Children and teachers' creativity in and through language

Cremin, Teresa and Maybin, Janet (2013). Children and teachers' creativity in and through language. In: Hall, Kathy; Cremin, Teresa; Comber, Barbara and Moll, Luis eds. The Wiley Blackwell International Handbook of Research on Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 275–290.



Language creativity, or the artful use of language, is central to children’s emotional, cognitive and social development and education, as well as to communication in general. Linguists and psychologists have shown that children naturally play and experiment with language sounds, structures and meanings, and it has been argued that this kind of spontaneous, often playful, creativity in language contains the seeds of more prestigious poetic, literary and dramatic cultural forms (Cook 2000; Tannen 2007). Children also pursue creative activity through language, using it for practising social roles, speculative thinking, intellectual exploration and the creation of alternative worlds, as we explore in detail below. We also consider how older children and teenagers continue to use language creatively in their engagement with peer group culture and popular media, and for questioning social norms as they pursue relationships and reflect on identity. Significantly however, in drawing on a substantial synthesis of research, we reveal that while there is rich evidence of children’s spontaneous language creativity, there is little research on it being explicitly fostered in the classroom context. Furthermore, in relation to adults, whilst analyses of large corpora of naturally occurring language suggest that adults also use language creatively (Carter, 2004), this substantial review reveals that teachers’ creativity in and through language is a notably under-researched area.

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