Volume II - 1994
Humanistic Imagination: Soul Food for the Language Class
by Gertrude Moskowitz
Dr. Gertrude Moskowitz is professor and coordinator of Foreign Language Education at Temple University, where she has also served as coordinator of TESOL. She is noted for her publications, Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class (Heinle & Heinle) and The Foreign Language Teacher Interacts (Amidon Publications). Her most recent interest is multicultural education. In addition to training teachers, Dr. Moskowitz has worked with medical students, nurses, counselors, therapists, and social workers. She has given presentations on a wide variety of programs throughout the United States and abroad.
you will, a petite fifth-grade girl with a gentle voice being asked to take
the leading role of a powerful sultan in a spontaneous play for the entire
And now, visualize, if you can, a group of Asian female students, quiet by nature, being asked in an American college class, to give an extemporaneous skit calling for action and excitement...
How would these students do? How could teachers do this to students? What were they thinking of to cast these students in such roles? What purposes would such performances serve?
Well, I was that fifth-grade child who amazed myself at being able to display the temperament of the sultan in a loud, bombastic voice in front of several hundred students. You see, I had been chosen to be in a spontaneous drama club that year in school, which turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime for me, for from this experience, I learned to feel comfortable being in front of audiences of all sizes.
As for the Asian students, they were in a methods class I taught recently on drama techniques in teaching second languages. And what a wonderful performance they gave! Yes, when we're given the chance to draw on imagination, we can stretch, grow, open up, and astonish ourselves. What happened in both of these situations is that the students were given opportunities to push past their traditional roles by tapping into their imaginations, and therefore could discover new possibilities and visions in the repertoire of themselves. What I'd like to share with you in this "wonder full" Journal of the Imagination are my thoughts, feelings, and some memories related to imagination in general, its importance in teacher training, and its role in humanistic techniques of teaching second languages. Then, relating the latter with the theme of this issue, the Arts and Humanities, you'll find examples of some motivating humanistic activities which draw on different aspects of those fields.
Imaginings about Imagination
Imagination has always been a magical word to me. It's one of the things I've relished calling on throughout my life as a student, teacher, and instructor of methods courses. When imagination is unleashed, creativity is born; the two go hand-in-hand. If I were to generate a list of the basic essential needs in life, along with food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, being nurtured, accepted, and having a purpose in life, I'd definitely include exercising one's imagination, that is, tapping into one's creativity, as a deep need of all humans.
Human behavior specialist Denis Waitley in his research on what he calls the "ten best-kept secrets of total success" and "greatness," places "releasing your creative energy" second on his list (Waitley, 1989, p.50). He mentioned that when, as a child, he asked his grandmother, whose wisdom he revered, what he could do "to plant great ideas" in himself so he'd "have a great life," her advice was to look at his IQ as his Imagination Quotient rather than his Intelligence Quotient (p.23). Sounds like grandma had great insights to share. Yet, creativity goes unsatisfied in too many people, particularly after we leave the lower grades of school, and walls are no longer decorated and classrooms can be so colorless. Interestingly, in the classroom where I teach at the university, my students and I devised three bulletin boards which are decorated by the students in the classes. Humanistic posters in different languages and realia are also around the room. Since this is quite different from most university classrooms, I find that as students from other classes pass by, a number peek in or come in and ask, "What goes on in here?" "What do you teach in here?" Their curiosity is aroused. On the first day of a course on diversity that I teach, some students think they're in the wrong class when they enter. I ask, "What made you think that?" They reply that it's so different they doubt that it's their class.
I've always looked up to and respected creativity in others and have found it so rewarding and exhilarating when expressing my own. Therefore, one of the highest compliments for me is being acknowledged for being creative. Let me share a recent incident that meant a lot to me. I had invited a very scholarly, articulate guest lecturer, whose mind is awesome, to a course I teach on Multicultural Relations. I introduced this noted genius to the class in a rather unique way. Unexpectedly, instead of beginning his presentation, my guest went to the blackboard and began to lecture on the techniques of my introduction of him, which he pointed out were very educationally sound. He couldn't have flattered me more!
