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Creativity and Production in Language Learning

As you read the anecdote below, try to figure out all the ways that students can receive language input and produce language during the project.

High beginning-level English language learners in Mr. Lin’s class are developing television and print ads for new products that they designed during a unit on advertising. Each team of three students has created and scanned a drawing of their product, and they have also developed a life-sized model for possible use in their TV commercial. Most of the students are now writing their ads. Mr. Lin watches as some of them are looking at  commercials on the Internet to get ideas; other students seem to be debating the wording of their ads. By assigning each group member a role, Mr. Lin has made sure that each student is responsible for an important piece of the project. Because he also has a rule that students must ask three other students a question before they bring it to him, he sees a lot of intergroup interaction. When the students have completed the scripts for the TV and print versions of their ads, they will try them out on another group, who will suggest  changes and other ideas before they go into production. Students will use the ESL program’s new digital camera to film their TV ad and then edit it with either iMovie for Mac or OpenShot Video Editor for PC. They will create their print ad using Microsoft Word software. The final versions of both ads will be posted to the Web, along with an explanation of the assignment and a reflection on the different processes and ideas behind the two types of ads. Students will then have the opportunity to obtain feedback from their classmates and from outside experts.

► Overview of Creativity and Production in Language Learning

Creativity and production are related to many of the standards and foundations for effective language learning. For example, although most researchers agree that input is important for language learning (see, e.g., seminal articles by Long, 1989, 1996; Pica, 1994), others have explored the important role of output, or language production, in language acquisition (Holliday, 1999; Quinn, 2018; Swain, 1995). Language production is important because it allows students to test their hypotheses about how language works and encourages students to use their preferred learning styles to gain additional input in the target language.

Social interaction not only enables valuable language input, but it also enables valuable language production. It allows learners to understand when others find their language incomprehensible and gives them an opportunity to explore various ways of making themselves understood. Feedback from others can also help them notice the discrete grammatical items that they need to focus on to improve their language. Language and content output can take many forms (e.g., speech, graphics, text), and it can range from essays to multimedia presentations.

Producing language assists the language learning process in many ways, but production does not in and of itself promote learning. For example, production can include relatively meaningless activities such as reciting answers to uncontextualized grammar drills. Creativity implies something more—doing something original, adapting, or changing. In this sense, a sentence or a presentation in language classrooms can be creative. To be creative, students need opportunities for intentional cognition; appropriate support, scaffolding, and feedback; and control over language aspects that they will use in their production. Working with others (see chapter 4) often facilitates creativity.

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Creativity and Production in Language Learning by Joy Egbert and Seyed Abdollah Shahrokni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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