Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘passion’

In Praise of CREATIVITY (Pt 02 – from GUEST BLOGGER Chaz Pugliese)

In ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 17/08/2013 at 5:40 pm

Creative ADULT (Le Guin quote) Ver 02

8

In the last post from Chaz, we looked at the concept of creativitywhat it is, where it is and its role in the classroom.

Chaz pointed out that, given the right type of motivation, everyone can be creative. But creativity doesn’t  just happen like that; it needs to be embraced, invited, nurtured and encouraged.

8

Creativity (Sir Ken quote 01)

8

In this second post, Chaz talk about three stimulating strategies he uses to boost his own creative potential. For each of these he provides a short outline and an example to illustrate how it can be implemented in the classroom. He also describes an activity teachers can use themselves to overcome blocks and fears and to unleash their own creativity.

8

Strategy 1: Simplicity

Keeping things simple in the classroom involves focusing on the learner rather than on the materials to be ‘covered’. Most importantly, to teach more simply is to teach more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. If necessity is the mother of invention, then frugality definitely plays a big role in boosting our creativity.

The simplicity strategy can be spectacularly applied in the language learning classroom – in activities that require little or no preparation time and which are designed to use the students as our primary resource. What you need, to put this strategy into practice, is some knowledge of who your students are as people, what they like and how they like to learn.

The rest is down to some thinking, some work and, to a lesser extent, some inspiration.

Creativity (Emerson quote 01)

8

Blind portrait (a warmer)

Level: Any

Preparation: Have some pencils and A4-size sheets of paper ready.

Method:

  1. Put the students into pairs and make sure they have a piece of paper and a pencil each.
  2. Ask them to draw each other’s portrait without ever looking at the paper.
  3. When they’ve finished, ask them to compare their portraits (this inevitably triggers laughter).
  4. The lesson can now start.
  5. Alternatively,  and especially if the students don’t know each other very well, you can ask them to draw the same object in the classroom – again, without looking at the paper.

Comment

Over the years I have found that using a touch of humour in the classroom is a great tool to diffuse tension and relax the students (and, often, the teacher).

8

Strategy 2: The ability to “play”

Think, if you can, of a life deprived of play. You give up? I don’t blame you.

The ability to play is the capacity to have serious, purposeful fun. This is seen by many creativity researchers as an important step in the creative process. In the words of psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, ‘there’s no question that a playful attitude is typical of creative individuals … but coupled with its antithesis, a quality of perseverance and endurance’. As early as the 16th century, Erasmus and Montaigne both recommended games as mnemonic devices, and recently Guy Cook has explained how play has a cognitive function that supports and fosters creative thinking.

A playful attitude is important in the classroom because it helps the teacher create a stress-free environment, and is essential because it allows us to pay heed to the child within us that is still longing to be creative and playful. We can approach self-expression with a greater sense of balance and, in some cases, with renewed enthusiasm, making it easier for our creativity to flourish.

8

Lingo Novo

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: None, as such, beyond keeping an eye open, as always, for the best time to do it.

Method:

1.Ask the students to work in pairs.

2.Tell them they have ten minutes to invent a new language. This language should include:

  • a greeting
  • a farewell
  • expressions for:
  • thank you
  • please
  • sorry
  • why and because
  • if
  • a positive comment (I like the weather.)
  • a negative comment (I’m not Jean Jacques.)

3.When they are ready, ask the students to form new pairs and to teach each other their new languages.

8

Strategy 3: Risk taking

Risk taking is about getting out of one’s comfort zone. Charlie (‘Bird’) Parker is one of the most influential jazz musicians who ever lived. The first time he played in a jazz club, he got booed off the stage, and the drummer even threw a cymbal at him in sheer anger. Parker’s sin had been to venture into new territory: he wasn’t interested in playing mainstream music, and that’s the risk he chose to take. He persevered and contributed to the birth of a whole new chapter in the history of jazz. Bird was prepared to be wronghe had the guts to challenge the establishment, and that’s perhaps the lesson for all of us: creativity takes courage.

Risk-taking (quotes)

Taking risks doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us; it makes us feel uncomfortable and edgy.

This comes from a fear of being wrong. As children, we feel free to experiment with reality and we don’t care about the results. By the time we are adults, we lose that capacity and become frightened of doing things differently. This is largely because we stigmatise mistakes. So, what we do, according to Sir Ken Robinson, is to ‘educate ourselves out of creativity’.

However, there is only one alternative if you don’t want to take risks, and that is to play it safe – to give in to the sirens of routine, an approach which never really pays dividends. Risk taking in the classroom is about assessing the situation, daring to try different approaches and entering the discomfort zone. The outcome won’t be spectacular at first, but taking risks is a necessary step if one intends to engage oneself seriously on this path.

Creativity (Scott Adams quote 01)

Picture this

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: You will need a set of pictures of works of art.