In discussing one of his three principles for managing imagination, Earl Stevick pointed out the importance of acknowledging students who express imagination by giving them "an appropriate social response" of appreciation (Stevick, 1993, p.18). Unfortunately, in second language learning, we tend to give recognition to the left brain more readily than to the right (Asher, 1993, pp.22-23). I recall in my first year of teaching in a rural junior high school, in my sixth-grade English class, there was a 15-year-old boy who could neither read nor write. All he could manage was to painfully pencil out his name, which I still remember clearly, because he evoked such strong feelings of compassion in me. Let's call him Jack.
In this class I assigned a project which would consist of the students' papers bound together into a class notebook. Of course, Jack couldn't do the assignment, but I had observed from some doodling he did that he could draw. So I asked Jack to design the cover for the class project in keeping with the theme of the papers. The cover was magnificent and very colorful, better than I expected. It was something he was able to get recognition for from everyone in the class, and I capitalized on this opportunity to show him off. It seemed that no one had either noticed or at least taken advantage of the fact that though he seemed unable to read or write, he was able to do other things to express himself, and very beautifully at that, which enhanced his acceptability in my class. This "appropriate social response" to his imaginative efforts went a long way with Jack.
Overlooked: The Emotional Side of Learning
How we miss the boat when we don't recognize the potential of the imagination. And yet, too much of schooling does not, with rote learning, memorization, and traditional ways of learning and teaching ignoring the imagination, which is one reason such classes can be so dull--because they're Unimaginative. I see this myself at the university level where classes can be very focused on one-way communication. And in second language classes of the past, certainly imagination was not adequately represented.
Along with the focus on the cognitive, or left brain, in teaching second languages, the role of feelings and emotions went unnoticed for quite some time. Yet how obvious it is that learning to understand and communicate by using a mysterious code with unintelligible sounds, certainly is conducive to frustration, anxiety, and fear. Before its time, I wrote an article entitled "The Fearsome Foreign Language Hour," which spelled out the many fears and their effects that are more prevalent in second language classes than in most other subject matter areas and how the teacher can deal with and alleviate them (Moskowitz, 1964). Although it is one of my favorite articles that I've written, I fear few people took "Fearsome" to heart.
Things Are Looking Up: Recognition of the Affective
Fortunately, the role of anxiety in second language learning has been recognized recently and is being addressed in the literature (Lucas, 1984; Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope, 1986; Horwitz and Young, 1991; Phillips, 1991). However, poor "Fearsome" has not made any bibliography on the subject, probably because it received so little attention then and would not appear in computer searches today.
With all that fear, all the more need there is in the second language class for calling on imaginative ways to teach, which again is a movement of recent vintage. Having an annual conference and a new journal in the field now devoted to emphasizing its importance are contributions we can all salute. These are very exciting landmarks! Thank you, Clyde Coreil and Mihri Napoliello. Certainly using imagination, the teacher's and the students', enhances memory and subsequently learning. As Stevick suggests, "our imagining equipment is intimately associated with our remembering equipment" (Stevick, p.18). I'm reminded of an introduction I gave in a class when I began a new concept in the course. I told a rather unusual story that one could visualize in which a key point was made. Long afterwards, when I've met former students from that class, invariably they've referred to that story which they still recall. So imagination can be a close cousin to retention.
When I first had the inspiration of what turned out to be the book Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class, I had no idea whether those in the second language field would be interested in such a concept (Moskowitz, 1978). It seemed so "far out," a radical departure from what second language teachers did. Furthermore, I wasn't certain whether any publishers would be interested in the book because they would have to have imagination to understand its nature and its message. What followed was a series of pleasant surprises because the book was published and second language teachers from many diverse cultures had the imagination to see the value of personal growth in the foreign language class.
Imagination in Teacher Training
Teacher training courses provide a perfect place to promote creativity in teachers because we're influencing those who can affect many, many students by setting examples of creativity ourselves and demonstrating for our students to do so themselves with their students. Therefore, I've always felt that calling on the imagination in assignments is a significant factor in teacher education classes. For example, I may ask students to create a character that they, as the teacher, will become with their students, and to surprise their students with this new being's presence in class. This is known as "teacher-in-role"; John Rassias is noted for doing this (Bacon, 1993). Before they get this assignment, however, I will have already carried this out with them myself. They, in turn, will demonstrate their new persona in our class and then in their own.
