“Student-directed learning”, “innovative, creative thinkers”, “student use of the target language”… these are phrases world language teachers hear everyday. The question is, of course, how do we translate those concepts into classroom activities that engage students and build proficiency? I am a firm believer that tasks requiring students to use their imagination are key.
One way of doing this is to have students write Creative Responses. I used them this year in conjunction with interactive notebooks as a part of a history unit to help students analyze and synthesize what they were learning. After each section of our unit, students had to take the information they had learned and transform it into a Creative Response to demonstrate their understanding. I wanted students to see that history is really just a story, filled with actions and reactions, and often has a lot in common with their favorite TV dramas and movies. I used these projects for a French level three history unit, but they are adaptable to any language, level or topic.
The ground rules were:
- students must incorporate target grammatical structures: in our case, the two past tenses (passé composé and imperfect), as well as the subjunctive mood and conditional sentences with “if”
- students may not use the same creative response more than once during the entire unit
- student responses must demonstrate an understanding of the key ideas and their connections to each other and to previous history they had learned.
I used our standard county writing and speaking rubrics to assess the creative responses based on their incorporation of the required content (historical and linguistic). All Creative Responses had both a written and a spoken component, and included feedback from peers. For visual responses, students had to explain their reasoning and their choice of images.
To begin, we did an example together with our first key historical figure, building an acrostic of the name Vercingétorix (France’s first national hero), looking for words that described his life and his story to fit the letters of his name. I then gave students a list of creative response ideas, and after each segment of study, turned them loose to demonstrate their understanding.
Students could create their response from the perspective of a person, an object (such as a sword or a vase) or a building (such as a cathedral, castle or fortress). In addition to “traditional” formats such as posters or poems, students had the following suggested options:
- An advertisement
- Advice for the future
- Award winners (like the Olympics, Oscars or Darwin awards)
- A bumper sticker slogan and logo
- A one-minute speech
- A cereal box (like Wheaties)
- A mini-dictionary
- Fortunes (such as you would find in fortune cookies)
- A greeting card
- A horoscope
- Directions on how to complete a task, including consequences for not following those directions
- An invitation
- A help wanted ad
- A job resume
- A death notice
- A storyboard for a film
- Song or rap lyrics
- A crest or herald visually representing the person, object or building.
Students were encouraged to add other ideas to the list, and I challenge you to do the same. Consider creating a list to inspire students to try something a little different for their next assignment.
Baltimore County Public Schools