Method:

1.Put a collection of pictures of works of art on your desk. Invite all the students to come up and pick one picture they’d like to do some work on.

2.Ask them not to show their pictures to anyone.

3.Put the students into pairs (A and B). Explain that the As are going to describe the opposite of the picture they’ve chosen, and that the Bs should draw or write (see the Comment below) the opposite of what they hear from the As. Thus: If A says: ‘In this painting there’s a cat sitting in a tree’, B may draw or write: ‘The monkey’s eating a banana’ or even ‘There’s a dog sleeping on the sofa’.

4.Give them a good ten minutes for this. When they’re ready, ask them to check B’s picture or description against the original. How close did they get?

5.Invite the students to exchange roles.

Comment

The idea of an ‘opposite’ is naturally very subjective, hence there’s an element of creativity that makes the activity more engaging. It is important to provide the students with options. Some may prefer to write a description, others may like to draw. By giving them a choice, hopefully the activity will more inclusive.

8

Overcoming blocks and fears

Not a single person I have met finds it easy to nurture and unleash their creativity.

As teachers, we have to deal with all sorts of fears that may keep us from being creative, including fear of change, fear of accepting failure, fear of rocking the boat, fear of standing out, fear of disappointing and fear of uncertainty. Working in an environment that doesn’t value creativity is another huge mountain to climb.

Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

Having worked with hundreds of teachers on creativity courses, I know from experience that discovering that we can actually begin to create is the real trigger. There are no magic wands and no easy tricks, but please try the activity below. It is easy and powerful, and it should get you started.

Remember two thingsthat there is no such thing as right or wrong and that you need to trust the process.

8

Comment:

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

8

The music of change

1.Take a few moments to relax, unwind and ‘gather attention’. Feel every muscle in your body relax and let your breathing become even and deep.

2.Now visualise a piece of music you like: anything, a song or an instrumental piece. Play it in your head. Play it loudly, as if someone were performing it in front of you.

3.Focus on the details. When the image is clear, change just one feature of the music. For example, change the tempo from slow to fast or from fast to slow.

4.Now change another feature in your imagination. For example, hear different instruments performing the music.

5.Keep changing the music as ideas spring to mind until you hear a whole new different piece of music, something neither you nor anyone else has ever heard.

6.Be as daring or as subtle as you wish, but allow your mind room for something new each time.

7.What does the creative experience feel like? Take some time to think about this.

8.Make notes and share with a partner or discuss with your colleagues – according to the possibilities of the situation you are in.

Change (Margaret Mead quote) Ver 02

8

If you want to learn more about creativity, why not take a look at Chaz’s book – “Being Creative: The Challenge to Change in the Classroom” (DELTA, 2010).

Chaz also recommends the following “bedtime reading”:

  • Cook, G – Language Play, Language Learning OUP (2000)
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M – Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention HarperCollins (1996)
  • Robinson, K – Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Capstone (2001)

Creativity (Sir Ken quote 02)

8

ALSO, in case you want a bit more BEDtime READing – check out Tony’s CREATIVITY Library! Now, tell me if you can’t find 3 (or 6) books there to keep you going!

8

Tony’s CREATIVITY Library

In Praise of CREATIVITY (Pt 01 – from GUEST BLOGGER Chaz Pugliese)

In ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 17/08/2013 at 5:12 pm

Am I creative enough (TG ver 01)

We’ve all asked ourselves that question, haven’t we?

I know I have…still do – every day!

8

Today, we have a guest post from Chaz Pugliese, a teacher-trainer and musician (he plays a mean blues tune or twobased in Paris. Chaz and I met in Istanbul a few months ago and when I learned his “passion” was allthingsCREATIVITY – I just had to ask how he felt about allthingsBLOGGING!

I’m glad I didTake a read – feel free to contact him at chazpugliese@gmail.com.

8

He’ll be back soon with “Part İki”

Creativity (Niebuhr quote 01)

We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage us to be creative unless there’s a chance we are going to strike it big with a commercial hit. Creativity, like so much else in our world, has been co-opted into consumerism and its worth calculated by how much money it generates.

The teaching world is no exception: the big pull is towards standardization, exams, regimented syllabi, a senseless don’t rock the boat attitude, intellectual shortsight that will do nobody a favor. The Victorian art critic John Ruskin, when asked why he was teaching factory workers to draw, said:

“I’m not teaching them to draw, I’m teaching them to see”.

8

Isn’t learning a language, too, a way of learning to see anew? I would venture to say that enhanced seeing and feeling are the real reasons to create, whether it is an exercise, a song, a haiku, or a brand new thought.

Creativity (Angelou quote ver 03)

8

A creative teacher knows how to get his/her students’ attention. and help them keep it. A creative teacher knows how to teach in ways that are meaningful to the students. A creative teacher will always find ways to make her lessons stick.

8

Creative teachers can do all that.

