Creativity in the classroom

Encouraging creativity and developing creative skills is important in any classroom. And this goes for the English language classroom too, whatever the age or ability of the learners. But this is all very well to say but what does it mean in practice?

Let’s start with defining what we mean by creativity, let’s have a look at a couple of dictionaries:

The on-line Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines creativity as

the ability to use skill and imagination to produce something new or to produce art; the act of doing this

Macmillan’s definition of creativity is

the ability to create new ideas of things using your imagination

Both definitions agree that creativity is an ability, that it requires the use of your imagination and that the process leads to something new. Without context this idea of something new seems to be quite big and scary. But I think that encouraging creativity doesn’t have to be like that. In order to develop creativity in our language students we need activities and tasks that provide a framework yet gives them freedom, that demand focus and allow space for feedback, but are also fun.


Most of us do not write stories in our mother tongue, so we cannot expect it of students. There is no sense in sitting them down and saying “Write a story”. Most will fail. But we all have the ability to respond to questions and shape a story in our heads from a few prompts. Providing a framework for students to work with gives them the chance to be creative in the gaps.


By this I mean that the framework should not be too restrictive. That there is not always just one ‘right’ answer because that would then stifle creativity. And that we should not judge their creativity but focus on the language they are using to express this (though with younger learners there might be issues of appropriacy to address).


A task should have an aim, that might be for students to use some target language, improve writing skills or work on spoken fluency. And the teacher should know what the aim of the task is so the right framework can be provided that gives students the freedom to express themselves. And also so the teacher can provide worthwhile…


When an activity or task is primarily a creative one, as opposed to one that demands critical thinking for example, then I would argue that feedback needs to be given on two levels. There needs to be a response to the creative input the learner has put into the task, and in most cases this should be non-judgemental. It can also be a great source of student-led interaction and can be extremely motivating. There should also be feedback on the students’ language or skills performance.


Creative tasks, as we saw from the definitions, require imagination. And as the late, great Terry Pratchett said “Imagination, not intelligence, made us human.”


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Perilous Poetry? No Problem!

In Perilous Poetry? No Problem! Petra proved that poetry is perfect for pupils. Ok, enough alliteration.

In her session Petra showed some great activities to get your students interested in both the poem itself and the language. Using poems in class doesn’t need to be tedious and can awaken the creativity in your students.

Perilous Poetry

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Dealing with disturbances

At the end of every conference we ask for  feedback from the delegates, and at the end of every conference the delegates tell us how much they love coming, and they also say how sad they are that they couldn’t go to all of the sessions. One suggestion that comes up is running the sessions twice. Normally we don’t do this as we want to have as many different sessions appealing to as many different types of teacher as we can. But this time we tried something out and some of the sessions were repeated, and some of the presenters did two different sessions.

Dave falls into this latter category. His first session Dealing with disturbances suggested a framework for self-reflection or sharing problems that happen in class. SPORE is a blending of two management and mentoring tools and helps us decide the best way to handle disturbances when we have time to think about it rather than in the classroom when we are making split-second decisions.

Dealing with disturbances

Everybody was laughing as they suggested how Karel Gott could look better than he already does

Everybody was laughing as they suggested how Karel Gott could look better than he already does


After lunch, once everyone was nice and full,  Dave told delegates  How to eat an elephant (the elephant is a metaphor for the English language, not a real elephant!). Unfortunately there isn’t a handout for this session so sorry if you missed it.

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I had the pleasure of attending Charles’ session on using realia in the classroom. Realia can be a scary concept for teachers, but this session helped us consider it as not just lugging a bagful of fruit to our lessons, but as a way to increase our students’ autonomy using materials which relate to their lives. We also looked at some authentic letters and Charles gave us loads of good ideas for how we can use them to create practical and fun lessons which don’t require hours of planning. Highly recommended!


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Charles monitors while ideas are exchanged.


Handout 1 autonomy

Realia_learner autonomy



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Memory Games

One of our most experienced trainers is Regina, and at the conference she talked about memory. How it works and how we can make it work for us in the language classroom. She talked about Baddeley’s Theory but also gave some really useful practical activities we can do with our students to both improve their memories and help them learn English!

To be honest I think most of us could benefit from improving our memories 🙂

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I’m very sorry but I’ve forgotten your name – just kidding! Regina gives us a nice smile while she gets ready for her presentation.

Memory Games


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Involving the whole learner

Mat is the lead tutor on our IHCYLT course, which is all about teaching young learners and teens. In a session at the conference that was both theoretical and practical,  he turned the delegates into students to let them experience what he means by involving the whole learner. Then they thought about ways to modify material.

Mat’s handout has a brief explanation of different learning styles followed by a table for you to complete with ‘Activity ideas for each intelligence type”. But don’t worry he has helpfully included some suggestions too 🙂

Irina Sialini, Kristýna Urbánková and Milena Holubová collecting their IHCYLT certificates from International House World Organisation and ILC International House Brno. Presented by lead tutor, Mat Smith

Irina Sialini, Kristýna Urbánková and Milena Holubová collecting their IHCYLT certificates from International House World Organisation and ILC International House Brno. Presented by lead tutor, Mat Smith

Involving the whole learner handout

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Making games that work

Do your students like playing games? Not just inside the classroom but in general? Mike does, and he has taken 2 of his favourites and adapted them for the EFL classroom – and made an original one too! In his session he showed us exactly how simple it is to make your own versions of ‘Apples to Apples’ and ‘Dobble’, and also a minimal pairs game inspired by the pronunciation activity book Ship or Sheep?

He has shared the templates with us, they’re really easy to use and personalise for any of your classes – you can just edit them on powerpoint.  And if you want more complete instructions then head over to Mike’s own blog Teaching Games.


Mike shows his group how to make their own versions of Dobble


Apples to Apples adaptation template

Dobble adaptation template

Pronunciation game – blank cards


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Repeat – Revise – Remember!

The LEARNERS and LEARNING Conference was last Saturday, and a big thank you to everyone who came and helped make it such a success. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be posting summaries and handouts from the sessions here on the blog.

To start us off here are the handouts from Kristyna’s session Repeat – Revise – Remember! There are 4 activities on the handout, so even if you missed the session there might be a new idea for you to try out.

Kristýna working with some of her trainees


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ILC IH Brno Conference


The LEARNERS  and LEARNING Conference

This weekend sees our first Teacher Training Centre event of the year, our traditional spring conference. This year the theme is Learners and Learning. So there are sessions on subjects such as learning styles, learner autonomy, motivation and dealing with classroom problems.

And of course we have a great line-up of presenters including a return to the Czech Republic for Shaun Wilden of International House World Organisation. Then there are some familiar faces such as Nikki Fortova, also from IHWO, Daniela Clarke from Macmillan and our own mat Smith, Kristyna Urbankova and Dave Cleary. Finally there are some presenters with us for the first time including Marketa Spinkova from Bohemian Ventures and Mike Astbury.

Next week we’ll be posting some pictures, the handouts, and a Q & A with Shaun. If you want to ask him something but can’t make it on Saturday just leave your question in the comments section below.

Conference poster

Conference programme

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