Of all the basic subjects that children study in school, none demand a creative touch quite as much as English language arts. After all, ELA encompasses stories, novels, poetry and plays — all of which use the simple black and white of words on the page to bring vivid sights and sounds alive in our imaginations.
Yet the question remains: How can teachers bring that essential creativity into ELA lessons in the classroom? Below are five ideas you can use to teach ELA creatively:
- Find out what they’re thinking. Engagement is the key to learning, but how can you engage your students if you don’t know what interests them? Early in the school year, take an ELA interest poll. Find out which projects they would most like to do. Podcasts? Creative writing? Interviews? Rap? Then, tailor your focus to encompass these. Find out the topics that interest your students, too. Horses? Monster trucks? Mysteries? Knowing what your students are interested in will allow you to pick the books, stories and poems most likely to set their imaginations afire.
- Bring on the games. Nothing engages the creative part of our minds like games. Literature-based learning games range from teaching simple spelling concepts to challenging children to create their own complex stories. Read through some online reviews, then stock a shelf in your classroom with the best ones. You can make them an active part of your ELA lessons, or be sneaky and let the kids use them “just for fun.” They’ll be learning without even realizing it.
- Author, author! What better way to combine reading, writing and student interest than by having your students write their own books? Writing original stories forces young authors to focus on important literacy concepts such as point of view, characterization, story arc and theme. Depending on your students’ age, their books may be just a few short sentences (liberally illustrated) or whole chapter books.
- Story starters. Even professionals sometimes face the cold reality of writer’s block. For kids struggling with the daunting challenges of the English language, coming up with story ideas can be even harder. Why not create a “story starter” corner in your classroom? A chair and a room divider will do. Cover the divider with postcards, photographs, dried flowers or upbeat news stories — anything that will spur the imagination. Kids struggling to create a story idea can sit in the chair and dream away for a minute or two, until an idea pops into mind. Encouraging your students to add their own clippings or mementos to the idea board will ramp up the engagement level even further.
- Little theater. Kids of all ages love dressing up. Providing a costume box can add creativity to ELA lessons in all sorts of ways. Your students can dress up as different characters during dramatic readings, for instance. They can create, direct and produce short plays they write themselves. They can even use costumes when acting out the literacy concepts they’re struggling to master — a great way to cement those concepts into memory. For example: Just what does a simile look like? Is it brave as a lion? Sly as a fox? There are probably kids in your classroom right now who can’t wait to answer that question for you.
By adding some of these ideas (or all of them!) to your lesson plans, you’ll be moving your students past simple reading and writing exercises and into the realm of creativity, where literature comes to life.