Imagination in Class

Imagination in Class
The last resort...
Ever had one - or more - of these days when your students are utterly bored and restless? When the sound of grammar exercises or an exam writing task simply ignites raised eyebrows and mumbling at the back and front of the class....

Apart from the bell, there is one thing that can save the day: imagination

Before reading some activities below, allow me to clarify that I understand some educators' objections to using an imaginary world. Their concerns are based on the premise that education should not mislead learners or give them a false idea of the world e.g.  that a fairy godmother will grant all their wishes effortlessly.

Yet, I feel that once signposting the task as fictional by beginning instructions with the phrase "Imagine that...." , we draw clearly the line and stir the class away from the  stagnant waters of daily routine. From my experience, it conveys the message to students that the "English" hour can be a  fun lesson developing creativity, thinking outside the box (lateral thinking) and reinvigorates classes that have reached saturation point by doing tedious, repetitive tasks.

1.  Email from  another planet  ( A1-B2 CEFR levels)

Sick and tired of asking students to describe their daily routine? Do they all come up with identical pieces of writing? Ask them to imagine they live on another, strange  planet.
 "What's a day like on Mars or Venus?" " Do aliens have coffee, milk and croissants for breakfast?" "Do they wake up early in the morning or late in the afternoon?" " How do they go to school?" Ask students such questions to stimulate their imagination and state openly that they should come up with unusual daily routines. Here is a sample of what they may write:

2. My pet monster ( A1-B2 CEFR levels)
Ask pupils to imagine they have a pet monster.  Draw an example on the board ( I usually draw a  cute monster with three heads ,  five legs,  6 arms etc) Ask them to draw their pet monster  on their notebook but they must not show their partner. If you need to encourage writing you can ask them to write a brief description:
Boo is my pet monster. It has got 3 heads and a big smile on the heads. It has also got .....

Then ask them to work in pairs. Student A describes his/her monster and Student B draws it. They are not allowed to look at each other's drawings until they've finished the description and drawing. Then they compare the two monsters. Finally, they swap roles and student B describes while student A draws.
A particularly popular activity among young learners who practice "have got", numbers, parts of the body and colors (if they have colour pencils with them).

3. An unusual job application (B2-C2 CEFR levels)
Students -  even adults - tend to convey a completely misleading image of themselves in a cover letter.  Relying on copying from models, they usually fail to  persuade their potential employers about their motivation and skills. This can result in having their C.V.  rejected without being given an opportunity for an interview.  The following activity can raise awareness:

Show the following clip  Awesome interview in class and pause before the candidate gives unexpected answers. Elicit what a conventional interview would be like and what a prospective employer expects to hear.
Ask students to: " Write an unusual cover letter" Challenge them to write a letter giving all the wrong reasons why they are applying and wrong or irrelevant  skills.
The style and register will have to be formal and they should use their sense of humour.
Once they finish, read or show the letters on the class projector and vote for the most humorous or unconventional one.

Debunking teaching myths and practices with seemingly subversive activities can motivate learners, help teachers shake off the "boring lecturer" label and lead to creative learning paths.
Enjoy the trip!!! :)
Dimitris Primalis


  1. Mild or wild, stories are medicine. So encouraging the story telling seed to grow in kids is a blessing . Stories have a will and life of their own. They are wild if they come from the part of us which is like a dark forest . The one we don’t always know. The one we want to get out of. Stories give an outlet to imagination, thinking and eventually tame our fears. Tasks and activities like the ones you cite here Dimitris encourage kids to create and write stories from the unexplored place in their minds. Kids can create stories or tales that remind us we are also made of stardust and planetary mineral.. Stories are the products of our uncultivated, undomesticated space in our minds and hearts. Let’s foster them. Because the daily routine, as you calli it, is stripping part of our own nature. let's give space to the "imagine" part of us. thanks for the post !!!!!!! Zafii Mandali

    1. Thank you very much Zafi! Creativity - imagination is an indispensable part of it- is a 21st Century skill and it is something our world needs desperately. You are right! We need to remind ourselves and younger generations that we are also made of star dust and we should make plans and dreams for a better, brighter world!

  2. Hi Dimitris,

    Really enjoyed reading your post! Allowing them to align their originality and creativity in activities like the ones you shared brings laughter, validation, and confidence to language learning. These feelings not only help them own the language but also feel at home when they have to use it.
    Yes, we are all literally made of dust and what connects us to the universe is our shining when we are creating, sharing, and learning together.

    Hugs from Brazil,

    Juan Uribe

    1. Thank you Juan!
      Your comments have encouraged me to start writing a second part with more activities. Coming soon!
      All the best

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  4. Thanks for such an inspiring article. Creativity, imagination, love, and encouragement are key words to keep a lively class. Congratulations, Dimitris!

    Warm regards from Peru.