Imagination and Language Learning This is
part 1 of 2 lectures based upon Gertrude Moskowitz’s article in 1994 called “Humanistic Imagination:
Soul Food for the Language Class.” The article begins with the idea of asking
students to act in front of a class. In language classes, we often do this with conversations.
Some teachers would never consider this because some cultures and some people are shy and
don’t like being in front of others, but there are numerous benefits to it. And, for
some students, putting on the identity of the actor protects their self-esteem because
it is not them stumbling over the words, it is “Ginger” or “Roger” or whoever
their role is. Of course, small groups can build confidence or some students prefer to
be videorecorded instead of giving live performances. In the end, if the instructor sets a safe
atmosphere in the class, I don’t think there should be a problem.
I found it very interesting that Moskowitz said imagination is one of the basic needs
of life. Of course, others like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow agree with her. But, I
found myself trying to list what I thought were truly basic needs in life and this is
a list I came up with. If imagination and creativity are basic human needs, then there
is no reason to not bring them into the language classroom.
What do you think? Should IQ stand for “Intelligence Quotient,” like it does, or should it really
be “Imagination Quotient”? Is there a connection between imagination and intelligence?
The truth is that frequently, people with lots of imagination do not score so high on
the intelligence scale, but we should be aware that they are extremely intelligent in their
own way. In the US, K-12 has developed a program for “gifted students” because they found
that highly intelligent learners were usually bored in regular classes and that would lead
to behavioral issues. In high school, this program finally reached my small town and
I was given an intelligence test. I didn’t score high enough to truly fit into the gifted
program. But without me knowing it, they gave some of the writing I did at home for fun
to an English professor and she rated my creative writing as exceptional. Therefore, they let
me into the gifted program and I loved it. The point is that they were wise enough to
consider both creativity and intelligence in their decision. As teachers, we should
also make room for both in our classroom and grading.
“Acceptable social responses” or “appropriate social responses.” Essentially, this is
an attempt to get us, as teachers, to realize that students need more than just hearing
“OK, next” from us. Lots of students respond to getting good grades, but try to create
rewards for students who don’t get good grades. Try to bring some right-brain rewards
into your classroom. Sometimes when a student gives an answer I like, I’ll do a little
fist pump or I’ll dance a little. These are “social” rewards that go beyond grades
and they can be given for “atypical” work also. I had a student once who was horrible
in regular language classes, but when I set him in front of a computer, he blossomed.
Try not to get too caught up in test scores. Hard to do, but you and your students will
find it very rewarding if you broaden your perspective.