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Yes, and…..

Teacher training and Development

Yes, and…..

<![CDATA[There is a specific activity I often use in creative thinking skills workshops which works wonderfully well. I learnt it from T.Richards, during a lecture in Athens some years ago (pls see note at end).
It's called the “Yes, and…” activity In this activity, one person, or the teacher even, begins by positing something, anything. For example, “We’re having pizza tonight” and everyone else, in turn, has to add on to, elaborate on this statement. Some of the things you might hear in such cases, are…

  • “Yes, and, I especially love pizza with pepperoni!’
  • “Yes, and I am thinking, too, of ordering some for later on”
  • “Yes, and don’t I wish we some right now”
  • Yes, and I have noticed that some people like to drink Coke with their pizza”
  • Yes, and I have been craving for pizza too. Why don’t we have some right now?”

Things get tougher a few turns later when people run out of ideas and have to keep adding positive, “yes, and…” ideas.
Some break down and begin to blurt out, “Yes, but…..” . This is not allowed; it is an absolute no, no!
If you try the opposite with “Yes, but, ….” most people can go on for hours…. Why is it that people find opposition and contradiction easier, is a true mystery to me
Contradicting often does not build, but disrupts the creative thinking process, both in the contradictor as well as in the team trying to build something, from an argument to a marketing campaign or even a skyscraper!
In order to practise “elaboration”, one of the microskills (not a very accurate term – microskill for ‘elaboration’ but it will do for the time being) of creative thinking, it is necessary to add to and to build on something, rather than to pull it apart and contradict it.
Why Practise Elaboration?
A lot of the world’s greatest inventions were created because someone noticed how an existing gadget or invention could be improved by adding or changing part of it.
In the world of ELT, most of the stuff has been said in some way or form a long time ago. I remember the first person who openly and honestly acknowledged this in front of a huge audience during one of his talk at TESOL Greece was Stephen Krashen. But he created something out of the concept that made it more popular, more directly accessible as a theory of learning, he elaborated on the thinking of previous educators and developed the L2 Acquisition theory we associate with his name so readily.
Elaboration in language learning is the thinking skill which will help us build on what we know to create something new, often innovative; it’s the skill we need most to avoid writing simplistic and bare-bones text, so, to the language teacher, it’s an interesting skill and that’s why I have developed an interest in it.
As a teacher educator, I have a vested interest in developing my trainees’ creative thinking skills and part of a teacher’s job frequently requires them to build on existing materials and create something new, improved and more challenging out of them.
As a building block to developing creative thinking skills in teachers and learners, as a well as a more positive attitute to collaborative problem solving, I think it’s an important ability to help them develop.
The “Yes, but…” attitude
A lot of what I get these days is the “Yes, but…” attitude, and I don’t just mean all the discussions against the use of technology in education.
Before that came to my sphere of awareness, I have had to deal with so many “Yes, but…” attitudes, about almost anything I try to educate my trainee teachers to do.
When they go out into the world of work, it is exactly this attitude they have to face in the workplace. “Yes, but what you learnt is fine for …(always it’s for someone else) but in our school, class, area, country it won’t work…”
Helping them to be more creative thinkers as well, may help them find some creative ways of working out these issues, rather than live in silence and succumb to the pressure of those who are either ignorant or fear change because it upsets theis safe,  small but well padded world.
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Richards, T., 1993, Ideas into Action: How Creativity & Innovation are Driving Modern Business Life. Public Lecture for the Athens L.B.A.]]>


14 Responses

  1. Oh, this is a coincidence Marisa. I’ve recently been playing about with this technique in class.
    I agree, it’s a great one. The thing is you can do it, then talk about the experience, and discuss what it might mean about creativity and the way our brains might be wired.
    I’ve generally done it so they do a ‘Yes but’ conversation first and a ‘Yes and’ one second and then we compare the experiences. As you say, generally the ‘Yes and’ is harder.
    Don’t know if you’ve run into this but I was a bit concerned about the repetition of ‘Yes and’ in the ‘Yes and’ conversations sounding unnatural. Then I read an article on it somewhere that punctuated it “Yes,…and…” and bingo. It meant they could say things like ‘Yes, great. And…’ or ‘Yes OK and…’ or ‘Absolutely and…’
    I came across the technique at a trainers’ seminar that was given by an improv comedian. I gather it’s a pretty central technique in improv because you have to be constantly willing to drop your idea and go with someone else’s. A great creativity tool, as you say.

  2. Hi Vicki
    Thanks for commenting and for adding to my “Yes, and…” with your terrific idea of punctuating with a variety of fillers and additional expressions!
    I will certainly give that a try!

  3. What a great post Marisa, I love this idea and confess that I’ve never done anything like it and am really keen to try it out.
    Am printing the post out too, actually, as Vicki’s additions sound brilliant too.
    Thanks very much for sharing this tip.

