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Drawing in pink and orange pastels with the word 'rosa' next to it. ;

The importance of emotions and creativity in teaching languages

PGCE students in modern foreign languages (MFL) at the School of Education, Communication & Society took part in a two-day interactive workshop designed to encourage creative approaches to language teaching. They learnt how to feel languages through artistic practices and playful activities, and explored how to embed more creative ways of approaching languages in their teaching practice.

Based on Dr Simon Coffey’s research on the aesthetic dimensions of language, the workshop aimed to explore how creativity can be used as a tool within language pedagogy. The workshop, a collaboration between Simon and artist educator Daksha Patel, encouraged the PGCE MFL students to think of language and language teaching differently, through activities involving touch and sound sensations, drawing emotion words onto body shapes, translation and sculpting sounds.

That’s really what I want the students in school to do: I want them to enjoy the sounds of the words, to revel in the poetry, in the visual and auditory aesthetic of language.– Dr Simon Coffey, Programmes Director of PGCE

Daksha Patel purposefully organised dynamic activities that the students were not familiar with in a learning setting. For instance, they were asked to move around the space and draw from different angles, and to stand against the walls and draw around their body shapes.

They therefore could gather a deeper understanding of language and language teaching through kinaesthetic learning, rather than by thinking rationally about pedagogy.

I think, when you use your body in your learning, you remember things in different ways.– Daksha Patel, artist researcher

The students are teachers of different modern languages, which enriched the workshops further as they were reflecting on the sounds of language in new ways. They felt positively challenged to create different ways to think about their language, including through associations and emotions. Recognising the emotional element of learning a language made them rethink how best to help their pupils internalise and experience a language, beyond learning the grammar.

At the end of the workshops, the PGCE students reported that they would apply some of the activity ideas in their own teaching to show their pupils that learning a language doesn’t have to be about studying for a test or sitting down and reading a book, and instead that it can be creative, too.

I never expected to do this in my PGCE. And I’m very glad we are, because I love creativity and we very rarely get the chance to do this.– A student at the workshop

Dr Simon Coffey was happy to see that the teacher-students enjoyed the workshops and beyond that, that their enjoyment was combined with shifts in mindset.

While mindset shifts are gradual and can’t always be quantified or measured, it is clear that the students have been thinking about language differently and these workshops have stimulated ideas that they will take into their own classroom practice.– Dr Simon Coffey, Programmes Director of PGCE

The project was funded by The Exchange, a space for collaboration and innovation in King’s Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, where research from across the social sciences is communicated and generated in creative ways.

Watch the video of the workshops:

Read the full paper on the workshop

Dr Simon Coffey and Daksha Patel have published an article in The Language Learning Journal in August 2023: Sparking the imagination: creative language pedagogies as intersemiotic translation.

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Simon Coffey

Simon Coffey

Reader in Languages Education

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