability. The moderate language ability in this context is the students’ ability to use connectives and quantifiers in authentic situations. This activity incorporates multicultural elements in the context of Nepal as it contains pictures of various Nepali festivals as well as Western festivals such as Christmas. Students can ask their peers about their likes or dislikes and jot down their answers to present to the class. Phrases given in the boxes are meant to cater for learner diversity. For higher proficiency students, this activity can be presented in a different way to suit their levels.

___________________________________________________________________________

Activity 1:

Worksheet A

1. Study the pictures in the boxes in pairs. Ask questions to your friend about items that he/she prefers or doesn’t prefer more (or less) and why. Write your friend’s responses in the checklist at the bottom.

You may begin like this: Which festivals do you like more/less/most/least? Why?

 Publication1………………………………………………………………………..

Check List

2. Write your friend’s answers below. You may need to present it to the class.

* My friend likes ___________________________ more, because ______________

* My friend likes __________________________less, because _________________

______________________________________________________________________

* He/She likes ___________________________ the most, because _____________

______________________________________________________________________

* My friend likes ___________ the least, because __________________________

Conclusion

This entry presented the concept of interaction from a sociocultural perspective sharing the first author’s teaching experiences in a Hong Kong school. The sharing included the challenges as well as possible strategies a teacher might adopt to devise, implement and evaluate interactions in an EFL classroom. The sharing could present a model for EFL teachers to choose from many other pedagogical options in order to enhance the students’ English language learning. The activity presented in this entry is only one example of hundreds of such possible activities. The original activity might not be suitable to adopt exactly in Nepalese EFL classes, as there are diversities in terms of language, culture, students’ abilities as well as available resources based on geography, developmental level and proximity to urban life. Teachers need to bear in mind that they understand their students the best and they need to know how students can best interact and learn the language in the classroom.

*About the Authors:

1- Mr. Chura Bahadur Thapa is a PhD Student in the Faculty of Education at The University of Hong Kong. He was an English language teacher in a local college in Hong Kong for almost 7 years before joining HKU as a postgraduate student. He is currently researching the language learning and motivation of ethnic minority students in Hong Kong. His other research interests include- education of ethnic minorities, linguistic and cultural identity, intercultural communication and citizenship education. He can be reached at chura@hku.hk

2- Dr. Angel Lin received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Canada. She is an Associate Professor of English Language Education at the University of Hong Kong.  Well-respected for her versatile interdisciplinary scholarship in language and identity studies, bilingual education and youth cultural studies. she has published six research books and over eighty research articles. She can be reached at angellin@hku.hk.

REFERENCES

Barnes, D. (2008). Exploratory talk for learning. Exploring talk in schools. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: SAGE, 1-15.

Hall, J.K. & Walsh, M. (2002). Teacher-student interaction and language learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 22, 186-203.

Jong, C.D. & Hawley, J. (1995). Making cooperative learning groups work. Middle School Journal, 26 (4), 45-48.

Luk, J.C.M. & Lin, A.M.Y. (2007). Classroom interactions as cross-cultural encounters. Native speakers in EFL classrooms. Mahwah, New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Mercer, N. & Dawes, L. (2008). The value of exploratory talk. In Mercer, N. & Hodgkinson, S. (Eds.). Exploring talk in schools. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: SAGE, 55-72.

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