No matter what the age level of students, I believe we have to provide many opportunities to use the imagination. Specific ideas, suggestions, and concrete examples which can be seen then help trigger the imagination of students searching for a way to carry out a creative assignment. This may be even truer as learners mature in age. With young children, teachers may be more inclined to have them make up stories, poems, and draw, paint, or sketch, etc. Perhaps to avoid having students think we're treating them "like children," as they mature we may deal more with the cognitive and avoid calling on student imagination as much.
The assumption seems to be that older students no longer need that kind of stimuli to learn or to be interested. Not so. When I first pass out crayons, markers, and unlined paper in my college classes, I get quite an overt reaction, accompanied by joking and laughter. But after the initial shock wears off and they start expressing themselves in the designated activity, seriousness, interest, and pleasure replace the guffaws.
So, if you want students to create clever posters or a collage, show them some good examples. Once students complete the assignment, take slides or snapshots of their work and/or retain a few samples, if you can, to show future classes. Make video clips of action-oriented projects or activities, such as skits or a cultural affair, so that future classes will get a clearer idea of what you have in mind. Originality begets originality.
I find that when I give assignments calling for cooperation and imagination, some groups may be very morose, uninspired, frustrated, maybe even annoyed by the task until they hit on an idea. And then the juices start to flow and enthusiasm follows as triggering the imagination begins to energize as it satisfies.
And since imagination is not requested frequently enough, when assignments are given calling for imagination, students struggle asking, "What do you mean?" and "What so you want?" However, when we free the need to create so it can be expressed and students get in touch with their imaginations, they are motivated, excited, and enthusiastic about whatever the lesson is that's being taught. I do find that I have to give gentle pushes to turn on student creativity. Since many are unaccustomed to being asked to use their imaginations, this can be a struggle as they're not sure how to start. Master's degree students who elect to do a final project in lieu of a comprehensive exam go through the experience of "What should I do?" Some want me to tell them what to do. But once they examine some projects of their predecessors and we brainstorm a bit, and an idea comes to them, they put themselves wholeheartedly into the project from the sheer interest they find.
Recently, a master's degree candidate, who labels herself a confirmed procrastinator, had only one semester left in which she had to complete a master's project or her "habit" would cost her the degree. She got a late start by the time an imaginative idea of hers jelled, and I asked whether she could possibly finish on time the ambitious project she had planned. She became ecstatic about the project and assured me that despite her "addiction," she could and she would. And she did! And it was very impressive at that.
Imagination and the Humanistic Approach
And now, I'd like to turn to one of my favorite topics in teaching--humanistic techniques--which can be viewed through our additional framework and lens--for they are indeed imaginative. Without a doubt they are creative, they stimulate, and they motivate. In writing descriptions for programs I've given, I've often stated that humanistic activities are "novel," "unique," or "different." I do believe that part of their appeal is that they often call for imagination in students.
Yet it isn't till now when imagination is being given the full attention and credence it deserves, that I can fully see and acknowledge the added impact that it brings to the humanistic approach. So I welcome having my eyes opened even further to the significance of this marvel of the mind. Therefore, as I discuss them, please bear in mind that many humanistic activities personify imagination and call for it in students. Let me begin by sharing some general remarks about humanistic techniques in second language teaching.
So Different Yet Alike
Through the years I've trained diverse groups to use humanistic techniques in teaching second languages; in many the teachers were strangers, in some the initial morale of the faculty was low, in others the teachers were from various cultures. In addition, teachers from different countries have written to me after using humanistic exercises from Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class. No matter how different the students or the cultures are, the stories that teachers tell me after using the techniques are very similar. Here are just a few:
"In the two years they've had me as their teacher, I have
never seen these students as excited or vocal in my class."
"Their answers were so profound I had to keep reminding myself that these are only 12 and 13-year-old children."
"The difference in the students is phenomenal. Motivation seemed impossible because they were labeled failures, but now there is a new atmosphere."
"Even those with a limited command of English were eager to share."
"Students volunteered who seldom raised a hand before. It was difficult to see that they all had a turn. That's a problem I love to have."
A great many success stories, intriguing to hear, seem to occur. But why? How can these activities bring about such good feelings across cultures? Why do they have such wide appeal? Here is what's involved.
