Krissie Eberhart

The English language arts curriculum in Alberta outlines six language arts - listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and representing. For a teacher to successfully teach this subject he/she must be able to design creative projects that allow for his/her students to develop their skills in all six of these areas. This page is designed to provide teachers with ideas for creative projects (based on each language art) that they can use inside of their classrooms. Though each of the creative projects is listed under a specific language art form, this art form is merely the central focus of the project and other language arts are also used within it. Upon viewing all of the projects, one will understand how all of the language arts connect and their significance in the curriculum.
Please note:
  • Any font in turquoise is a quote from the source mentioned in the section and the full reference is found at the bottom of the page.
  • Any font in black is a base idea for a lesson plan.
  • Any font in pink is regular text.

This video expresses the value of creative projects in education, as Sir Ken Robinson (PhD) quotes we need to begin "seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are."

1.) Listen

Listening is a skill that all of us use every day in one form or another. For this reason it is essential for students to develop in this area, as it is not merely 'a fact that they need to know for an exam.' There are numerous ways that this skill can be taught without a voice recording and worksheet, which will in turn make the development of this skill much more enjoyable and meaningful for students. As Martha Norkunas discusses, it is of utmost significance to teach this skill in a manner that students learn to be respectful, open-minded, self-aware and unbiased listeners. The following activity outlines one way a teacher may carry out a lesson on listening with his/her students. This activity can be used at a variety of grade levels - simply modify the person being interviewed and the questions being asked to make it age appropriate.


1.1) A Reporter for a Day

  1. Have students pick someone in the community to interview (a family friend, a police officer, the owner of a business, a terminally ill patient, an athlete... the options are endless).
  2. As a class come up with a set of questions for each student to ask the person that they are interviewing (depending on the level, questions may be provided for the students or they may come up with them on their own as well).
  3. Students will write down the answers that they receive to the questions and come to class prepared to report to their classmates about what they learned.

2.) Speak

Speaking surrounds us for a large part of our day - at school or work, shopping, watching television, socializing with friends etc. Though as much as this skill encompasses our lives, some students feel that the speaking skills they learn inside of the classroom do not prepare them to become functional citizens. The following list from the British Council website describes what students need in order to develop the speaking skills that will allow them to succeed.
  • "Practice at using... mother tongue strategies, which they don't automatically transfer.
  • An awareness of formal / informal language and practice at choosing appropriate language for different situations.
  • The awareness that informal spoken language is less complex than written language. It uses shorter sentences, is less organised and uses more 'vague' or non-specific language.
  • Exposure to a variety of spoken text types.
  • The ability to cope with different listening situations. Many listening exercises involve students as 'overhearers' even though most communication is face-to-face.
  • To be competent at both 'message-oriented' or transactional language and interactional language, language for maintaining social relationships.
  • To be taught patterns of real interaction.
  • To have intelligible pronunciation and be able to cope with streams of speech.
  • Rehearsal time. By giving students guided preparation / rehearsal time they are more likely to use a wider range of language in a spoken task."

A teacher must consider all factors in this list when developing lesson plans on speaking for his/her students. The activity below demonstrates one activity that may be used to teach speaking skills to students in all grade levels (simply modify steps according to students' abilities).

2.1) Everyday Situations

  1. Students will get into partners or groups of three.
  2. Each group will write a realistic skit about a situation that they may encounter outside of the classroom (for younger students skits may be given) to act out with their partner(s)
    • Skit topics may include experiences such as a grocery shopping trip, job interview, bus ride, catching an airplane, playing/hanging with friends, joining a team/club, ordering food, etc.
  3. Give students adequate time to prepare their skits and then have them perform them to the class.
  4. Classmates will have to infer whether each skit is a formal/informal situation (this can be done by a show of hands or have them write their inference on a sheet of paper).
  5. After each skit have a class conversation about how the characters in the skit handled the circumstance that they were in - could have the characters done anything differently?

Formal or Informal?
Formal or Informal?

3.) Read

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” This quote from AC. Graylin describes the invaluable meaning and fulfillment that reading can provide - it is an essential means of communication. On the American Masters webpage it is emphasizes that all students vary in their personality, abilities and learning styles. For this reason there is not an instruction manual on how to teach a student to read and teachers must be prepared to teach a wide range of students. Three ways that a teacher may choose to incorporate creative projects when teaching reading are Guided Reading, Choral Reading or Readers' Theater - each of these projects allows for a wide range of learners to succeed.