Creativity is not an optional extra for a teacher, but rather the foundations to base our practice upon. Think of the word creativity and images of imposing Renaissance men or 20th century iconoclast physics will come to mind. Well, luckily for us common mortals, the story is a little more complex than that. If you’re after a genius type of creativity and you’re wondering whether this article will make you attain the heights of a Leonardo da Vinci or BachI’m sorry to say that, no, it won’t. But please read on, there’s hope. If we talk about an everyday type of creativity, absolutely everyone can be creative.

8

In this post we will tackle a few important questions such as:

  • What is creativity?
  • Why should I bother?
  • How can I become more creative?

8

What is creativity?

But what are we talking about when we’re talking about creativity? There are as many as 125 different definitions of creativity in the literature.

Creativity (Sir Ken quote 03 definition)

One thing is certain, there’s more to creativity than just thinking outside the box (or divergent thinking as it is called by creativity researchers). In fact, there seems to be general consensus that rather than just a single trait, creativity is best thought of as a cluster of skills used to produce an idea that is novel and culturally appropriate or valued.

There’s another definition I have always liked by professor Robert Sternberg, perhaps the world’s leading researcher in the field. For him, creativity is a decision we take. Wanting to be more creative is the main drive, the rest is up to hard work.

8

Why should I bother? 

Creativity (Einstein quote 01)

A few years ago a few hundreds school kids in the UK were asked to name the qualities they thought a top teacher should have. What came first was ‘originality’, followed by ‘fairness’. This is hardly shocking news: great teachers have known all along that you can’t teach anyone anything if you haven’t managed to get through to them. And the best way to get our students’ attention is through a surprise: yes, kids like to be surprised (but don’t we all?), and anything that smacks of routine is bound to fail. So, a surprise gets us attention.

Interestingly, this seems in line with neurobiology research findings on the quality of attention: one of the four factors that has an impact on attention, and gets the students in a state of mental arousal is novelty (the three others are a perceived need, meaning, and emotions). Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to come up with any surprises. Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to cater for the great diversity of our classrooms: mixed levels, mixed intelligences. And without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to inject new life in the coursebook, either.

8

How can I become (more) creative?

Creativity (Scott Adams quote 01)

The idea that creativity is a gift bestowed upon a few select ones by the gods above is one of those myths that tend to stick around for a long time. Just like intelligence, creativity is not a fixed, unitary trait, and can be in fact developed. But creativity needs to be invited, welcome, embraced. There is a myth about the creative soul that if you don’t feel inspired, you don’t have it.

I’ve been a musician for 30 years and if I had to depend on my inspiration every time I picked up my guitar, the guitar would stay mute. I’ve experienced every emotion imaginable when I play—from abject terror to sheer frustration to feeling absolutely nothing—and through it all like a recalcitrant mule, I have plodded on.

Creativity (Steve Jobs quote 01)

8

There’s no quick fix, no magic recipe, but  below are just a few things that may get you going:

  • Cherish the company of creative people around you. Engage them in conversation, ask questions, tease them.
  • Seize the moment. Always keep a notepad and a pencil ready. When an idea strikes, don’t EVER brush it aside thinking you’ll remember it later. You won’t. That’s not the way our brain works, once that synopsis is gone, it’s probably gone forever.
  • Is there a time of the day that seems to be conducive to better thinking? If so, try to stick to it.
  • Don’t be disappointed if what had seemed a great insight doesn’t lead to much. Put it on the back burner, you’ll come back to it later. Sometimes an idea needs a good incubation period. Nurture it, take it apart, play around with it. Play, play and play.
  • Take baby steps. You’re not out there to blaze new trails, or revolutionize the ELT world. Just keep telling yourself that every little bit helps. Fail, but fail better each time, to quote Beckett.
  • Value feedback, but believe in what you do and persevere. Charlie Parker was mercilessly booed off the stage for playing something new. Negative reactions didn’t stop him from pressing ahead and become the greatest jazz musician who ever lived.
  • Take sensible risks. Remember: learners like to be surprised, but they certainly don’t like to be shocked.

8

So here’s what I’d like to see:  creativity training in ALL Teacher Training programs, from the newly-initiated or the inexperienced all the way up to MA level!

Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

What’s Your PURPOSE?

In Book Reviews, Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 11/10/2011 at 5:29 pm


Here’s a quick “brain-teaser”…

8

Take pen and scrap of paper (or open up a word doc)…I’ll give you a minute…OK?

Now, and without looking at any webpages…write down…word for word

…the “mission statement” of the place where you work!

8

I’ll give you a couple of minutes…OK?

8

Now, I’m guessing most of you did not do the little exercise I suggested (yes, I have hacked into your camera – and see everything you do)…not because you do not know your mission statement off-by-heartbut because you do not really “care” about it very much!

…or perhaps you just wanted to respond in a similar way to my dear, dear friend House!

I’m sorry (and House would agree) – “mission statements” are NOT very sexy!

8

Especially, as far as teachers and educators are concerned – thousands of whom have been subjected to “mission retreats” staged to help them “wordsmith” a more articulate version of the “wall art” that these statements inevitably become.