Messages We Hear
Most of us achieve only a small portion of our potential. Why is this so? Some of it is due to messages we get in school, at home, and all over: "Keep your feelings to yourself," "Be quiet. You talk too much," "Not now," "Don't say that. People will think you're conceited," "You're wrong," "That's stupid!" In other words, as we grow up, people in charge of us try to help us by telling us what to do and criticizing us when we don't please them. We also receive praise as well. For example: "Nice work," "Good job," "That's correct," "You look pretty today." However, most of us have probably heard far more criticism and been told what to do much more than we've been praised. What happens then is we may not feel as good as we could about ourselves. And if we have a number of negative feelings about ourselves, we're likely to have a number of negative feelings about others. The two go hand-in-hand. This can then lead to feeling insecure and lonely, not being yourself, and not knowing yourself or others very well. Such conditions can cause negative thinking and low self-esteem.
Yet to feel good about ourselves, it's important to know ourselves as well as others. But if we're afraid to be ourselves, it's hard to get to know ourselves. The humanistic activities that I like help to combat this negativity. Let me tell you how.
How the Humanistic Helps
To put it very simply, the purpose of humanistic education is personal growth--becoming the best person we can be. Humanistic education recognizes two important aspects of people--the intellectual and the emotional. So the subject matter taught is combined with the feelings, experiences, and the lives of students. Therefore, humanistic activities deal with developing a more positive self-image, recognizing one's strengths, seeing the good in others, developing satisfying relationships, becoming aware of one's feelings and values, discovering oneself, and having a positive outlook on life. We can think of these as food for the soul, nourishing, replenishing, enhancing us at the deep inner levels of ourselves.
These purposes are certainly relevant to the classroom for the better students feel about themselves and others, the more likely they are to achieve. In other words, a poor self-image interferes with learning, while an enhanced self-concept can improve it.
Well-known therapist Carl Rogers revealed that the underlying theme of the problems his clients present is "Who am I, really?" and "How can I become myself?" (Rogers, 1956, p.196). So discovering what you are like and becoming that self are two very motivating forces. In fact, the most intriguing subject we can find out about and talk about is ourselves. And the way we get to know ourselves is through others. Therefore, communication that satisfies these needs comes from sharing ourselves and having others listen to us and accept us. What a perfect place it is, the second language class, to learn to communicate in such compelling ways!
Sharing Leads to Caring
What this means is that during humanistic activities, students talk about themselves and their lives. They share memories, experiences, feelings, wishes, values, fantasies, insights, and strengths, and they give and receive positive feedback. These themes help students to feel positive about themselves and others and to know one another less superficially. And when we let others get to know us and to see the kind of person we really are, they are more likely to care about us and themselves in return. People are more accepting of those they truly know than those who remain a mystery to them. That's why I say that "Sharing leads to caring."
We refer to this kind of communication as "self-disclosure," which means revealing to others things about us which are meaningful to us and which they would not otherwise know. This kind of interaction in relationships is much sounder, healthier, and more satisfying than one where people keep to themselves and reveal little to others. It is in the process of self-disclosure, or sharing oneself, that feelings of warmth and closeness develop as students get to know one another at a deeper, far more interesting level. (Soul food at work.) It is important to note that the teacher shares, too.
Noted therapist and teacher Sidney M. Jourard spent many years conducting research on the effects of self-disclosure because he believed it to be the most important thing in the world that can be studied (Jourard, 1971). In his book, The Transparent Self, Jourard says that the best way we get to know ourselves is through others and how they respond to us (Jourard, 1964). Therefore, it is important to be our true self to others so we can see the results of how others respond to how we actually are.
Since most of us have not had enough positive feedback or enough closeness with enough people, or as much attention as we needed when we wanted to share and be heard, classroom lessons become exciting for the students and the teacher when they help satisfy these universal needs. Now couple meeting these deep-felt human needs with the impact of expressing one's imagination and you have a potent package of appeal! So when these two areas, imagination and humanistic techniques, unite in classroom activities, let's call this marriage of the mind and soul humanistic imagination.
Humanistic Techniques and the Arts
Now that I've discussed some thoughts and purposes of humanistic techniques in second language teaching and how imagination fits in the picture so well, I'd like to focus a bit on their use in the theme of this issue, the Arts and Humanities, because there is a beautiful blend between these areas as well. Humanistic activities call for expressing yourself, and the arts and humanities provide a variety of means for doing so. Activities can be done in which such things as music, dance, art of all kinds, sculpting, acting, composing (lyrics and other forms of writing), photography, film making, etc., are the nucleus for sharing about oneself imaginatively.
