Thank you for visiting. This blog is here to provide a place where we can share ideas on teaching EAP via Creative Approach to Language Teaching (CALT). CALT has been inspired by ideas of Ken Robinson, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Edward de Bono and many others who find creativity a natural part of our intelligence and necessary component of learning. It focuses on divergent thinking and combines constructivist, ICT-enhanced and task-based learning methods with a community-of-practice style of communication. Its basic aim is to make language learning in higher education as natural as possible.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Ban on "I don´t know" expressions

At the beginning of a course, I always find useful to explain to students that a creative teaching approach establishes a general framework. We can work in a relatively free and flexible way within that framework, but there are certain rules that should be respected so that the framework can support learning.
One of the rules is a ban on the "I don´t know" expression and its most basic equivalents. This ban can be either presented directly with an explanation that they have enrolled in the course in order to learn new things and not to practise a phrase well-known to everybody.
Or it can be introduced in a slightly more entertaining way. We can show students some of Catherine Tate´s "how much/how many"" sketches, such as:


Students are asked to note different ways of saying "I don´t know". Then, we ask them to work in pairs. One student prepares a question "Have a guess ..." and the other tries and resists having a guess as long as possible by saying equivalents of "I don´t know". When, the student has no more equivalents of  "I don´t know", they have to have a guess. Then, the pair swops roles.
Finally, the class puts together as many equivalents of "I don´t know" as possible. We discuss differences in their use (e.g. levels of formality) and explain that the most basic or well-known ones are banned from the course.

Note: It is never respected at the first or second sessions, however, once the teacher keeps reminding students, it is usually the fourth week when it usually starts working.
Of course, the ban is not an absolute one but it prevents students from an easy escape from answering questions at least.


  1. An interesting approach. However, English professor in my college preferred "I don't know" to the empty attempts to answer in case if the student didn't really possess the necessary knowledge.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I understand and in situations when I would be asking for "knowledge", I would happily accept an "I do not know" answer. But since my classes are usually formed by students from different disciplines, I rarely ask question other than those asking for opinions.

  3. Nice Information. In this blog you shared a topic that is about creativity which is an interesting perspective.

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