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Creative Writing, Poetry and Modern Languages

Page history last edited by Stephanie Knox 13 years, 3 months ago

 Creative Writing

     Up until this point writing has focused on analytic writing as a response to various literature texts.  However, creative writing can be just as important.  Creative writing can be used in conjunction with various texts (such as some of the enumerated ideas suggested) or can be an activity on its own.  In both cases it is an important activity for peace education.   Creating a peaceful world requires creativity since the problems presented have yet to be solved.  Students needs to have the skills to think "outside of the box."  Creative writing is one manner to begin to cultivate these skills.  Teachers should not limit students by what is viewed as possible or realistic since this can both limit creativity as well as some of the best ideas.   Creative writing prompts can connect with Futures Education when they require solutions.  Creative writing pieces can be to put in student designed 'zines or other publications for sharing with the broader community.   



       Throughout history poetry has been used as a manner to challenge violent systems and oppression.  Other poems have been used to develop inner-peace, as a form of self expression.  In general, poetry has had an important role in peace throughout history.  Students can benefit from both reading and analyzing poems as well as writing their own poems.  Since poetry is also a literary text, many of the suggestions from above can be adapted to respond to various poetic texts. 

     Writing poetry can sometimes be daunting for students.  However, there are various successful ways to involve the tactics of teaching peace into writing poetry.  One way is to encourage students to write poetry that relates to their daily lives.  This lesson can be seen from the Poetry Workshops, which were part of the literacy crusade in Nicaragua, during the revolutionary Sandinista government (1979-1990).  Once participants learned the basics of reading and writing they were encouraged to write poetry.  Most of these poems relate to students daily lives, such as the harvest of corn.  However, participants commented that the workshops were important and valuable in that they allowed them to more deeply access their own feelings and build their confidence in their literary abilities.  Another manner to write poems is collectively.  This allows students to work on their team-building skills via a collaborative learning opportunity as well as to bounce ideas off of each other to make their poems stronger.  In general, teachers need to gauge how much structure students need in writing poems.  Some students, typically younger students, find that structure, such as how many syllables, rhyming, etc. makes writing poetry easier.  However, other students find that such structures limit them.  Therefore, it is important to keep your students in mind when implement structure to guide the poetry writing process. 



Modern Languages

     The term modern languages refers to what has typically been known as foreign language learning.  The change in terminology responds to the multilingual nature of many of the world's states.  For example, in France students are just as likely to speak French as a first langauge as they are to speak Arabic.  Therefore, a student who is learning Arabic is not learning a foreign language but simply an additional language.  Modern language learning is key to communication with those from other backgrounds (whether they live in our backyard or across the world) and therefore is key to global citizenship education.  Teaching modern languages is not simply about teaching grammar, but also about teaching culture, tolerance, diversity and acceptance.  Language is key to learning these elements since it has important value, both symbolic and real.  Language can be especially important for minority groups, immigrants and refugees since it is a strong identifier of their culture. 

     Learning modern languages is also key to promoting tolerance, not simply tolerance for those people who speak the language you learn, but tolerance for all who are different.  Linguistic differences frequently are a source of conflict within school settings since linguistic differences can divide groups.  Additionally, the importance of modern language education for peace is an issue of language rights and human rights. This can be seen in the history of the United States, as when teaching modern languages was limited, it coincided with human rights violations. This can be seen in the English-only schools that were started for Indigenous children, where speaking native languages was forbidden.  Therefore, given the evident relationship between modern languages and peace, the following section will provide various ideas and examples for teaching modern languages and promoting peace. 


1.  Language awareness model

 For primary school students(ages 5-10), the language awareness model is one of the most commonly recommended strategies.  This model focuses on promoting awareness of language, especially the similarities between languages.  The goal is not to teach a particular language but rather to make students accustomed to the idea of other languages and the parallels that they share.  This is not to say that specific languages are compared but rather languages of the world are viewed holistic entities to be learned about.  This is a good way of teaching peace education since it focuses on promoting diversity and gives students a motivation to further develop language learning in the future.  It also helps students develop the skills that they will need to master individual languages as they mature. 