I've found that students are gifted in expressing themselves through such avenues and artistic renderings, which do not have to be beautiful, perfect, exacting products. Here creativity is really expressing yourself in a way that can be seen, observed, communicated, shown, displayed, read, shared, but in some way the sharing is of oneself, the power and beauty of who one is comes out. And that is rewarding to experience. How absorbing class time becomes when students are sharing their creations of the imagination, such as artwork, and the others can see, discuss, hypothesize or inquire about aspects of their classmates' lives. The artwork instills added reality to an activity and helps make students' lives come to life for others.
In my own university classes, I see visible differences in students when they show, share, or create from their imaginations. Joy is released. The product may be a sketch, a poem, a song, a mime, a skit, a collage, a story or an incident about themselves or from their imaginations, an individual or group project, a jazz chant, an activity, a game, a poster, a visual for teaching, a portrayal of a character, a cartoon, and on and on. Whatever it is that they are creating, it makes no difference; the satisfaction, the gratification, the creativity that results from working with one's imagination is both exhilarating and powerful.
It is inherently interesting not only for the creators to express their imaginative side and share it, but it is also highly fascinating to actually see beneath the surface of others. Students get to experience different aspects of classmates, and, in the process, enhance their own self-esteem and that of others.
In asking students to draw, dance, act, sculpt, mime, we're calling on the imagination of the person in the medium of choice and arousing the interest of others for that person through the activity. And the product doesn't have to be a masterpiece of art or acting or dancing or of a professional nature. In fact, the teacher who does a sketch to illustrate any event from his or her own life will arouse interest and will be seen as very humane for having drawn something on a par with an elementary school child's efforts.
A few weeks ago I ended a course by playing a tape recording of myself singing the lyrics I had composed to a song that I dedicated to the students. It contained a message and my feelings for them. Though my voice range couldn't hit those high notes, the room resounded with a thunder of appreciative applause afterwards, greater than I have received under other more traditional circumstances.
To illustrate how well humanistic activities, imagination, and the arts can mesh, I'd like to describe several activities which draw on different forms of the arts as a vehicle for student sharing. The following exercises make use of sculpting, art, music, dance and acting. A notation will be made as to how each activity draws on the imagination in carrying out the humanistic goals. The language used in these activities is created by the students, who are expressing what they want to say, meaning their imaginations are at work. So now let's see humanistic imagination at work.
SCULPTURE IN FEELINGS*
Tell the students that there are many ways we can express ourselves and our feelings and that today they'll experience a very different way. Pass out a piece of clay or play dough to each student. Then ask the students to close their eyes and mold their clay into a round ball, continuing this as you read to them a list of words that represent feelings. Select some positive feelings and read the list slowly twice. Tell the students to choose one that appeals to them and let their hands create the shape that comes to them as they keep their eyes closed. Some examples of feelings might be: confident, free, daring, peaceful, optimistic, excited, loved, curious, joyful.
When the students have finished, they can go into groups to discuss their works of art or the whole class can do so together. This can be done by having students view the "exhibit," guess the feelings depicted, and state how they came to their conclusions. The sculptors then share the significance of their work. The discussion and unusual depiction of feelings is the humanistic focus. The pieces of sculpture, clearly from the imagination, can be very fascinating to see and tend to induce surprise in what one can create with the eyes closed.
SAY IT WITH MUSIC *
The students form circles of 10-12 or more. Lively music is played with a contagious beat that most people will want to move to. The students are asked to move in their places in the circle to the rhythm. Then, one at a time, as they feel ready, they are to move into the center of the circle in their own rhythmic way, completing this statement: "My name is (first name) and I like to ___________."
The focus student then acts out what he or she likes to do, such as swim, and rhythmically moves back into the circle while everyone else continues moving to the rhythm. As students state what they like to do, the others in the group call it out together, i.e., "She likes to swim," act it out, too, and then return to moving to the beat. Humanistically, this energizing activity provides fun and good feelings as it loosens up inhibitions in students through movement, music, and mime. Imaginatively, students express themselves through the rhythm and the acting that they do.