8

8

Wall art that just ends up collecting dust…and, more often than not, is never truly “walked”, “lived” or “enacted”. If only more educational consultants or so-called “quality gurus” would commit a revolutionary act or two

What I’m saying must be true … it’s on the web!

8

If I’d asked you to jot down a few thoughts about the things you are really “passionate” about, you’d probably be still scribbling away…

The difference is that you’d be scribbling about “purpose” – the “ideas” that drive you, the “beliefs” you’d be prepared to get into a fight for (well, at least miss breakfast for)…in short, what is “right” and what is “worthwhile”.

House has a purpose…(over and above annoying Cuddy – what will he do now she has “left”)

8

Steve Jobs (still) has a purpose…

8

Do youDoes your institution?

8

Dictionary.com defines purpose as:

“…the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc”.

8

OK, this definition might suggest some form of cognitive awareness of the linkage between “cause and effect” or perhaps some form of anticipated result that “guides action”. But, seriously…it sucks at conveying the “power” the word carries for most human beings.

8

PASSION….

8

Remember that piece of music that brought you tears last week, that movie that made you think about trying to be a better “father” (or mother), the “act of kindness” you saw in the mall that reminded you “not all people are assholes“…that episode of so-and-s0 “dizi” that made you want to get up and “make a real difference

…or just that lesson that they all seemed to “get” (and said “thank you” for).

8

Are we all, as individuals and a species, not looking for “purpose” in our lives? Do we all, perhaps at some primal level, not wish to be inspired and motivated by ideas or schemes bigger than ourselves? Are we all, as employees or leaders, not looking for some form of meaning to give us the motivation to complete our own work and signal to us that this work is moving us all towards a better, brighter future?

8

Purpose, as a concept, has been a buzz-worthy word for some time. However, it is only recently that business and management gurus have begun to take note of the potential of this seemingly simple notion – the smartest of which have all “trashed” their mission statements, in favour of a focus on purpose.

Mourkogiannis (2006) made the case that all great companies need a purpose and that purpose is critical to an organisation’s success. Concerned primarily with business success, his central argument was that it is not organisation and structure, but rather ideas that drive organisations, and it is these ideas that determine the success of a business. And, he knows how to define the word:

“…the reason for doing something that appeals to our ideas about what is right and what is worthwhile

8

This type of conceptualisation conveys how critical purpose is for individuals – and institutions.

Purpose is about engagement, involvement and “passion” – and it’s a choice.

A choice we can make in our lives…and “at work”.

8

“Nikos Amca”  also argued that successful institutions are more influenced by the strength of their purpose (and moral ideas) than the strength of their leaders. He maintained that it is purpose that becomes the “engine” of a successful institution and the “source of its energy” – because it is also purpose that most of us want from work, even over money and status.

Again…you are reading this on the web…must be true!

Hear me out…hear me out!

8

Purposenot “wall art” – that is “living” and “lived”:

  • makes people feel their “work” is worthwhile
  • fosters more “care” and consideration of others
  • helps to build “better” relationships
  • maintains morale and energy levels
  • reduces risk aversion and “fear”
  • helps innovators move from current convention to next practices
  • inspires everyone to be the best version of themselves they can be

So, the next time someone asks you to update the “mission statement”just say “NO”!

8

Instead, invite that person for a coffee and, together, consider:

  • What do we do? What is our purpose?
  • Who are we doing this for?
  • What do we want to create – together?
  • Where are we right now? What is today’s situation? How do we know?
  • How can we excel? How can we be the best version of ourselves? 

8

8

Afterall, and as Mourkogiannis reminds us, the role of “real leaders” is to “discover” (not simply “invent”) a purpose – and then build a “community of purpose” that truly “walks-its-talk”…

…and “lives” its “purpose statement“.

8

The BOOK (if you want to have a gander)…

8

EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP – The DVD Box-Set…

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities on 25/09/2011 at 10:54 am

I guess I really have to get round to writing some of these “Dummies-Guides” I have been talking about – but somehow I think that Wiley & Sons might not think I am their “type” of author…

Till then…another DVD Box-Set!

I’m actually doing these as a way to summarise a lot of the posts we have been putting up over the months (mostly for new “bloggers” – guys, just hit the “red links” below to take you too the posts)…

This time its allthingsleadership!

 

Sadly, many of our understandings of allthingsleadership are rooted in images of war, sufferring and conflict…and of the military “heroes” that step up and save the day. This is common in nearly culture on the planet!

 

The business community are especially “fond” of this conceptualisation:

 

Hey, if the business community can do it – so can we:

 

Mmmmmm…doesn’t quite “fit”, does it?

