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.
All teachers expect their students to be creative– creative in thinking, writing, problem-solving and in any other activities. They often criticize their students for being copycat, dull and uncreative, but what about students’ expectations? Don’t you think they too expect their teachers to be creative? Therefore, before commenting on students’ creativity, we need to ask ourselves– how creative are we? If we pause a few minutes and reflect on our everyday classes, activities we do, materials we use, techniques we adopt, interaction and involvement of students we notice, we can judge ourselves to what extent are we creative.
Now let’s imagine how a student judges his teachers and their teaching. My teacher is a boring human. He enters the class with a frown in his face. First and foremost, he asks all of us to show our home assignment. Then if the work is undone, he starts yelling or even beating sometimes. All of us get terrified and stressed. How can we ever be motivated in classroom activities in such mood? You can imagine for yourself. The teacher however continues his teaching with the same old type of reading and writing activities. Finally, when the bell goes off, he assigns us some homework but the problem is that half of the students do not listen to him as they are busy packing their stuff and get ready for the next period. This is how our lesson goes every day. There is nothing new and interesting. The funny thing is that the teacher uses the same terms and gestures every day and we all know what is going to be his next word and expression.
This is how our students evaluate us and our teaching. Obviously, we are not cheating. We are teaching with utmost honesty. However, what really matters is how we teach them. Therefore, we need to reflect on our everyday classroom practices and make a creative intervention in order to make teaching-learning effective and pleasant. There should be a creative modification in teaching learning activities. We are expert in the subject we teach and more or less creative too. The only thing is we need to wake up our creative consciousness. We need some changes in our classroom practices. For instance, we can start our class with some new and short warming up activities. Sometimes we can present a lesson by using simple work sheets or materials and ask students to close their textbooks. You might have noticed how happy students look, when they are asked to close their textbooks. In the same way, it is always not necessary to go with the same fixed seating arrangement; we can make changes if required. Similarly, we can sometimes ask students to make a simple group presentation in the class. We can sort out some topics from the syllabus or textbook, then we can ask them to explore more ideas, prepare a chart paper, including content and pictures and present it to the class. This makes them involved actively in the activities as they need to study, explore and present. They enjoy doing such kinds of task as long as you can motivate them. In the same way, while doing reading activities they can sometimes be asked to make some short questions and ask each other. Not only that, they can also be involved in the activities of studying each other’s written work and correcting mistakes. Similarly, we can involve them in other different types of problem-solving activities as per the objectives of the lesson.
Besides, we can modify the usual writing tasks with a creative touch. For instance, if we are teaching them ‘describing people’, it is not necessary to ask them to describe their family member or friends, whereas we can ask them to describe their favorite player, actor or actress, singer and any other popular people. I think this adds interest to the activity. In the same way, if we are teaching them informal letter writing, we can ask them to write a letter to God or Prime Minister, explaining their wishes or problems. I think such tasks motivate them and they enjoy doing them too. We can devise plenty of such activities with a creative modification. All we need is creative consciousness. We need to think a bit differently in order to add interesting factors to the activities making sure the objectives of the lesson are achieved.
It is said that the only thing that remains constant is change. Therefore, we should not hesitate to bring creative changes in our teaching learning process. We need to bring changes in the way we start our classes, the way we do the activities, the materials we use, the techniques we apply, the types of questions we ask, the way we handle the classroom problems, the types of homework we assign, the types test we administer and so on. On top of that we need to use our skill and imagination in the activities we develop to make them effective and interesting. Students these days are smart and creative so the only choice left for teachers is to be smart and creative. Otherwise, we will remain outdated.
Editor, ELT Choutari,
Teacher, GEMS, Dhapakhel