Spontaneous Play in the Language Classroom – Creating a Community

The seed of an idea which eventually germinated and became the research project on which this volume is based was sown while I was working as an English language teacher. For a long time, I was employed by an organization which, for the purposes of my research, I will call BizLang. It was based in London and offered English language and communication skills training to business executives. As part of my job, I often oversaw the short intensive courses which the company ran. It was my responsibility to ensure that participants were allocated to suitable groups, to monitor their progress and welfare and to provide pedagogical support to the teaching team when needed. I came to realize that when I heard the sound of laughter emanating from a classroom, I felt reassured that all was going well behind its closed door. This realization got me thinking about the related but not identical phenomena of laughter, humor and play, and their place in the language classroom setting. This heightened awareness planted questions in my head, especially when I was teaching groups myself. Why, for example, did I find that when I took over a group from another teacher, I was often puzzled by things that the group members said which would make them laugh but leave me initially perplexed? Why was it that the presence of humor, play and laughter seemed to be such a useful barometer of a group’s well-being? How did learners, especially those at the lower end of the proficiency spectrum, manage to have fun in a language over which, on the face of it, they had little mastery?


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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