 

It’s probably a good idea to ask ourselves a few questions about where we are with Educational Leadership right now. In this post we draw on the ideas of Tom Peters (the “man” – in the business community) – and tweak them a “little” to better suit the way we “do business” in education:

One our very earliest post was very well received – seems it touched a nerve for many of you. It raises the issue of what type of educational leadership we need for the 21st Century – and the type of organisational culture we need to be co-creating for the future:

We also did this one in Turkish, too:

 

Building on this…we thought we’d take a quick look at some of the principles that should perhaps be guiding how we think and act as educational leaders – and what perhaps our foundation capstones need to look like:

Again, in Turkish…for those of you that would prefer:

These posts also touch on the importance of “habits” – so how could we not do more on “Mr. 7 Habits” himself:

 

We also have a lot of educational-wannabesthose “using” education for purposes that are far removed from allthingslearning – we need to ask if we need these “leaders” at all;

And, what we can do when we confront people like this:

 

My love of TV shows also got the better of me and I looked at whether Tony Soprano could add anything to our knowledge base (turns out he can):

 

We’ve also tried to show the types of leadership Turkish educators are showing in our “Çay ve Simit Interview” series:

 

As well as examples of the leadership shown by their learners:

We’ll have more of these – coming to a DVD store near you soon!

Imagineering the 21st Century Teacher…the PREQUEL!

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training on 23/09/2011 at 1:39 pm

After my last post on Imagineering the 21st Century Teacher, I got a lot of questions – mostly asking:

“What exactly is Educational Literacy”?

Pretty reasonable question, actually!

 

In a nutshell:

Educational Literacy (EdL) is all about the capacity of an individual to make a “real difference” to the lives of others – through learning and education.

In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviationEdL) is something that should concern everyone on the planet. Any parent wishing to help his or her child make “wise” decisions about schools, colleges or university – needs to have EdL. Any teacher walking into a classroom (for the “first” or the “50,000th” time) needs to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.

EdL is something parentsstudentsteacherseducational administrators or anyone involved or interested in the world of learning (including, dare I say, media representatives, publishers and politicians)must have!

In the case of teachers, EdL is more than the teaching-related knowledge and skills required to manage a classroom, present content and practice teaching points – that is known as Pedagogic Literacy. It touches on a teacher’s beliefs and values, the way she interacts with her learners and the extent to which she reflects on her own practice – to grow professionally and create even “better” learning opportunities for those around her.

As such, EdL is a multi-dimensional construct – a true “multiple literacy”. It is not simply the product of adding to “a stack of facts and figures” or throwing more tools into “a bag o’ tricks” – it is experienced and lived through the synaptic-type interrelationships between a number of Literacies (and Fluencies)…

  • EdL is a “talent” – a talent that is both “learned” and “learnable”.
  • EdL is an “ability set” – an ability set that is both “rational” and “emotional”.
  • EdL is a “passion” – a passion that drives improvement, progress and transformation!


EdL is also something that many people do not possessand this is what lies at the heart of many of the challenges we face in education.

For example:

  • Parents that tell teachers that their job is to “create” an engineer or doctor out of “Little Mehmet” – have low levels of EdL…sorry mum (and dad)!
  • Students that “blame” their failure on a given exam or the “academic clubs” that manipulate exam cut-offs – have low levels of EdL…sorry guys, time to take some responsibility (unless, that is, their educators also happen to have low levels of “Assessment Literacy”)!
  • Lecturers and teachers that do not even bother to learn the names of their students or “care” what these students “bring” to the classroom – have low levels of EdL…no apologies required here!
  • Educational Managers (up to and including Principals and Rectors) who value their “seat” more than the learning of their learners and still fail to see the importance of “walking-the-talk” – have low levels of EdL…guys, just move aside (the 21stCentury is here)!
  • Schools that live off the “fat” (or prestige) of the “past” or try to “fake-it-till-they-make-it” – have amazingly low levels of EdL…time to “get real” and evidence what you say you are!
  • Media representatives that report the “league tables” without helping students and their parents to ask the right questions about how the “rankings” were carried out – have no EdL wotsoever…come on, guys – earn your pay-cheques!
  • Publishers who tell educators/teacher-trainers to put on a “show” and not bother with all that “learning stuff” – fail the “EdL test” totally…you millionaires, time to pay back a slice of those profits you’ve been raking in!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!

You get the idea!

 

EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducationcritical reflection as applied to learning and teaching.

However, because of the very nature of both learning and teaching, EdL has a powerful emotional component. EdL appreciates that education and learning are fundamentally “emotional experiences” that require Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is also brought to bear on matters of learning and teaching.

This is why learning and teaching professionals need to exhibit high levels of Emotional Literacy:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Emotional memory
  • Emotional problem-solving ability
  • Emotional learning ability

and, to borrow from Gardner:

  • “Intrapersonal Intelligence”
  • “Interpersonal Intelligence”

It’s funny how little we “pay” teachers – considering the job requirements!

 

EdL thus describes what an individual (especially educators) “thinks” or “knows” about education, learning and teaching, what s/he “does” with what s/he knows and also what s/he does to “improve” what s/he knows, does and feels in regard to allthingseducation.

