Using Creative Approaches to Learn a Language
I have been asked to speak at an EU Language Learning Conference, CREALLE, in Brussels next week (15 – 16 October). CREALLE seeks to promote the importance of creative and sometimes “less conventional” methods of teaching a language in the classroom. Creativity has a big role to play in making languages easier to understand and assimilate. Not necessarily always easier for the Teacher – but certainly a lot easier for the learner!
Why Creativity is Important in Language Learning
Before we look at a creative approach, lets look at the outcome of a non creative approach – vocabulary lists. This involves passing over lists of words and asking students to learn them. These lists consist of unrelated bits of information, or data. If our minds were like computers then we could learn and store it in milliseconds. Alas we humans are not configured that way. When we learn vocabulary in this fashion we suffer from a phenomenon described by Dr H Douglas Brown, author of “Principles of Language Learning and Teaching”, as Systematic Forgetting. Sound familiar? Whenever I have tried to learn words this way I find it very hard to retain the knowledge.
Dr Brown argues that the human brain finds it very difficult to retain information presented as lists. He says that we are much better when we can associate the new knowledge with other information that we already know – such as an image, an occasion or by remembering it in context. He calls these associations “hooks” and the more memory hooks we can build around the new information, the easier it is for us to lock this new information into our long term memory.
So we need to surround our new words with memory hooks! Time to get creative!
Context is key for learning words
One of the most powerful ways of learning new vocabulary (according to Dr Brown) is to place it in a sentence. The sentence lends three aspects to a new word:
- It creates context (or meaning) for the new word.
- It creates a picture image we can associate with the new word.
- It surrounds the new words with words we might already know.
This contextualization creates multiple hooks for our new words. This is a big step forward from lists and is much more effective. But we can get more creative and power boost our learning even more.
Let’s get even more creative!
What if we could take our language learning one step further and make the new word extra important – so that the learner wants to learn it. This has a dramatic affect on the learning outcome – when humans want something and put their minds to it, the outcome is usually good.
Good idea! But how do we make someone want to learn a word? How do we put extra value on this information?
By turning learning words and making sentences into a game! Maybe a game where they have to create sentences and learn words to score points. The more words they learn, the faster they can race cars to Paris around a special game board. Compete, Race, Overtake – First one to Paris wins!
That sounds like it might work!
We have just described our KLOO Race to Paris Game. The affect of these games is dramatic and creates an efficient, excited and hungry-to-learn mindset in learners. More and more schools are using KLOO because it is creative, effective and fun.
With a KLOO Language Game in French or Spanish you get:
- 16 Great Language Games
- 4 Decks of KLOO ColourSense™ Word Cards
- Quick Guide Rules
- Millions of sentences
- 16 how to play Videos
- Lesson plans written by MFL Teachers
And the price of all this creativity? Really not much at all.
Check out the KLOO Store
Want to see how easy it is to build sentences and learn words with KLOO? Take a look at this 2 minute animated video.
- EFL teachers’ perceptions about vocabulary acquisition and instruction (udini.proquest.com)
- MFL Classroom of the future – IT for Languages (languagepie.wordpress.com)
- QR codes for language learning (etwinninguk.typepad.com)