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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Musings on Conference Performance and a Taster of RSCON!

All too often, creativity is left out of the school curriculum. As children grow up, the opportunities for freer creative play and construction quickly diminish. Subjects such as art and music are often reduced to just technique and theory, which is not much fun! I am an English teacher, so I am concerned with how my students learn the language, but my aim is to get them using the language. And the best way of doing this is by allowing them to create.

This, is the introduction to my talk Creativity with Kids: Using Online Tools for the upcoming Reform Symposium Conference. Or at least that's how I plan to introduce the topic. Usually, when I write out what I plan to say in a conference talk, it all sounds good on paper (or on the screen) but when I'm actually live "on air" or in front of a live audience, this kind of prepared paragraph just sounds stilted and memorised. If I had theatre training, or just a bit of talent, perhaps I would be able to pull it off, but the fact is I don't. So, however much I read through what I've written, it will never sound natural and in the end I find myself using my own words (as in those that leave my tongue spontaneously rather than those I had previously prepared).

This is, surely, a good thing! How often do we ask our learners to use their own words instead of reading out what is on the page or what they have written? When we want our learners to improve their speaking skills, we try to encourage them to just speak, without planning what they want to say beforehand. This is the ideal and comes after lots and lots of practice. This very week I did a lesson on How to improve your speaking with a group of intermediate level teenagers. We started off by answering questions in full written form, then converting this to notes, using these notes to answer the questions orally in pairs and finally, recording the answers on Audioboo, just looking at the notes to help. This step by step approach helps learners feel more secure, planning your ideas before you speak helps reduce nerves and anxiety.

This is the exact same reason why I write out what I want to say in a conference session. I usually then transform this into notes which I print out onto index cards. These cards make me feel secure. They are like a safety net, there in case I get lost. However, when it comes to the crunch, I rarely use them and I almost never use the words I had originally planned. Perhaps this too is a good thing? Most of the audience members are not native speakers of English, and if my own words are simple, this will at least make me understood. However I often wish I could express myself naturally, using a variety of sophisticated language features, as Keynote speakers often do!

As for Creativity with Kids: Using Online Tools, I will be demonstrating the tools by using them to provide the content of my talk. The ideas on how to use the tools will be embedded into the tools themselves. After the session I will share those creations on this blog, and you will all be able to see my (lack of) creative ability! Come to the session to hear more about how people feel about sharing their creativity. And if you just want some ideas on how to use some tried and tested web tools with your young learners, pop into RSCON4 Online Conference on Friday 11th October at 8pm CEST (7pm BST, 6pm GMT)! Here is the link to the room! Creativity with Kids by Michelle Worgan

Hope to see you there :)

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