EdL also respects the role of the ” professional teacher” – and what an “effective” teacher can do with what s/he can do with what s/he knows – as such, Pedagogic Literacy is also a focus of its attention, as is Curriculum Literacy and Assessment Literacy.

The problem is, taking Assessment Literacy as an example:

Assessment Literacy is perhaps the best-known of the components that make up EdLwell, in educational reading circles at least. It has been described in the following ways:

Assessment literacy is present when a person possesses the assessment-related knowledge and skills needed for the competent performance of that person’s responsibilities. 

W. James Popham (2009)

Assessment literate educators come to any assessment knowing what they are assessing, why they are doing so, how best to assess the achievement of interest, how to generate sound samples of performance, what can go wrong, and how to prevent these problems before they occur.

Stiggins (1995) – Assessment Literacy for the 21st Century

 

Using the questions we looked at for Learning Literacy, an educator could critically reflect on his own literacy in this area by asking:

Many do – many do not! Most are not given the opportunity to improve on what they cannot do with what they do not know!

 

OK – so what do we have, now?

  • Critical Literacy – CHECK!
  • Learning Literacy – CHECK!
  • Emotional Literacy – CHECK!
  • Pedagogic Literacy – CHECK!
  • Assessment Literacy – CHECK!

 

Anything else? Mmmmmmmmm….

My thanks to my dearest “editor” – you know who you is!

Also, to the HLU, Testing, Curriculum and Training Teams at AU-SFL for inspiring me to get this down on paper….or, was that “on screen”? More “badtime reading” for you guys!

In Praise of Creativity…(Part Two)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training on 23/09/2011 at 5:36 am

In the last post from Chaz, we looked at the concept of creativity: what it is, where it is and its role in the classroom.

Chaz pointed out that, given the right type of motivation, everyone can be creative. But creativity doesn’t  just happen like that; it needs to be embraced, invited, nurtured and encouraged.

In this second post, Chaz talk about three stimulating strategies he uses to boost his own creative potential. For each of these he provides a short outline and an example to illustrate how it can be implemented in the classroom. He also describes an activity teachers can use themselves to overcome blocks and fears and to unleash their own creativity.

Strategy 1: Simplicity

Keeping things simple in the classroom involves focusing on the learner rather than on the materials to be ‘covered’. Most importantly, to teach more simply is to teach more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. If necessity is the mother of invention, then frugality definitely plays a big role in boosting our creativity.

The simplicity strategy can be spectacularly applied in the language learning classroom – in activities that require little or no preparation time and which are designed to use the students as our primary resource. What you need, to put this strategy into practice, is some knowledge of who your students are as people, what they like and how they like to learn.

The rest is down to some thinking, some work and, to a lesser extent, some inspiration.

Blind portrait (a warmer)

Level: Any

Preparation: Have some pencils and A4-size sheets of paper ready.

Method:

  1. Put the students into pairs and make sure they have a piece of paper and a pencil each.
  2. Ask them to draw each other’s portrait without ever looking at the paper.
  3. When they’ve finished, ask them to compare their portraits (this inevitably triggers laughter).
  4. The lesson can now start.
  5. Alternatively,  and especially if the students don’t know each other very well, you can ask them to draw the same object in the classroom – again, without looking at the paper.

Comment

Over the years I have found that using a touch of humour in the classroom is a great tool to diffuse tension and relax the students (and, often, the teacher).

 

Strategy 2: The ability to “play”

Think, if you can, of a life deprived of play. You give up? I don’t blame you.

The ability to play is the capacity to have serious, purposeful fun. This is seen by many creativity researchers as an important step in the creative process. In the words of psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, ‘there’s no question that a playful attitude is typical of creative individuals … but coupled with its antithesis, a quality of perseverance and endurance’. As early as the 16th century, Erasmus and Montaigne both recommended games as mnemonic devices, and recently Guy Cook has explained how play has a cognitive function that supports and fosters creative thinking.

A playful attitude is important in the classroom because it helps the teacher create a stress-free environment, and is essential because it allows us to pay heed to the child within us that is still longing to be creative and playful. We can approach self-expression with a greater sense of balance and, in some cases, with renewed enthusiasm, making it easier for our creativity to flourish.

Lingo Novo

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: None, as such, beyond keeping an eye open, as always, for the best time to do it.

Method:

1.Ask the students to work in pairs.

2.Tell them they have ten minutes to invent a new language. This language should include:

  • a greeting
  • a farewell
  • expressions for:
  • thank you
  • please
  • sorry
  • why and because
  • if
  • a positive comment (I like the weather.)
  • a negative comment (I’m not Jean Jacques.)

3.When they are ready, ask the students to form new pairs and to teach each other their new languages.