  4. Marisa Constantinides says:

    I have a whole bag of goodies like this one, some even better, Karenne. All in due time! 🙂

  5. Ken Wilson says:

    congratulations on passing 2,000 visitors, MC, and sorry to have missed being the 2,000th.
    I love both ‘Yes and..’ and ‘Yes, but…’ activities, and I beg to differ with you and Vicki that ‘Yes, but…’ is easier.
    ‘Yes, but…’ activities have the massive advantage of being usable at all levels. Yes, but… if you think about the options that an elementary student has, you see the (admittedly fun) challenge that it can be.
    One way of doing this activity with elementary students is to ask them to write down four inverted questions (to allow for a ‘Yes, but..’ answer).
    They will write things like this:
    “Are you here?”
    “Are you Greek?”
    “Are you happy?”
    “Is it sunny?”
    It is a REAL challenge for elementary students to find answers to questions like these, but one that (thankfully) they seem to relish.
    Can I also direct readers to the associated activities ‘I’m afraid I can’t’ and ‘I’m afraid you can’t’ which you can find in my book ‘Drama and Improvisation’.
    Cheeky advertising, but a great book! 🙂

  6. Marisa Constantinides says:

    You’re probably right that elementary students would have a tough time with this activity, Ken, but, mea culpa, I should have said it is not suitable for very low levels.
    The thinking behind “Yes, and…” as opposed to “Yes, but…” comes from team building workshops in the management context. Too often, team members brainstorming, tend to contradict rather than explore the ideas of others; so the story goes…
    The “Yes, but…” activity is also part of the pack of creative thinking skills development and also builds another facet of creativity, flexibility. Come to think of it, “Yes, and…” also does that, too. It’s sometimes impossible to do one without doing the other.
    (Sorry for what is coming across as a kind of didactic tone… 😉 Can’t help it.. It’s built into the armour!)
    I don’t mind you plugging your excellent book at all. In fact, I am very happy to put up the link here.
    Run out and buy that book! Only TWO in stock right now! But more on the way!
    OK, the commission in Harrogate – it’ll come in handy….:-)
    Nice variation to the “Yes, but…” activity with elementary students!
    And thanks for watching this space!

  7. Alex Case says:

    Great classroom activities
    obviously none of the teaching approaches we exploit now even if in their extreme form they seem silly (The Silent Way, so many others) would have existed if their originators had let a few buts put them off
    a lot of TEFL teachers actually live in little teaching bubbles where a few buts are what they need, especially people who still do things the CELTA way years later
    if they bring those buts into the CELTA course they usually learn less rather than more
    I could go on forever
    I’m going to ponder a little more on it instead

  8. Alex,
    A CELTA course is what you make of it both as a trainee as well as a tutor.
    Cambridge gives us the objectives/syllabus to be covered and then it is up to each individual centre to interpret them and turn them into session work that forms a coherent whole and develops trainees’ classroom skills and professional understanding.
    Things have changed quite dramatically recently, so it makes sense to work more towards preparing these trainees for a future where PPP may not be enough, Dogme may be too little, technology needs to be brought in, PLN’s have to be built like RIGHT NOW and the end of the CELTA is just the beginning.
    Don’t think this is all so easy for well established tutors/trainers who have their HO’s ready and have been using them for the past 10-15 years or so…
    Assessors need sprucing up too! (when they come from the same PPP era!)
    There is hope in discussion and openness – we are not infallible in whatever we do
    It’s a good idea to try to keep learning along with our trainees
    To stay fresh and keen…to boldly go where no CELTA tutor has gone before…
    These are the voyages of the Starship TEFLprise and the bottom line is that teacher education is not just a moneymaker (you know how even the smallest school attach this to their activities because they are attracted byt the desire for that quick buck)
    I have gone one for far too long and haven’t managed to use all the conjunctions!!!!
    Thanks for posting here – it is always a great pleasure and thrill to see a great blogger stop by and ponder.

  9. Emma Herrod says:

    Hey Marisa,
    Fellow Twitterer here (EHerrod). This is a good activity. I mainly teach one to one classes and this will work there too going back and forth between student and teacher. I will let you know how it goes.
    Regarding the theme of CELTA, I’ll add my little bit. Although it might sound dramatic, CELTA was without doubt the best educational experience I’ve ever had – I put it above the BA and the MA (oh the joys of retrospect!). I took mine only last year at International House with Nick Hamilton and PPP was discussed but absolutely not taught as the present-day preferred method. We looked primarily at the Task-Based Approach and the importance of lexical noticing. What it did do, if you’re that way inclined was to plant the seed on which the trainees could further expand their thirst for ELT debate and methodology.
    My only regret is that I didn’t come into ELT earlier but I love it and have never been happier. I put so much of that down to my positive CELTA experience at IH. I feel myself drawn now towards everything DOGME but hope that there is in fact a place in the classroom for a variety of approaches – the right approach at the right time with the right students? A sort of Pick ‘n’ Mix of ELT.
    I believe in my humble opinion, the best trainer is one who opens your eyes to the various possibilities, and inspires you in such a way that you are self-motivated to go and explore further and become and independent learner as you continue to develop as a teacher. I feel that CELTA is just the start of the journey least we fossilise ourselves and feel that we know it all already.
    Keep up the wonderful and thought-provoking blog!

  10. Tantilised by this comment: “I have a whole bag of goodies like this one, some even better, Karenne. All in due time!” Will keep checking back!

  11. Hi Emma and thanks for posting your thoughts on this and on your CELTA experience. I think it can be a wonderfully inspiring course and, if a good one, it can “last” for quite a long while without needing to do anything further.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly about what makes a good CELTA (or other course) tutor. The end of the course is just the beginning of the journey!
    Many thanks for dropping into my parlour and for your kind words.

  12. Marisa Constantinides says:

    Vicki, that’s the idea, to keep good people who write intelligent comments coming back!
    Hmm…ahemmm….is this the ‘merican way of spelling “tantalised” ????

  13. Alex Case says:

    “I feel that CELTA is just the start of the journey least we fossilise ourselves and feel that we know it all already”
    That’s what I was trying to say! Some day I’ll learn to go for substance rather than (some kind of alleged) style…

  14. …and well said, Alex!
    I must admit I liked your style though and tried to play with it myself a little for amusement’s sake…
    Such are the pastimes of teachers…

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