The contribution of modern language teaching to peace[PDF Report]. (1998, September/October). 
     Retrieved from European Centre for Modern Languages website: www.ecml.at/documents/reports/ 


2.  Daily Lives

As is a key aspect of teaching peace in any subject, it is important for students to connect learning languages to their daily lives.  Shin-Eiken is a group of English teachers in Japan who believe that peace education is integral to the teaching of modern languages in Japan.  One of their main principles is that modern language education should "foster world peace."  All of their activities and lessons are designed to teach students deep reflection.  To achieve peace within the classroom they ensure that they respond to the needs of all of their students and create lessons that respond to the lives of students and incorporate local and global perspectives.  Teachers ask their students to work with them to incorporate English into their daily lives.  One unit/set of classes that they have enacted was about the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the resulting invasion of Afghanistan.  Students were asked to look at anti-war slogans used in protests against the war in Afghanistan and then to write opinion pieces about their own thoughts regarding the war, terrorism, etc.  Some students even sent these opinions to U.S. American newspapers or President George Bush.  For Shin-Eiken, the goal of learning another language is to use those skills to express opinions about global issues of peace, human rights and the environment.    

Ikeda, M., & Kikuchi, K. (n.d.).  Shin-Eiken and Peace Education in English-Language 
     Classrooms. Retrieved from Hurights Osaka website: http://www.hurights.or.jp/pub/hreas/7/08ShinEiken.htm 


3.  Culture

As stated in the introduction, learning a new language is not simply about learning the vocabulary and the grammar but also about understanding the culture of those whose language you are learning.  It is especially important for teachers to focus on the culture of the various groups who speak the language and to not allow typical power relations to dictate the cultures learned about.  For example, Spanish courses typically focuses on Spain and French courses on France while there are many countries in Latin America and Africa (respectively) that also speak the languages.  In looking at culture it is key for students to, using their language skills, reflect on their own culture and how this influences their values and actions.  Students can use learning about other cultures to engage in problem solving simulations, relating to situations they might occur when interacting with a distinct culture.  In learning about culture teachers can also work to challenge steroetypes held about members of the other linguistic group.  It is important that teachers do not simplify culture into easy to remember stereotypes but rather give students a nuanced look.  One specific way to achieve this is through pen-pals.  Pen-Pals allow students to improve their linguistic skills while also learning about the culture of other students and learning to see similarities rather than differences. 

Kraft, L., & Tutuianu, D. (n.d.). Cooperative Learning for intercultural Education in foreign 
     Language Teaching - the military higher Education case [PDF Article]. Retrieved from 
     International Association for Intercultural Education website: www.iaie.org/download/ 



4. Word Choice and World View

Teachers can also look specifically at the way that language, as in specific words, influences actions.  One's language can strongly influence a vision of the world and reflect their natural world.  The classic example of this is that the Eskimos (from Alaska, a very northernly state in the United States) have numerous words for snow, whereas indigenous groups in Nicaragua, which has a tropical climate, have numerous words for rain.  Additionally, specific language can work to create or abate tension and conflict.  Looking at language with a more in-depth perspective works to help students internalize the language that they are using.  It also can be very positive for vocabulary building as it allows students to better understand subtle distinctions between different words.  


5.  Methodologies

Those who teach modern languages have emphasized the importance of not simply subject matter but also methodology when teaching.  Like John Dewey emphasized it is important to make sure that languages are taught in a way that makes them meaningful for students.  Everything should be in context.  Additionally, cooperative learning has proven to be an incredibly effective manner to teach students languages. It is important that in teaching modern languages, teachers incorporate peace education pedagogies. See Teaching and Learning Approaches and Peace Education as Pedagogy for more ideas.

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