Guided Reading

3.1) Guided Reading

  1. Divide the classroom up into groups, so that students will be in groups with other students that are at their reading level (groups should be no more than six - though a teacher, librarian or assistant is required to be present in each group to act as a 'guide').
  2. Pick a text for each group to be read (all groups could be reading the same book or a different book).
  3. Each group will complete a close read of their material and look for "context clues, understanding syntax or word structure, and using inference skills to help them read text that may be unfamiliar to them."
    • In the small groups students are able to support one another
    • Helps students develop reading strategies, critical thinking skills, fluency and comprehension
    • Teacher is available for scaffolding and individualized teaching time
Choral Reading

3.2) Choral Reading

  1. As an introduction read a poem aloud to the students.
  2. Have students get into partners.
  3. Each set of partners will decide upon a short story, part of text, poem or song that they would like to choral read.
  4. Have students practice reading their piece both in unison and alone.
  5. Students will decide how they would like to perform their piece (they may perform to other groups, the class or the school).
    • The focus is on students' process in discovering how to perform the text, versus the actual performance
    • Helps development of pronunciation, and understanding of meter, patterns, rhymes and characterization
    • Demonstrates importance of oral tradition and allows text to become alive/meaningful for students
      Readers' Theater

3.3) Readers' Theater

  1. Have students get into groups (3 to 5 students is appropriate).
  2. Students will pick a text to analyze that has been studied in class (this may be a chapter or two from a novel study, a short story or a poem) and adapt it into a script.
  3. Each group will practice their skit and add in minimal costumes and set if they choose (not required).
  4. Groups may perform their skits to other groups or the entire class (if this is done, students are allowed to have their scripts as this activity is not about memorization).
    • Helps students with their decoding skills, comprehension, fluency and intonation based on context
    • Allows students to successfully find meaning in a text as they take their reading to a 'low stakes' performance level
    • Students will develop their cooperation skills as they work closely with their classmates in this new form of responding to literature

4.) Write

Writing is a skill that many students either love or despise, and it can be a very challenging art form to engage all students in. Some students may feel pressured or too structured when they write, while others may not appreciate the value of writing. Whitaker has eight suggestions to create a learning environment that will allow students to write to the best of their ability.
1. Establish a positive atmosphere for writing, reading, learning.
    • An inviting classroom
    • Respect for and among students
    • Teacher as writer
    • Routines and expectation
5. Write regularly across the curriculum and grade levels.
    • Learning logs, response journals, writes
    • Write in realistic forms
    • Write regularly for different purposes
2. Organize for writing.
    • The writing workshop
    • The writer's notebook
    • A meaningful approach to writing
6. Arrange for students to have constructive response to their
writing and to offer response to other writers (eg. classmates)
    • Achieving teaching goals through response
    • Meeting the needs of student writers through response
    • Providing selective responses
    • Responding throughout the writing process
    • Using a variety of techniques for responses
3. Arrange for meaningful-to-students reasons to write.
    • Student choice and ownership
    • Authentic writing and publishing
7. Provide opportunities for students to collaborate as writers,
thinkers, learners.
    • Collaboration techniques
4. Arrange for students to read, respond to, and use a variety of
materials written for a variety of purposes and audiences.
    • Giving reading a role in the writing classroom
    • Using reading materials to model writing
    • Providing diverse reading materials
8. Collaboration guidelines
    • Providing students with a constructive means of
    • Create specific tasks relevant to writing and lead
      students to work together on a task

Further explanation of these elements is available in the document below.

The idea for this lesson is developed upon comprehending the eight elements Whitaker discusses, specifically on collaboration techniques.

4.1) Class Poetry Book


(this lesson is intended for the end of a unit on poetry - though, it can be modified into a class storybook, picture book etc. to parallel a unit)
  1. Divide students into groups of 3-5.
  2. In the groups students will brainstorm ideas to write a poem on, and styles of poetry that they can write in (there are no guidelines here - simply discuss with students that topics must be appropriate).
  3. Bring the class back together to discuss all of the ideas.
  4. Explain to the students that they will each be writing a piece of poetry to add into our 'Class Poetry Book.'
  5. The teacher should read the piece of poetry he/she wrote to be a part of the published book.
  6. Give students time to write their poem, as well as time to share, peer edit and revise along the way.
  7. Remind students that you will be in the classroom throughout their writing process for guidance and support.
  8. Once all students have completed their final draft, have students design a cover page for their 'Class Poetry Book.'
  9. Make copies of the poems for each student to add into their 'Class Poetry Book,' which will be completed with their cover page.

