25-11 What is creativity?

Do you think you are creative? Do you think your students are creative? All of them? Some of them? Alas, only very few of them? Do you think you can call yourself lucky if you have one or two creative students in a lifetime? Do you think the younger the students are the more creative they are? Or do you think the opposite is true and that you learn to be creative over the years? How do you know that someone is creative? What do you actually do when you are thinking creatively?

Why is creativity important?

  • Language use is a creative act: we transform thoughts into language that can be heard or seen. We are capable of producing sentences and even long texts that we have never heard or seen before. By giving learners creative exercises, we get them to practise an important sub-skill of using a language: thinking creatively.
  • Compensation strategies (methods used for making up for lack of language in a communicative situation e.g. miming, drawing, paraphrasing used for getting meaning across) use creative and often imaginative ways of expression. Our learners will need these until they master the language.
  • In my experience, some people cannot learn at all if they are not allowed to be creative. They do not understand the point in doing a language activity for its own sake, for only practising the language without a real content, purpose, outcome or even a product.
  • My experience also taught me that most people become more motivated, inspired or challenged if they can create something of value, if they feel that in some ways what they do and how they do it reflect who they are.
  • Creativity improves self-esteem as learners can look at their own solutions to problems and their own products and see what they are able to achieve.
  • Creative work in the language classroom can lead to genuine communication and co-operation. Learners use the language to do the creative task, so they use it as a tool, in its original function. This prepares learners for using the language instrumentally outside the classroom.
  • Creative tasks enrich classroom work, and they make it more varied and more enjoyable by tapping into individual talents, ideas and thoughts - both the learners’ and the teacher’s.
  • Creative thinking is an important skill in real life. It is part of our survival strategies and it is a force behind personal growth and the development of culture and society.

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