 

Strategy 3: Risk taking

Risk taking is about getting out of one’s comfort zone. Charlie (‘Bird’) Parker is one of the most influential jazz musicians who ever lived. The first time he played in a jazz club, he got booed off the stage, and the drummer even threw a cymbal at him in sheer anger. Parker’s sin had been to venture into new territory: he wasn’t interested in playing mainstream music, and that’s the risk he chose to take. He persevered and contributed to the birth of a whole new chapter in the history of jazz. Bird was prepared to be wrong; he had the guts to challenge the establishment, and that’s perhaps the lesson for all of us: creativity takes courage.

Taking risks doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us; it makes us feel uncomfortable and edgy.

This comes from a fear of being wrong. As children, we feel free to experiment with reality and we don’t care about the results. By the time we are adults, we lose that capacity and become frightened of doing things differently. This is largely because we stigmatise mistakes. So, what we do, according to Sir Ken Robinson, is to ‘educate ourselves out of creativity’.

However, there is only one alternative if you don’t want to take risks, and that is to play it safe – to give in to the sirens of routine, an approach which never really pays dividends. Risk taking in the classroom is about assessing the situation, daring to try different approaches and entering the discomfort zone. The outcome won’t be spectacular at first, but taking risks is a necessary step if one intends to engage oneself seriously on this path.

 

Picture this

Level: Intermediate and above

Preparation: You will need a set of pictures of works of art.

Method:

1.Put a collection of pictures of works of art on your desk. Invite all the students to come up and pick one picture they’d like to do some work on.

2.Ask them not to show their pictures to anyone.

3.Put the students into pairs (A and B). Explain that the As are going to describe the opposite of the picture they’ve chosen, and that the Bs should draw or write (see the Comment below) the opposite of what they hear from the As. Thus: If A says: ‘In this painting there’s a cat sitting in a tree’, B may draw or write: ‘The monkey’s eating a banana’ or even ‘There’s a dog sleeping on the sofa’.

4.Give them a good ten minutes for this. When they’re ready, ask them to check B’s picture or description against the original. How close did they get?

5.Invite the students to exchange roles.

Comment

The idea of an ‘opposite’ is naturally very subjective, hence there’s an element of creativity that makes the activity more engaging. It is important to provide the students with options. Some may prefer to write a description, others may like to draw. By giving them a choice, hopefully the activity will more inclusive.

 

Overcoming blocks and fears

Not a single person I have met finds it easy to nurture and unleash their creativity.

As teachers, we have to deal with all sorts of fears that may keep us from being creative, including fear of change, fear of accepting failure, fear of rocking the boat, fear of standing out, fear of disappointing and fear of uncertainty. Working in an environment that doesn’t value creativity is another huge mountain to climb.

Having worked with hundreds of teachers on creativity courses, I know from experience that discovering that we can actually begin to create is the real trigger. There are no magic wands and no easy tricks, but please try the activity below. It is easy and powerful, and it should get you started.

Remember two things: that there is no such thing as right or wrong and that you need to trust the process.

Comment:

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

The same exercise can be done using pictures. Visualise a picture you’re familiar with and, when the image is clear, change its colours, add or eliminate features, etc. Remember to experiment and to let your imagination run free. It is the process that matters: you may feel particularly proud of the end product – or not!

 

The music of change

1.Take a few moments to relax, unwind and ‘gather attention’. Feel every muscle in your body relax and let your breathing become even and deep.

2.Now visualise a piece of music you like: anything, a song or an instrumental piece. Play it in your head. Play it loudly, as if someone were performing it in front of you.

3.Focus on the details. When the image is clear, change just one feature of the music. For example, change the tempo from slow to fast or from fast to slow.

4.Now change another feature in your imagination. For example, hear different instruments performing the music.

5.Keep changing the music as ideas spring to mind until you hear a whole new different piece of music, something neither you nor anyone else has ever heard.

6.Be as daring or as subtle as you wish, but allow your mind room for something new each time.

7.What does the creative experience feel like? Take some time to think about this.

8.Make notes and share with a partner or discuss with your colleagues – according to the possibilities of the situation you are in.

 

If you want to learn more about creativity, why not take a look at Chaz’s book – “Being Creative: The Challenge to Change in the Classroom” (DELTA, 2010).

 

Chaz also recommends the following “bedtime reading”:

  • Cook, G Language Play, Language Learning OUP 2000
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention HarperCollins 1996
  • Robinson, K Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative Capstone 2001

In Praise of Creativity…(Part One)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training on 20/09/2011 at 12:15 pm

I think it was Einstein that said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”!

Let’s test that little theory…

Today, we have a guest post from Chaz Pugliese, a teacher-trainer and musician (he plays a mean blues tune or two) based in Paris. Chaz and I met in Istanbul a few months ago and when I learned his “passion” was allthingscreativityI just had to ask how he felt about blogging!

I’m glad I did. Take a read – feel free to contact him at chazpugliese@gmail.com.