SONGS THAT SAY A LOT *
Mention to the class that music can unfold fond memories in us. Ask students to think of several songs that bring back pleasant memories and then to think of what these songs mean to them. Then ask them to bring in a cassette tape or a record, if they have one, for any of these songs. Find out whether one of your students plays an instrument, such as the guitar or piano. If not, see if someone you know does and can improvise. For those who do not have a record or a tape of one of their songs, have your musical person play a few bars of one of the songs on those students' lists. Tape record these in advance, unless the person can attend your class and play the songs while there.
In carrying out the activity, the students briefly share the special memory or feeling the melody reminds them of. A few bars of the song are played while everyone listens or sings and shares the pleasant memory of the person whose memorable music it is. As a follow-up to the activity, the students can write about the memories and associations of their songs. Recalling and sharing pleasant memories and feelings is the humanistic aspect; while selecting and reflecting on music with personal and positive associations is the imaginative part.
BRANCHING OUT *
Tell the students that there are many ways we can discover what we're like and one way is through our drawings. And you don't have to be an artist to find out about yourself this way. Ask the students to draw a tree. It can be any size, shape, and colors. It can look like an actual tree or one that doesn't exist. Allow only three or four minutes to draw the tree. Ask the students not to talk to anyone, but to focus on drawing a tree that pleases them. Play relaxing music in the background.
When the time is up, tell the students to study their trees and think about what positive qualities their trees have, such as "My tree is strong. My tree is graceful." Put the students into groups of five, telling them not to show their drawings yet. One at a time, the students hold up their trees and describe the strengths they see to the group. However, instead of saying "My tree is...," they should say, "I am...," such as "I am strong, I am graceful," etc., so through the trees, they are talking about themselves. Expect an embarrassed reaction. When a person finishes talking about his/her strengths by means of the tree, the group members are to notice other strengths they see in the tree and share these by saying, "You are...."
When everyone is finished, the students select the three words they like best and print on their drawings "I am" plus the three adjectives. The students can then circulate to several new partners, holding their drawings in front of them so others see them. They speak to each partner, one at a time, reading aloud what is written on the person's drawing, but saying instead, "You are...." Then they add some strengths they see in each other's tree. No matter what the age of the students, the trees are always amazing to see. Building self-esteem through such exchanges is the humanistic goal. In addition to the drawings, imagination is reflected is associating positive qualities between the trees and themselves and also their classmates.
IMPORTANT SYMBOL *
Obtain some pipe cleaners, preferably in assorted colors. Explain to the students that they're going to share something important that is going on in their lives right now. It may have something to do with a person, an object, an idea, or something they are doing or planning to do. Ask them to show the class what this important event is by making a symbol that represents it out of pipe cleaners. Give examples, such as "Suppose you bought a musical instrument that you are excited about and are learning how to play. Make something out of the pipe cleaners to show this to us, such as the instrument or a musical note. Or if you're going on a trip to a foreign country, you can make an airplane or a symbol that depicts this country."
Allow about 5-7 minutes to make the symbols. Playing soft music from a record or tape sets a pleasant mood for creating the symbols. Ask the students not to talk or discuss what they're making yet, as they'll do that later when they try to guess what the symbols mean for each person.
When the students are ready, either put them into groups of about five, or, if there is time, have everybody share with the entire class. Have them focus on one person at a time, trying to guess what the symbol is, what it means to the person, and why it's important right now. Having concrete symbols to try to figure out motivates students to want to guess what they mean and to hear about them.
Assessing and sharing an important value that is current in their lives is the humanistic focus. Creating the symbols and guessing the significance of their classmates' symbols evokes the imaginative focus.
Good Things Happen: Research Evidence
Now that you've come this far, you may ask, "Is there any concrete evidence of what happens when humanistic activities are used?" I wondered about this, too. So I carried out two studies to see what would happen. Let me share some evidence from this research that shows positive results can occur when personal growth activities are used (Moskowitz, 1981).
Very briefly, the studies were carried out in 22 language classes in grades 7-12. The classes included six different languages, spanning levels 1 through 4. There were 461 students in the studies. For two months, along with their regular classwork, the teachers introduced some humanistic activities in just one of their classes, a class that could use a boost. Three questionnaires were filled out by the students before they experienced humanistic activities and again after working with them for two months.
