Welcome to the second post in this series. In the previous post we looked at definitions of creativity and talked about the importance of developing creative skills in our classrooms, not only for our learners but also for teachers! In this post I’ll be looking at a framework you can apply to your existing course materials but which will help you to teach more creatively with images. Remember the key take out from post 1, to bring out creative thinking in our learners we need to start with ourselves!
Lyn (2011, p..) talks about ‘creative pedagogy’ which is used to describe practice “that enhances creative development through three interrelated elements: creative teaching; teaching for creativity and creative learning.” Through teaching creatively we can inspire our learners to use their imagination and think outside the box and thus indirectly encourage learners’ creative thinking. So it’s all about us using creative approaches to make their learning more effective and even more engaging as a result!
Now, how can we go about developing a more creative approach to teaching? I think it’s important to clarify one thing; no one benefits from us searching out, or even making up, weird and wacky activities for our learners. Following a framework to support you in this process is ideal for starting out. It will give you a structured approach which can help you generate creative ideas and gain confidence experimenting. There are a variety of frameworks available but let’s explore two in more depth.
Framework 1 – SCAMPER
Can you remember the questions at the end of the previous post? I bet you have answered yes to some of them! If so, then you are already using your course book creatively, even though you might not have labelled it as such! Osborn (cited by Fisher 2005) who came up with the initial questions for the framework (see below), which Eberle then organized into the SCAMPER framework. These questions can guide you when you want to create something new from an existing page in your course book.
Example Activity: Can you see a connection?
Let’s look at how you can apply the C – Combine it. For this example I’m going to combine the different images in one unit from Impact, Level 2, Unit 8. This is an effective activity to activate students prior language knowledge on the topic as well as to introduce the theme of the unit in a student-centred and engaging way whilst they are developing their speaking skills.
- Select images related to the general topic you want to use. When you are about to start a new unit, check if there are 3 or 4 images in the unit that are related to the main topic of the unit. In this unit the topic is, fear and natural disasters. if you do not have access to digital images ( eg. on the IWB) use the images in your course book; just use sticky notes to block the headers and text, so the learners only see the visuals.
- Divide your class into small groups of 3 or 4 learners. If you have selected 3 images, groups of 3, if you have selected 4 images, groups of 4.
- Make sure that within each group your learners know who they are: give them a letter or number (e.g. A, B C or D).
- Tell students they will each see one image and need to remember what they see so they can tell the others in their group what they saw. Instruct learns B,C and D to close their eyes (turn away from the board) for learners A to see image A. After 30 seconds, learners B turn around and see image B. A, C and D are not looking etc. Show each image for about 30 seconds and ensure learners do not speak but look carefully so they can describe the image later to their team.
- Once all students have seen their image, give them time in groups to describe to each other what they saw in their image.
- After 4 minutes, write the next question on the board: “What’s the connection?” Instruct learners in their teams to discuss what they think the connection between the different images is. Highlight that there is no wrong or right answer, but they need to be able to justify what they think the connection is.
- After 4-5 minutes get the whole class back together and elicit their ideas. This is an opportunity for you to feed-in essential language as well as to develop their reasoning by asking eg. “what makes you say that?” Key is that there is no correct answer as long as it is justified well, as we want students to be creative in their thinking.
As you might have noticed, this activity does not only develop learners’ creative thinking skill, it helps them develop social skills, communication skills – listening to others and expressing themselves, it activates prior language knowledge and offers an opportunity to further develop their thinking skills. It also allows you to integrate differentiation into your speaking stage. Whereas describing language is often easier – all learners should be able to succeed here – language to reason is more challenging, which provides a change to challenge your stronger learners.
Example Activity 2- What’s happening?
Let’s look at how you can apply the A – Adapt it. For this example I will use only one image to introduce the unit topic and I have taken a screen shot of it to be inserted into a PowerPoint slide. The image is from Pathways level 2 Unit 5. This activity activates students prior language knowledge and adds a competitive element to it as all students can see the picture slowly being revealed in front of them. whomever guesses correctly what is happening is the winner. So yes, indeed… it can get a bit noisy!
- Select one image related to the theme you want to talk about.
- Copy the image into PowerPoint and cover the images with 9 squares that disappear one by one when you click. Again, if you do not have access to digital images (eg. on the Interactive white board) use the image in your course book and stick about 8 or 9 sticky notes over it to cover the image fully.
Example of the square reveal you can make in powerpoint
- Tell your learners that they need to describe what they see in the image (part of the image!). They can shout it out or you can pair students up so they can tell their partner what they see.
- After you’ve removed 3 or 4 squares (depends on the image) tell the learners you will now give them different Qs for each reveal. The questions you ask of course depend on the image you use but they could vary from: how do you think the person in the image would feel? How would you feel? Why do you think this is happening? What do you think the message of the photographer is?
- When the full image has been revealed, elicit / give the theme and respond to students’ questions, language needs (feed-in any language as needed).
Students might come up with very different ideas and that’s fine, as we are trying to get them to ‘read’ the image, to think outside the box and to relate it to their own knowledge and experience. Building on what they already know and developing awareness of ‘interconnectedness’ is an important prerequisite for successful reading and listening and any problem solving! The sort of questions you ask – LOTS (Lower order thinking skills) or HOTS (high order thinking skills (Bloom, cited in Fisher 2005) – depends on the level of your learners and again allows you to provide some differentiated instruction.
I hope these activities have given you some inspiration to experiment with the SCAMPER framework in your planning and delivery. Let us know how it goes! In my next post, I will be looking at another framework that you can use to build a pedagogy of creativity into your teaching. Until next time!
ETP, Hasper, A (2015) Creative. English Teaching Professional issue 99, p50-51.
Fisher, R. (2005) Teaching Children to Think, Nelson Thornes
Lin, Y. (2011) Fostering creativity through education – a conceptual framework of creative pedagogy. Creative Education 2 (3) 149–155.
Author: Anna Hasper
Anna Hasper is a primary-trained ELT teacher, teacher development specialist and ELT consultant based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. She’s a self-confessed addict to learning and is passionate enabling teachers within local constraints to become the best teacher they can by enhancing all students’ learning opportunities through engagement. She has been working in education for over 16 years and has worked on various projects for the British Council, International House, Ministries of Education, IDP IELTS and publishers in primary, secondary and vocational contexts. She writes online courses and blogs and delivers a variety of Cambridge accredited teacher training courses around the world. She loves exploring new places with her camera and learning about different cultures. Anna has worked in a wide variety of countries such as China, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Senegal, Morocco and Armenia. She regularly presents at international conferences and publishes in ETP & MET. Her research interests are educational psychology, teacher development and engagement in learning.