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LCC International University > News and Events archive > What to do when there is a major difference between the day-to-day English vs academic English of high school students?

What to do when there is a major difference between the day-to-day English vs academic English of high school students?


In the summer, I met with Živilė, a lively, eager English teacher, in the town of Kretinga. Živilė teaches English without a glance at the standard, dry textbook. Thinking outside of the box and outside of the classroom, she wanted to create an event for students that would engage them in writing creatively in English. So often pupils write predictable paragraphs about their hobbies, technology, food, or sports for their English classes, while in their free time, they are accessing video games, movies, social media, and blogs in English. The disconnect is a gapping hole between the English that they use and the English in the school classroom. I wanted to support Živilė’s efforts and so we developed a creative writing contest for English pupils. Forty-five pupils from seven schools in western Lithuania participated.

In reality, an English language creative writing contest will not entirely bridge the gap between textbook and real-world English language usage, for pupils. However, our goal was to encourage students to combine their creative thinking and English expression. Creativity is said to be one of the highest forms of critical thinking so if we can encourage creativity in the language classroom, we are bolstering pupils’ cognitive skills. (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching Blooms Taxonomy).

Pupils then read their creative story online, via the Flipgrid platform. We wanted to give an opportunity for students to read with expression, to use their voice to show inflection, emotion, and story action. Their delightful voices were a testament to the fact that they knew their own story and could speak, dramatizing their own story well.

An additional bonus is that the more students write in a second language, the more their writing will improve. The idea of second language fluency is easily understood in terms of speaking. The more you speak (production) a foreign language, the better you become at speaking that language. Research also shows that the more you speak, the more grammatically correct you become. The same goes for writing. The more you write (production) in your second language, the more your second language will improve. The more opportunities you give students to produce English, formally or informally, the better their English is likely to become.

Secondary school teachers are always looking for ideas to engage students’ language development outside the classroom. Ligitia’s school published this article about the Creative Writing Contest sponsored by LCC International University on their school’s website.

Author: Robin Gingerich, Ph.D., MA TESOL Program Director at LCC International University.

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