I wasn't certain whether there would be any measurable differences in such a short amount of time. However, the results were very encouraging. They revealed that by interspersing humanistic activities into the regular curriculum, students improved in their attitudes toward learning the target language, their self-concepts, and their acceptance of members of their class. Interestingly, the studies took place in the middle of the school year so it was harder for changes to occur. The teachers said changes were easy to see since the activities were used in only one of their classes during the studies. This research supports the impressions teachers have of changes that occur in students when awareness activities are introduced in the language class. Further evidence of the positive results of these studies can be found in the logs the teachers kept related to their use of humanistic techniques. Here are a few sample statements:
"The humanistic activities have helped greatly in forming a strong group feeling in my classes."
"The pupils react well, feel comfortable, work better, and learn faster."
"The rapport I have with this group is entirely different from what I've had with my other classes."
"I have a new outlook on teaching. I had given up and had lost my enthusiasm. I thought I had tried everything, but this approach has made a real difference."
"I've become more accepting of the feelings and values of my students and also take into greater consideration what they think is important."
"I now have a better attitude towards teaching, a better understanding of a creative means of teaching, and a better self-image."
So teachers have been enthusiastic not only about the effects of such strategies on their students, but on themselves in their growth as a teacher and a more fulfilled human being.
And here are some reactions to experiencing humanistic techniques that were collected by their teachers from students in the studies:
"I feel more relaxed, more a part of the class, and more able to participate."
"In my eleven years of school, this is the first time I have looked forward to a class."
"This exercise was good because I talked to people I haven't spoken to the whole year."
"This class has meaning to it."
The results of these two studies suggest that there is value in second language teachers becoming aware of the potential of humanistic education and acquiring skill in integrating related techniques into their curriculum. Pass the soul food, please.
A Tribute to Lyricists
When I first sat down to write this article, inspiration came to me in the form of two lines from a popular song from the Big Band era--the title: IMAGINATION . Intrigued, I did some research to locate the words, only to discover something very fascinating to find. Would you believe that there are four songs with the same exact title, Imagination, dating back to 1890!
Imagine that! Song writers have been trying to get us to "tune in" to the power of imagination all these years! Just listen to their words of wonder about this "interesting subject... deserving of your attention." The lyrics encourage us to "try imagination, so to judge of its effect," to see what "this good gift can do," which "acts on almost everything and everybody too" (Gro, 1890).
We were advised that "Imagination is the force by which this world is run" (Mullen and Bryan, 1904), and then assured that "Our imaginations make this world divine." Moreover, "What a combination" it would be to "choose to use...your imagination and mine!" (Meyer and Caesar, 1928). And when I finally located the lyrics of the song I was originally searching for, I found the main refrain to be:
IMAGINATION is funny,
It makes a cloudy day sunny,
It makes a bee think of honey,
Just as I think of you. (Burke and Van Heusen, 194O)
And then it came to me. For the 1990's, why not compose still another song toasting Imagination, this time for language teachers, where the chorus goes like this:
IMAGINATION is thrilling,
It makes my students more willing,
It makes language class more fulfilling,
Students gain, so do I! (Dare I say "Moskowitz, 1994" ?)
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Burke, Johnny and Jimmy Van Heusen. IMAGINATION. New York: ABC Music Corp., 1940.
Gro, Josephine. Imagination. New York: Hitchcock and McCargo Publishing Co. Ltd., 1890.
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Nostrand Reinhold, 1964.
-----. Self-disclosure: An Experimental Analysis of the Transparent Self. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1971.
Lucas, Jenifer. "Communication Apprehension in the ESL Classroom." Foreign Language Annals. 17: 593-598, December 1984.
Meyer, Joseph and Irving Caesar. Imagination. New York: Harms, Inc.,1928.
Moskowitz, Gertrude. "The Fearsome Foreign Language Hour." French Review. 38; 781-786, May 1965.
-----. Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class: A Sourcebook on Humanistic Techniques. Boston, MA: Newbury House, a division of Heinle & Heinle, 1978.
-----. "Effects of Humanistic Techniques on the Attitude, Cohesiveness, and Self-concept of Foreign Language Students." Modern Language Journal. 64: 149-157, Summer 1981.
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Shapiro, Remick & Co., 1904.
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* NOTE: The five activities described in this article appear in Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Class: A Sourcebook of Humanistic Techniques by Gertrude Moskowitz. They are reprinted here with the permission of Heinle & Heinle Publishers, Boston, MA.
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