14 The Use of Art and Craft to Promote Creativity in Young Learners of English Mary Jatisambogo, MA. TBI Bandung Indonesia My workshop was about the use of art and craft and other integrated activities to promote creativity in young learners of English in order to develop confidence and social, cognitive and artistic as well as linguistic skills. Participants tried out an art and craft activity and considered the importance of the teacher’s response during such activities in developing creativity. Through brainstorming, discussion and problem-solving tasks, participants considered the benefits of promoting creativity in young learners, benefits linked to the rationale behind an activity-based approach, with its emphasis on the development of the whole child. As language learners, children use language creatively, recombining phrases in original ways to express meaning. By setting tasks (art and craft, storytelling, drama) that encourage children to be creative in nonlinguistic ways (artistically, musically, physically), teachers give children opportunities to experiment with language in creative ways and to acquire language. My workshop was attended by teachers and teacher trainers working in primary schools in Vietnam as well as by teacher trainers and academics from other British Council schools in Asia and from universities in the region. The participants were extremely enthusiastic and it was interesting for me to discover how many of the concerns of teachers in Indonesia are shared by other teachers in the Southeast Asia region. Art and craft activities with young learners Through art and craft activities, which result in a tangible end-product, children can gain a sense of pride and achievement. They have something they can show to other children, parents and to others in their school as an indication of what they are doing in their English classes and to show that English is being used for a real purpose. Why use art and craft activities with young learners? Imagination and creativity Activities such as art and craft stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity. Such creative activities create a language rich environment and encourage young learners to take risks with the language, recombining phrases in original ways to express meaning. More learning will come from creative activities than from contrived language exercises and language arises naturally when it is not the main focus. Experiential learning Children learn by doing. An art and craft activity offers real communication and allows language to be a means to an end: young learners produce something through language, or are expected to describe or report on the end product through language (either to other groups or to the whole class), with the activity integrating language skills and focusing on language items in a natural way. Contextualised learning An art and craft activity creates an ideal context for creating the need to communicate in young learners. For children, language needs to be supported by links with immediate context and behaviour; children’s intentions in a context that makes human sense to them sustain and support complex utterances. Children need a reason for communicating and the context of the art and craft also helps to make the meaning of the language clear. Art and craft can create a natural context for a focus on language. Young children can internalise language patterns through repeated exposure but as they get older they develop the ability to analyse language. Art and craft activities can develop analytical skills by leading to work on recognising and labeling grammatical and lexical patterns. The whole child Art and craft activities are holistic, drawing upon the ‘whole child’ and not simply the child’s linguistic competence. They can be linked to the learners’ own lives and to the other skills that children are developing – intellectual, motor, social and learner independence skills. Art and craft activities develop skills such as hand-eye coordination, for example. Moreover, the content of art and craft work is often cross-curricular. It links with other topics in the school curriculum, both exploiting and developing the skills from other school subjects. Mixed-ability classes Art and craft activities allow for young learners of different abilities to work together with the strengths of each child being maximized and their weaknesses being compensated. Even young learners at beginner level can benefit from experiencing new language through art and craft activities which are meaningful to them. Different children can make contributions of different kinds, depending on their capabilities. The young learners can work at their own level and their own pace, making art and craft work success-oriented. Art and craft can also cater for different preferred learning styles and for quieter children who might speak through a mask or puppet. Ownership and personal involvement Art and craft activities create a sense of ownership in young learners which is highly motivating. The higher level of personal and emotional involvement required for an art and craft activity motivates young learners for future learning. When an activity matters to the young learners, and their own ideas and feelings are valued, the language used to process or describe the art and craft becomes meaningful. Social interaction Art and craft activities encourage learners to reach group decisions and to value others’ suggestions, and therefore they develop children’s social skills as well as their intellectual and motor skills. They develop children’s confidence and also encourage children to cooperate rather than to compete against each other. Social interaction with a teacher Bruner believed that children should be involved in doing things, and that children actively construct knowledge of the world. He stressed the importance of language, communication and instruction, believing that social interaction with an interested adult promoted learning. The interaction with the teacher during the art and craft activity is an ideal time for learning to take place. It creates an opportunity for the teacher to ask genuine rather than display questions and to give individual attention to each child. The teacher can use language for a real purpose and respond to the learners as children rather than as simply language learners. Art and craft activities also allow the teacher to focus on what the young learner is doing - to respond to this and to be less concerned about their own actions. The end-product Art and craft activities have a tangible, visible outcome which young learners need. The fact that the activities result in an end-product gives art and craft activities a clear goal and purpose. The awareness that they are working towards an end-product, possibly even with a public performance, can be very motivating, and encourage the learners to pay attention to their language. If you are using what the children are making for another language activity (for example, you might ask the children to make puppets which will later be used for a drama activity) the end-product takes on extra significance and is more motivating. Display Art and craft activities give children something to display. This display may be in the classroom, or it could be in other areas of the schools. Not only is this motivating for young learners, but it also encourages them to pay attention to the accuracy of their language. Classroom displays evolving from the creative work of young learners also help to provide a learning environment conducive to learning. If the art and craft activity is not for display, it may still give the children something to take home and to show their parents. Memory The real communication and the support provided by the end-product itself make language more memorable for the young learners. Art and craft activities also provide opportunities for scaffolding in which an adult helps a child to solve a problem by providing selective, graduated help. (In the classroom, questioning is often used to support children in completing tasks. This support can take the form of general verbal encouragement, specific verbal encouragement, or help with children’s choice of materials or strategies, or concept-checking questions, or grading language, or providing visuals.) Variety Art and craft activities are usually settlers and can calm children down after a stirring activity such as a game. As such, they provide variety in the curriculum when balanced against activities such as songs, games and storytelling as well as more traditional language activities. It is fine to have a quiet time during the activity as long as there is language produced later. Peripheral learning The state of normal awareness which does not require careful thought is when we are most receptive to learning. During art and craft activities young learners tend to be relaxed and their affective filter is low. Teacher enjoyment Art and craft activities are enjoyable for the teacher and whatever is enjoyable for the teacher is good for young learners. An enthusiastic teacher who responds positively to the young learners’ creative efforts will have more impact than the curriculum content. Activity-based An activity-based approach is one in which children, carrying out activities with practical educational value, are introduced to a wide range of natural English with opportunities to acquire language at their own pace rather than learning an artificially pre-determined sequence of grammatical structures or functions. ‘Children learn best … when their work is valued … when they are the owners of their work – when they have the opportunity to experience and experiment for themselves’ (Vale, D. and A. Feunteun 1995 Teaching Children English CUP page 28). Only through promoting creativity will teachers be able to show young learners that their work is valued and young learners be able to experiment for themselves.
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