He’ll be back soon with “Part İki”…

 

We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage us to be creative unless there’s a chance we are going to strike it big with a commercial hit. Creativity, like so much else in our world, has been co-opted into consumerism and its worth calculated by how much money it generates.

The teaching world is no exception: the big pull is towards standardization, exams, regimented syllabi, a senseless don’t rock the boat attitude, intellectual shortsight that will do nobody a favor. The Victorian art critic John Ruskin, when asked why he was teaching factory workers to draw, said:

“I’m not teaching them to draw, I’m teaching them to see”.

Isn’t learning a language, too, a way of learning to see anew? I would venture to say that enhanced seeing and feeling are the real reasons to create, whether it is an exercise, a song, a haiku, or a brand new thought.

A creative teacher knows how to get his/her students’ attention. and help them keep it. A creative teacher knows how to teach in ways that are meaningful to the students. A creative teacher will always find ways to make her lessons stick.

Creative teachers can do all that.

Creativity is not an optional extra for a teacher, but rather the foundations to base our practice upon. Think of the word creativity and images of imposing Renaissance men or 20th century iconoclast physics will come to mind. Well, luckily for us common mortals, the story is a little more complex than that. If you’re after a genius type of creativity and you’re wondering whether this article will make you attain the heights of a Leonardo da Vinci or Bach, I’m sorry to say that, no, it won’t. But please read on, there’s hope. If we talk about an everyday type of creativity, absolutely everyone can be creative.

In this post we will tackle a few important questions such as:

  • What is creativity?
  • Why should I bother?
  • How can I become more creative?

 

What is creativity?

But what are we talking about when we’re talking about creativity? There are as many as 125 different definitions of creativity in the literature.

One thing is certain, there’s more to creativity than just thinking outside the box (or divergent thinking as it is called by creativity researchers). In fact, there seems to be general consensus that rather than just a single trait, creativity is best thought of as a cluster of skills used to produce an idea that is novel and culturally appropriate or valued.

There’s another definition I have always liked by professor Robert Sternberg, perhaps the world’s leading researcher in the field. For him, creativity is a decision we take. Wanting to be more creative is the main drive, the rest is up to hard work.

 

Why should I bother? 

A few years ago a few hundreds school kids in the UK were asked to name the qualities they thought a top teacher should have. What came first was ‘originality’, followed by ‘fairness’. This is hardly shocking news: great teachers have known all along that you can’t teach anyone anything if you haven’t managed to get through to them. And the best way to get our students’ attention is through a surprise: yes, kids like to be surprised (but don’t we all?), and anything that smacks of routine is bound to fail. So, a surprise gets us attention.

Interestingly, this seems in line with neurobiology research findings on the quality of attention: one of the four factors that has an impact on attention, and gets the students in a state of mental arousal is novelty (the three others are a perceived need, meaning, and emotions). Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to come up with any surprises. Without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to cater for the great diversity of our classrooms: mixed levels, mixed intelligences. And without creativity, we wouldn’t be able to inject new life in the coursebook, either.

 

How can I become (more) creative?

The idea that creativity is a gift bestowed upon a few select ones by the gods above is one of those myths that tend to stick around for a long time. Just like intelligence, creativity is not a fixed, unitary trait, and can be in fact developed. But creativity needs to be invited, welcome, embraced. There is a myth about the creative soul that if you don’t feel inspired, you don’t have it.

I’ve been a musician for 30 years and if I had to depend on my inspiration every time I picked up my guitar, the guitar would stay mute. I’ve experienced every emotion imaginable when I play—from abject terror to sheer frustration to feeling absolutely nothing—and through it all like a recalcitrant mule, I have plodded on.

There’s no quick fix, no magic recipe, but  below are just a few things that may get you going:

  • Cherish the company of creative people around you. Engage them in conversation, ask questions, tease them.
  • Seize the moment. Always keep a notepad and a pencil ready. When an idea strikes, don’t EVER brush it aside thinking you’ll remember it later. You won’t. That’s not the way our brain works, once that synopsis is gone, it’s probably gone forever.
  • Is there a time of the day that seems to be conducive to better thinking? If so, try to stick to it.
  • Don’t be disappointed if what had seemed a great insight doesn’t lead to much. Put it on the back burner, you’ll come back to it later. Sometimes an idea needs a good incubation period. Nurture it, take it apart, play around with it. Play, play and play.
  • Take baby steps. You’re not out there to blaze new trails, or revolutionize the ELT world. Just keep telling yourself that every little bit helps. Fail, but fail better each time, to quote Beckett.
  • Value feedback, but believe in what you do and persevere. Charlie Parker was mercilessly booed off the stage for playing something new. Negative reactions didn’t stop him from pressing ahead and become the greatest jazz musician who ever lived.
  • Take sensible risks. Remember: learners like to be surprised, but they certainly don’t like to be shocked.

So here’s what I’d like to seecreativity training in ALL Teacher Training programs, from the newly-initiated or the inexperienced all the way up to MA level!