2. Video and visual materials
Especially primary school students benefit highly from visually clear and attractive materials. There are endless possibilities these days. You can record a ‘Skype-call’ and let other students comment on it, use attractive flashcards, mind mapping, short movies and cartoons (turn off the sound and let the students make their own sounds and voices, sentences), let students make short vlogs as homework, etc. Using these methods will help their communication skills, understanding different concepts, empower their creativity and imagination. Also, seeing or hearing themselves back will learn them to give feedback and will normally create a great and funny atmosphere in the classroom.
3. Acting out and going out
If you try to connect your classes to situations happening in the real world, students will understand quicker why they are learning certain things. Remember, when you were in mathematics class and you thought: ‘Why am I learning about the Pythagorean theorem, what can I do with it?’ When connection learning material to realistic situation, it’s directly clear for what purpose students can use the knowledge they just gained.
Something Chinese students will not be used to is a brainstorm session. This is a really great exercise to help students develop more individual ideas and to see how many different ideas and thoughts can be developed on one subject or idea. Make sure that all the students can be involved in the session and that they know there’s no such thing as a wrong or right answer. Brainstorming can be a great start before a game to gain more input. Brainstorm about the different kinds of weather if you’re carrying out a game about the weather, brainstorm about different kinds of clothes if you’re gonna act out buying clothes in the store.
Just like games, sports is a great way to be active with your class and to communicate in English. However, children are smart, if they feel you’re just using the activity to teach, they will be confused. If a game is new, you can use it to teach more, but children already understand the different concepts of for example football, basketball and running and it will make them confused to change these concepts. Just focus on the sports activity and make sure that the communication is in English, as much as possible. Also, this will keep them healthy, active and ready to concentrate better on the next activity in class.
Music is a great activity to help students learn English, especially children. Good melodies will be stuck in a student’s head, maybe they will even sing it at home. Songs and music make learning words, grammar, parts of speech, fluency and pronunciation so much more easy and fun. The great thing is that there are many different ways to involve music in the classroom. Music bonds, music warms up (always have some friendly music playing when students are entering the classroom, in case they’re nervous they have something ‘friendly’ to focus on). You can use different songs every class to mark a part of your class. Students will know a certain part is over: for example that it’s time to check homework, or time to stand up and be active, or sit down and be quiet or the class came to an end. Bringing and instrument to the classroom helps to keep students focused, just make sure you play it well and understandable. The possibilities with music are endless really. One tip from us: Chinese love karaoke, just search for ‘karaoke’ on YouTube.
Is creative teaching for me?
As you’ve seen, there are a million ways to bring in variation in all the different kinds of creative teaching methods. Maybe the one that you prefer is not even listed here. Working with teachers and students in China for a while we’ve seen that normally the method the teacher is most passionate about works. Also, creative teaching is all about innovative ideas. There’s nothing wrong with some trial and error, just make sure you always have a plan B!
Written by Bas Kragt, Program Consultant English Teacher Program at China Plus