5.) View

Research shows that viewing needs to be understood as equally important as reading and writing. Deborah Begoray, a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria, describes viewing as, "acquiring information, appreciating, and criticizing ideas visually conveyed." Youth today is surrounded by visual communication, particularly outside of school walls. Begoray continues, "We need to understand more clearly how to develop the strengths and interests students already possess in viewing... and how to harness them as approaches to learning." Begoray offers seven ideas for viewing that teachers can create lessons around, they include:

  1. Analyzing elements of fiction in a filmFilm-Reel-Logo-1.png
  2. Predicting future events in a film
  3. Viewing pioneer artifacts and predicting their use
  4. Analyzing how picture book illustrations contribute to mood, theme, plot
  5. Using photographs to generate vocabulary of emotional states
  6. Analyzing slide show for emotional impact
  7. Analyzing videos of student seminars

If one takes Begoray's sixth idea a lesson such as the following may be developed...

5.1) Emotional Impact of a Slideshow

  1. During a computer class get students into partners (or groups of 3) and have them find a slideshow that they would like to share with the class.
  2. Each person will write down how the slideshow that their group chose emotionally impacted them.
  3. In their groups, individuals will discuss with each other how they were impacted by the slideshow.
  4. Have the groups show the slideshow they chose with the class and facilitate a five to seven minute discussion on emotions evoked throughout the viewing.

6.) Represent

Much as viewing, representing is an art form that needs to be recognized as an equivalent to reading and writing. Begoray explains representing as, "communicating ideas visually through a variety of media." Representing parallels writing and speaking in the sense that it gives individuals an opportunity to "demonstrate learning." It is an art form that allows students to express themselves in a limitless manner and it gives students who may not be strong in the other language arts an opportunity to shine. Below are ten ideas Begoray provides to teach students how to represent.

  1. Performing skits to demonstrate change in point of view
  2. Re-telling stories by drawing a series of illustrations
  3. Assembling collages on themes of novels
  4. Performing tableaus of literary events
  5. Creating documentary and narrative videos to report results of inquiry projects
  6. Painting characters and events from favourite books
  7. Sketching to respond to teacher's oral reading
  8. Drawing personal living spaces imagined for literary characters
  9. Creating storyboards to plan video
  10. Visualizing while listening to songs

One may further develop the seventh idea into the following lesson...

6.1) Illustrating the Text

  1. Choose a storybook, poem, chapter or any other appropriate level text to read to students (if the text chosen has illustrations do not show them).
  2. Explain that you would like students to draw images and write down key words that are meaningful to them from the text you are reading.
  3. Once completed have students create an image using any art tools that are available, to represent the part of the text that was most meaningful to them.
  4. Have students get into groups of four or five to share their representation with their peers and explain why they chose to represent elements of the text in the way that they did.

The following text by Deborah Begoray expands on the concepts of representing and viewing. She also offers extremely interesting insight and research on the value of viewing and representing -


7.) Bringing it All Together

One can now understand what the six language arts are, the significance of each of them, how they all work together and how educators can approach teaching them in a creative manner. It is explained in Begoray's work that regardless of the art form a teacher's focus is on, students will demonstrate learning and for this reason all six of the language arts are of equal in importance. Furthermore, since the 1980s interest in multiple intelligences has been on the rise - using creative projects to teach the six language arts allows this theory to be put into practice.

8.) Teacher Resources

Developing Listening Activities - This links to a page that provides tips on developing listening activities - it discusses the design of 'pre-listening activities' and 'while listening' activities.
Lesson Ideas on Speaking - Offers numerous complete lessons to choose from - though some of the lessons are designed with the assumption those using them live in the UK, they can be easily modified to fit into any classroom.
Reading Rockets - A link to excellent tips and ideas to help young readers.
Scholastic Writing Activities - This link provides teachers with numerous creative activities that they can use to teach writing inside of their classrooms.
Teaching Viewing With Media - Introduces 11 strategies to use media resources as a viewing tool inside of the classroom.
- This article gives an overview of why the visual arts essential to students' education.

9.) References

"American Masters . For Teachers | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 28 Jan. 2012. <>.

Norkunas, Martha. "Teaching to Listen: Listening Exercises and Self-Reflexive Journals." Oral History Review 38.1 (2011): 63-108.

"Teaching speaking skills 1 | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC." TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC. 13 Mar. 2003. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. <>.

"The Access Center - Early Reading Assessment: A Guiding Tool for Instruction." Untitled Document. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <>.

Zemelman, Steven, Harvey Daniels, Arthur A. Hyde, and William Varner. Best practice: new standards for teaching and learning in America's schools. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.