Ah, these creative people…

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Unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested.

These are some of the most recurring words on my report cards every semester from kindergarten until high school.

I was that one student who asks too much, gets bored too easily, has short attention span and resides on the edge of weirdness. Thus, most of my teachers simply did not know how to handle me.

I was an artistic kid who broke out in song in the middle of class, doodled my whole notebook to the point there was little space for actual note-taking and was famous for impersonating colleagues and teachers. And did I mention the nonstop singing?

So how come I survived school and became a scholar wannabe myself? Through art.

It took me years and more that few visits to the educational psychologist to figure out that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. My head was different. Instead of dealing with one thing at a time, my head was a constant web browser with 15 tabs open! And I was using them all at once!

As soon as I figured that out, a revolution came about: instead of forcing myself to focus on one task for quite some time as my teachers instructed me to do, I started having 4 or 5 tasks in front of me at the same time. I would tackle them in parts, shifting from one to another while intercalating them with doodling, singing, dancing or fiction writing. It took me a little longer, but I started nailing all of my assignments and actually being able to do them all.

Highly creative people are wired that way because creativity is nothing but the connection of previously conceived ideas that were separated, and now are confronted. So my highly creative brain is way more interested in connecting ideas than focusing in acquiring new ones. And by giving it time and space to create between input sessions, it became easier and easier to focus during those periods.

From this very personal experience I have noticed that there are so many different learning styles and I, as a teacher, should try to embrace and celebrate these differences in the classroom. However, it is not unusual to hear teachers complaining about fidgety students in their classrooms. So how can we tackle that situation, then?

Ways to cater for these highly creative beings are: give them space to breathe and process all the information that they are coping with both external and internally; prepare activities that promote critical thinking or a connection between concepts; include art in your classroom, in the form of drawings, fiction writing, poetry writing, dancing/movement or drama games.

I’m sure that after a little Drama, the unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested humans in your class will give you no drama at all.

IATEFL 2015 – Summarized inspirations

Dear ESL Drama Gamers, first of all I am so sorry for my absence these past two weeks. I nearly drowned in information from IATEFL, but I survived! I hope you like the post today!

Lots of artsy love,

ESL Drama Queen


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Immersed in the spring British mists, a tsunami of all things TESOL made its way into Manchester, where thousands of brave participants, determined to make it to shore a little more knowledgeable,  did their best to keep swimming through the vast waters they saw upon arrival: hundreds of talks, workshops and plenaries to choose from.

As yours truly had a clear objective, all events to do with arts, games and creativity were soon highlighted on the programme and there I went, swimming up the main stream.

Some talks and workshops on the use of art and theatre in the classroom were inspiring and innovative, others were targeted to newcomers in the art of using art and were therefore more basic. Both useful though, since there is an audience for each one of them.

Today I start a series of posts about my favourite talks and workshops throughout the four days of IATEFL 2015 Annual Conference and my personal comments about each of them.

Some of the quotes  were heard at events specifically about arts, some of them at talks that had completely different topics. Despite being heterogenous, all of them are relevant to one who is eager to include drama games in ELT in one way or another, for transdisciplinary approaches require transdisciplinary theoretical basis.

A few of them may seem obvious, however I believe that the strongest epiphany one can have is truly noticing for the first time what the eyes failed to see for so long.

I hope they can be as useful and inspiring to you as they were to me. And may you all sail through the rough yet fulfilling, known yet fairly unexplored waters of using art, theatre and creativity in ELT.


Frozen in thought? How we think and and what we do in ELT

Donald Freeman

 

Bio: Donald Freeman is a professor at the School of Education, University of Michigan. For 25 years, he was on the graduate faculty at the School for International Training, where he chaired the Department of Language Teacher Education, and founded and directed the Center for Teacher Education, Training and Research. He is author of several books on language teacher education. He is senior consulting editor on ELTeach and editor of the professional development series, TeacherSource. Freeman has been president of TESOL, and a member the International Advisory Council for Cambridge English.

 

 

“Rethink proficiency as plural proficiencies”

ESLDramaQueen: Once the teacher acknowledges proficiency as plural, the lesson plan can be prepared bearing in mind multiple goals for multiple proficiencies, one of them being body language. Here, the teacher can choose to attach a drama game to his/her plan to include a kinaesthetic element to the lesson.

