Imagination in ELT: Books for Teachers

In very striking contrast with the number of titles on storytelling, drama and multimedia published as supplementary materials, the search for imaginative content in the Books for Teachers category yielded quite poor results. Palgrave Macmillan online catalogue of books for teachers has one title on literature in ELT, Hall’s (2005) Literature in Language Education.  OUP has one title in the Applied Linguistic series, Cook’s (2000) Language Play, Language Learning. Titles concerning imagination and language are usually found in publications on the fields of literature, philosophy (Fry, 1964; Kearney, 1998) and education in general, instead of ELT (Egan, 1992).

It seems to be a trend in ELT publishing that the exploration of imagination, creativity and the arts in language learning must be pursued and that teachers should be provided with a good supply of add-on material to use music, drawings, poetry, drama and role-play in the language classroom. However, the same does not happen when it comes to professional reading. Articles and books dealing with the principles and implications of understanding and exercising imagination are few and scattered.

Some titles such as Woodward’s (2001) Planning Lessons and Courses, do take into account personalisation, exploration of trainee teachers’ feelings, styles and preferences. Although most activities are still based on factual information, situation analysis, mini-case studies and sample of teaching materials, there are some activities with a definite potential for imaginative work such as the ones based on teachers’ biographies, and responses to literature, where participants are encouraged to create a work of their own.

In Malderez and Bodoczky’s (1999) Mentor Courses: A Resource Book for Trainer-Trainers, metaphors are frequently used in activities proposed to participants, who are invited to create and explore their own images of teaching and learning.  Malderez and Wedell’s (2007) Teaching Teachers, gives a privileged place to stories, personal narratives and game play in the process of educating teachers.  James’ (2001) Teachers in Action, is a collection of materials and tasks for in-service training with activities focusing on personal experience, analysis of professional discussion of key concepts and terminology and summary of professional articles. Tasks are based on conceptual maps, questionnaires and interviews, opinion sharing and matching exercises. There is one task involving the use of metaphor; however, the metaphor is given to participants instead of being elicited from them.

Scrivener’s (2005: 360) Learning Teaching, almost falls into the category of resource books for teachers, but proposes a more principled discussion of the use of drama, simulations, guided improvisation and poetry as a way to stimulate teachers to see, hear and think of linguistic points beyond ‘predictable textbook examples.’

Wright and Bolitho’s (2007) Trainer Development clearly points to a significant change towards a more personalised approach to teacher education, where metaphors, games and drawings are used to help participants to make sense of their experience and unpack their beliefs and perceptions about teaching and learning. Important and relevant as they are, these books, however, still represent a very tiny fraction in the EFL catalogues of books for teachers which are dominated by titles on applied linguistics, research and different aspects of classroom management.


  • Cook, G. (2000) Language Play, Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Frye, N. (1964). The Educated Imagination. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Hall, G. (2005) Literature in Language Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kearney, R. (1998). The wake of imagination. London: Routledge.
  • Kieran, E. (1992). Imagination in teaching and learning: ages 8 to 15. London: Routledge.
  • James, P. (2000) Teachers in Action Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Malderez, A. and C. Bodoczky (1999) Mentor Courses: A Resource Book for Trainer-Trainers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Malderez, A. and M. Wedell (2007) Teaching Teachers: Processes and Practices. London: Continuum.
  • Scrivener, J. (2005) Learning Teaching. Oxford: Macmillan.
  • Woodward, T. (2001) Planning Lessons and Courses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wright, T. and R. Bolitho (2007) Trainer Development.

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