Webinar review – Charles Hadfield : Creative Grammar IATEFL

Another advantage of being an IATEFL member is being able to snuggle down of an afternoon and watch a webinar whenever I’ve got the time and inclination. I’d been meaning to watch this one for a while and was pleased to finally find time yesterday.

The cool but frustrating thing about watching recorded webinars is that I can also follow the chat box, but can’t join in. I saw a few familiar names up there (@ELTmethods, @trishiels, to name but a few), it was like tapping at a glass window when no-one can hear you – “hi guys, I’m here!”

Charles began by describing his training as a French teacher, using the “Question & Answer” technique, “is this an apple?” “No, it’s an orange” or more likely “why are you asking me such a stupid question? Are you blind?”

He described the stone wall difficulties he faced when he tried to introduce English Mother Tongue creative writing into a foreign language class.

Charles explained how, for him creativity may seem a contradiction to rule-based grammar teaching, but in fact all you need is 3 Imaginative Triggers:

– Joining two previously unrelated ideas together; suggested by Koestler in The Act of Creation (1964)

Reasons for using Creativity in the Grammar Classroom

1. Motivation
Language use is inherently creative, creativity encourages risk-taking, which is where the student expands his zone of proximal learning and increases his interlanguage.

2. Helps memorisation
The more cognitive energy that is used in produced language, the more effectively these new forms will be retained.

3. Role in L2 Identity
Personal input is essential in creating one’s L2 identity.

Charles went on to describe some creative activities that we got to try out, I particularly appreciated his details concerning level, timing, language, often not included in activity ideas (You can see more details if you are an IATEFL member on his slides on the IATEFL webinars page):

  1. Platform 17

We were shown a couple of picture prompts and given the following poem frame-

Line 1- Where?
Line 2 – A (adjective) (person)
Line 3 – What are they doing?
Line 4 – What are they thinking of?

I ignored the prompt and wrote my own:


Slouched on her bed
A tired teacher with holiday hair
Watching a webinar
Thinking of school

As Charles mentioned, writing to a pattern encourages the use of certain language, and in my opinion it allows the creation of great “poems”, even if like me, you don’t have a creative bone in your body.

  1. How It’s Done

Write slips of paper to be chosen by students or groups, including activities such as eating spaghetti, getting promoted, bathing a dog. You can be as mundane (making a cup of tea) or quirky (falling in love) as the situation requires. Then ask the students to write a list of instructions – le voilà! – plenty of imperative practice!

Marjorie Rosenberg took the words out of my mind when she suggested a variant of this in the chatbox; get the students to read out their instruction list and the rest of the class guess the activity.

3. Prepositions painting

Create a table such as

On                                      table
In                                       chair
At                   a/n              desk              lies a /n
Under            the               bench             is a/n
Next to

and allow the students to create poems such as…

On a bench
Next to a tree
Beside a lake
Beneath the mountains
Under a sunset sky
Lies a…

and get the student to imagine the item in question!

4.Maternal Advice

Charles read us a section from Jennie by Paul Gallico, where a mother cat gives advice to her offspring, we then had a great time imagining advice from various other animals to their children.

5. Overheard in a Café

In this activity we were shown various portraits and had to choose a couple of them and imagine overhearing their conversation. This is a great way of practicing reported speech, which my students find quite complicated. Teaching teens I would tweak this activity by using photos of famous people of couples such as William & Kate, Kayne & Kim and have the students report their conversations instead.

6. This is the house that Jack built

Charles showed us a photo a man on a boat who had caught an enormous fish, creating follow-on phrases such as “this is the girl who cooked the fish that Jack caught” is a great way to practice relative clauses, and with the adde competitive element (longest phrase wins!) this is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

I agree when Charles encourages us to publish all this wonderful work produced by our students in some form or other, wall display, blog, school magazine. All this creativity is not just for practicing English grammar but also has a major role in encouraging students’ self esteem and building self confidence.

To conclude…

A well organised and highly effective webinar, while I’m interested in current theory it’s definitely the best practice ideas that I find most useful, and I’m sure I’ll be using some of these next term in class.


About fabenglishteacher

enjoying sharing learning
This entry was posted in #YL, Fab ideas, Fab YL ideas, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Webinar review – Charles Hadfield : Creative Grammar IATEFL

  1. Cristina Bueno says:

    Thank you for all the great ideas you give me for my lessons. This summarize of Charles Hadfield`s great webinar is simply brilliant.Thanks to you, I am a better teacher!!!

  2. Pingback: Creativity is like a bus… | Fab English ideas

  3. Pingback: #Teacher5adaywrite | Fab English ideas

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