“Strange things happen to language when it goes to school”

ESLDramaQueen: The gap between real-life language, whether written or spoken, and the language present in most classrooms is quite noticeable. Especially nowadays that students have access to all kinds of language via internet (social media, search engines, etc.). Drama games and Theatre in general can be a way to utilize the language students really feel genuine and relevant in the classroom while still covering the syllabus.

“Teachers should connect curriculum to what’s going on in the classroom”

ESLDramaQueen: It is crucial that teachers be cautious neither to follow the materials blindly without taking into consideration the real needs of the group nor to propose super fun activities that have absolutely nothing to do with the teaching point planned for that class. A balance between curriculum and relevance should be pursued and all games should have a clear purpose.

“Teaching is central, but we don’t have to think about it in the same way”

ESLDramaQueen: The role of the teacher as a fundamental part in the learning process may be the same in most contexts, however the methods and approaches this teacher chooses to use in order to facilitate learning is completely up to him/her. It depends on the teacher’s experience, knowledge, culture, personality and interests.


The artsy side of teaching

Radmila Popovic

Bio: Radmila Popovic is currently a Senior Education Specialist (TESOL) at World Learning in Washington DC. She was an assistant professor in ETL Methodology at the University of Belgrade and also is a past president of ELTA Serbia. She has worked for many years with teacher training and is now researching the intersections between art and science in ELT.

 

“It’s hard to define if teaching is more of an art or a science. Art derives from play, while science is methodology. There is no ONE way of doing anything.”

ESLDramaQueen: The discussion about the nature of teaching, if it should be more play-oriented or method-oriented, is a vast and unfinished one. My personal view on the matter is that when it comes to dichotomies, between the extremities there are tons of shades of grey to be explored, each one with a specific outcome and possibly beneficial to a certain audience.

“Leonardo Da Vinci = science plus art / Tesla = science with creativity”

ESLDramaQueen: It could be a good idea for both teacher training and ELT in general to introduce the work and mind frame of DaVinci and Tesla, to warm teachers and students to the idea of using art and science in the classroom (play and method). Maybe through the discussion and application of some of the concepts and praxis present in the body of work of these two artist-scientists, the idea of using art in the classroom can be taken more seriously, instead of being viewed as just extra fun activities for when teachers have time on their hands.

“Art is the difference between technically competent and excellent teachers”

ESLDramaQueen: Teachers that dare break away from the shackles of method from time to time in order to meet the expectations or cater for the needs of the students are the ones on the way to excellency, in my point of view. Improvisation, instinct, translation skills between what students express and what they really mean, ability to summarise, rephrase and symbolise language in order to convey a clearer message to students and also foster these abilities in students: all these can be developed and enhanced by being exposed to art.

“Teacher trainers should nurture not only technical development, but excellence as well”

ESLDramaQueen: Art can be a tool in teacher training to help trainees develop their skills. Instead of just flooding them with information about methodology and asking them to prepare and observe lessons, trainings could also include personal and emotional development through drama games or art projects in general.

“How can art be transplanted into teacher training?

Ask your trainees: If you were an artist/scientist, what kind would you be? Why? Which of these characteristics can be applied to the kind of teacher you want to be?

Tap associative, intuitive and unconscious sources

Give prompts: the more specific the better to generate content

Propose to your trainees: Imagine the opposite of your favourite teaching activity. Describe it and justify why it is bad teaching practice.

Propose the ‘Bad-teaching machine project’:Imagine a machine that signals every time bad teaching is practiced. Which are the signals the machine would read in the classroom in order to identify bad teaching? What kind of signal and to whom would the machine emit?

Play the ‘weather+definitions=metaphor’game: Trainer / Teacher provides some specific vocabulary to be worked on. Trainees / Students have to use weather terms to create a metaphor for the definition of that piece of vocabulary. (E.g. Term: On the spot correction; Metaphor: On the spot correction has to be monitored in order not to become a hailstorm of mistakes crashing on students’ heads.)”

Suggestions:

Book: Teaching artist handbook (2013, Jaffe, Cox and Barniskis)

Article: Creativity in the Classroom (2005, Cameron)

 


 

Well, these were the two first IATEFL 2015 events to be reported here on ESL Drama Queen.

Stay tuned for more to come the next few days.

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And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!!