Triggering creative expression

Arundhati Dolas, Adithi Muralidhar and Sugra Chunawala

Our creative capacity is what truly separates humans from other species and therefore creativity has a paralleled development with the evolution of our culture and society. (David Spendlove, 2008, p. 9)

Creativity is a word that is subjective in terms of interpretation and ambiguous in its definition. Yet, it is used frequently in academic and everyday conversation by researchers, educators, teachers and students. Creativity is associated with an individual’s ability to produce something novel, appropriate and/or influential. As an adjective, the word ‘creative’ can give meaning to people or situations. For example, there can be creative people, artists, thinkers, writers, designers and entrepreneurs and there can be creative problems, solutions, talents, ideas, processes and minds. Creativity is studied in a number of disciplines including arts, sciences, and language. In our context of language learning, we associate creativity with meaning making, imagination, self-expression, and recreation.

The context
In May 2017, a summer camp was conducted with students who were entering grade 5. A part of the camp was dedicated towards developing students’ language skills, such as reading and writing. In order to make this joyful and relevant, we included activities that provided opportunities for creative expression, such as, letter-art, reading stories, complete-a-story, word-games, poetry-composition, story-writing, crossword puzzles, picture-description, etc. The aim was to provide opportunities for students to develop their linguistic skills (reading, writing, listening), encourage collaborative work and enhance original and imaginative thoughts and ideas. This article discusses two such activities, designed to spark creative expression among primary school students.

Poetry composition
Composing poems gives students an opportunity to construct and express ideas. Elaborating ideas, thinking outside the box and forming connections and relations enhances learning and critical thinking. In fact, research has suggested that composing poems may foster problem solving, analytical and creative thinking skills. Poetry writing involves, to a certain extent, manipulation of words in a demanding and interesting way to produce creative outputs. In this activity, we gave some newspaper cut-outs (pictures) to students in groups and asked them to compose a poem by linking the pictures. Composing a poem on some random unrelated pictures may appear daunting. However, students took advantage of this opportunity to showcase their ability to play with words. That students found this activity quite engaging was evident in their group interactions and their innovative poems. They also chose their words carefully so as to present a series of rhyming phrases, a popular trait in many poems.

Here is one such poem:

A poem composed by 3 boys and 1 girl based on pictures given to them.

English translation of the poem:
I feel like becoming a cook
Sometimes in the hotel or sometimes in the kitchen
I feel like becoming a cook.
I feel like becoming a photographer
Sometimes of butterflies and sometimes of peacocks
I feel like becoming a photographer.
Sometimes I feel like going to a shopping mall
To bring some vegetables and get some chocolates
Sometimes I feel like going to a shopping mall.
Sometimes I feel like having coffee
Sometimes I feel like having tea
Sometimes I feel like having coffee.

Story writing
Story writing involves using imagination, building a coherent picture and introducing a logical flow that leaves readers with something to think about. Students in groups were initially asked to state five words with some constraints. For example, one word necessarily had to be a person’s name. After finalizing their set of words students wrote a narrative weaving these words into a story, which reflected their cultural connections.

Story composed by 2 boys.

English translation of the story:
Narendra’s Mother
(Words in English: flock of birds, sun, nose-ring, sacred fire, Narendra)

There was a village called ‘Kadlas’. The sun had risen. Narendra’s mother had gone to the temple in the morning. There, her nose ring fell into the sacred fire. But she does not realize this. When she came back home, she touched her nose to remove the nose ring and realized that it had fallen somewhere. She called Narendra but he was seeing a flock of birds. By the time Narendra returned in the afternoon, the nose ring had melted in the sacred fire.

This story-writing activity gave students a free rein to play with words, use new words, express emotions and feelings with words and be imaginative. Students also sequenced the events culminating in a dramatic ending! Simple language tasks like this can help students become familiar with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spellings.

Parting thoughts
Poetry and story composition offer several opportunities to write and express oneself creatively (see references). Though we have showcased only two activities, our preliminary look at students’ works indicate that they made connections, sequenced events efficiently, used new vocabulary, brought in dramatics and humour in their writings and conveyed emotions when writing the poems and stories. While research has emphasized links between language-based activities and development of vocabulary, as well as, fostering creativity and building self-esteem, confidence and self-awareness, it also touches upon the need to connect with students’ interests and enhance their literature appreciation. We have attempted to do the same via these activities with children and are currently exploring ways to assess students’ works more effectively. While in general it is a good exercise to get students to write and draw about their experiences, it is well worth the effort to add some twists and challenges in the activity which itself can be a creative task.

Acknowledgments: We are grateful to Dr. Rohini Karandikar and Rupali Shinde for their feedback. A special thanks to the students who were part of the summer camp. We also acknowledge the support of the Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy, under Project No. 12-R&D-TFR-6.04-0600.


  • Cubukcu, F. (2010). Creative thinking and poetry in ELT Classes. International Conference on New Trends in Education and their Implications, 786-791.
  • Dust, K. (1999). Motive, means and opportunity: Creativity research review. London: NESTA.
  • Le, P. (2018). Using six-word stories to trigger EFL learners’ creative writing skills. Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching 13(2), 175-188.
  • Maley, A, & Peachey, N. (Eds.) (2015). Creativity in the English language classroom. London: The British Council.
  • Spendlove, D. (2008). Creativity in Education: A Review. Design and Technology: An International Journal 10(2), 9-18.

All the three authors work at Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, Mumbai. The corresponding author can be reached at

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