Imagination in ELT: Journal Articles

No account of ELT professional reading would be significant without considering articles from the ELT Journal. A search for ‘imagination’ in the entire ELT Journal Online Archive since 1946 produced a result of 328 items. The search for ‘creativity’ resulted in 191 items, including articles, comments and reviews. However, these articles do not deal specifically with imagination in the learning process but are mostly concerned with creative ways of teaching language and literature.  A few examples are Elliot’s (1990) ‘Encouraging reader-response to literature in ESL situations’; Ghosn’s (2002) ‘Four good reasons to use literature in primary school ELT’ and Ross’ (1991) ‘Literature and Film’.

A survey of the articles published at the TESOL Quarterly between 1986 and 2005 on topics related to imagination and creativity resulted in three articles on the use of literature in second language learning, one article on the use of role-play (Heath, 1993), one article on the use of comic strips (Liu, 2004) and one on metaphorical competence in language learning (Littlemore, 2001). I did not find any articles with overt reference to imagination and/or creativity in neither in language learning nor in teacher education.

On creative uses of language in everyday communication and its implications to language teaching and learning we have Carter and McCarthy’s (2004) ‘Talking, creating: interactional language, creativity and context’ published in the Oxford Applied Linguistics Journal and also Prodromou’s (2007) ‘Bumping into creative idiomacity’ published in English Today.

Apart from mainstream ELT publications it is important to highlight the existence of The Journal of Imagination in Language Teaching and Learning which was published from 1993 to 2003 and which ‘is concerned with theoretical and practical relationships between the imagination and the acquisition of first and subsequent languages.’ The contents of the six volumes are now available online . Among the 117 articles published there, it is worth mentioning Moskovitz’s (1994: online) ‘Humanistic Imagination: Soul Food for the Language Class,’ where she argues for the importance of ‘setting examples of creativity’ among teachers.


  • Carter, R. and M. McCarthy (2004) Talking, creating: interactional language, creativity and context. Oxford Applied Linguistics Journal, 25/1.
  • Elliot, R. (1990) Encouraging reader-response to literature in ESL situations. ELT Journal, 44/3.
  • Ghosn, I.K. (2002) Four good reasons to use literature in primary school ELT. ELT Journal, 56/2.
  • Heath, S. B. (1993) Inner city life through drama: imagining the language classroom TESOL Quarterly, 27/2.
  • Liu, J. (2004) Effects of comic strips on L2 learners’ reading competence. TESOL Quarterly, 38/2.
  • Littlemore, J. (2001) Metaphoric competence: a language learning strength of students with a holistic cognitive style? TESOL Quarterly, 35/3.
  • Moscowitz, G. (1994) Humanistic Imagination: Soul Food for the Language Class. The  Journal of the Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching. Vol. II.  Available from: Accessed 13 Jul 2009.