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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

A View on the Point of View Application of OTSM-TRIZ to Language Teaching

Edgar Lasevich, Julia Sokol and Alexander Sokol, Latvia

Edgar Lasevich, Julia Sokol and Alexander Sokol from Latvia all represent the Thinking Approach project. The project is concerned with the development of technologies and materials for an integrated development of language and thinking skills of learners. Detailed information can be found at the project website . E-mail:

Thinking Approach Project


Step of the algorithm and the skills mastered


The given paper introduces one of the trainings offered under the Text Technology - a module of the Thinking Approach to language teaching - which allows for an integrated development of language and thinking skills. (Sokol et al 2002). Traditionally, when dealing with a point of view activity in the language teaching classroom, teachers just encourage students to be original without teaching them how it can be done. The given paper demonstrates how OTSM-TRIZ the methodology of the General Theory of Powerful Thinking based on the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (OTSM-TRIZ) (Altshuller 1997, Altshuller 1986, Altshuller 1999, Khomenko forthcoming) can become the basis for a technological approach to the development of creativity on the example of one of the trainings, i.e. telling a story from another point of view. In the context of the proposed approach, the thinking focus of the activities becomes the central part of the syllabus rather than just a marginal addition. As a result, students simultaneously acquire the main OTSM-TRIZ and linguistic models, thus, increasing the ideality of their learning process.


Telling a story from another point of view has already become a traditional activity in the English Language Teaching (ELT) classroom. Many teachers like it as this is the time when students can master their creative skills and, as everyone knows, creativity must be encouraged. Unfortunately, quite often neither teachers nor students have any clear notion of the demands to the final result and as a consequence the works students produce are often dull rather than creative. Surprisingly enough, many teachers are satisfied with this situation. Creativity has become such a sacred notion that only a barbarian can dare touch it. It is much easier to proclaim something creative (read great) than formulate what exactly students need to do. Moreover, as long as creativity remains a magic notion, it allows us, teachers, to avoid considering the question of teaching students how to be creative, in our context - how to write a good story from another point of view. Indeed, how can we impose our way of thinking on students coming from different cultural backgrounds in our multicultural society?

In this article we will consider the Thinking Approach (TA) perspective on the point of view type of exercises. (Sokol et al 2002) Within the TA, we keep to the constructive approach to creativity, i.e., a view that creative solutions can be produced by applying certain models or tools of effective thinking. Most of these tools come from the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) created by Genrich Altshuller. (Altshuller 1997, Altshuller 1986, Altshuller 1999) Thus, we believe that in order to teach students to be creative in the language classroom we have to develop their thinking skills together with the language ones. In the context of the point of view type of exercise it means that students need to acquire certain skills if they want to learn to arrive at creative ideas on a regular basis. It is necessary to stress that in this case we deal with giving students one more option and as a result broadening their perspective rather than imposing on them our own way of thinking.

As mechanisms of teaching students to write are well described in professional ELT literature (eg Tribble 2002), our recommendations will deal with a preliminary stage, i.e. the process of generating ideas and their further development. In the point of view activity we do not start from zero. There is an original story which is our point of departure. What we deal with are the changes that need to be made to the original story. As TRIZ tools were originally developed for the transformation of the model of a problem to the model of a solution, it appears reasonable to employ them for our task as well.

Below, we offer a sequence of steps that students need to make in order to be ready to start writing a story from another point of view (you may see it in column 1). It is important to note here that the process of going through the steps is often more important than the final product of students' work in the educational context as students learn most while doing a task. In the second column of the table you may see comments to the algorithm, the function of which is to help students move from step to step. The last column presents those thinking skills students master while dealing with this or that step (Khomenko and Sokol 2000).i

Step of the algorithm and the skills mastered

Step of the algorithm Comment on the step OTSM-TRIZ skills mastered
Step 1.
Find potential facts in the given text.
1.1 All elements of the story that comprise it (characters, setting, plot, etc) can be referred to as potential facts. We speak here of potential facts, as all of them are anyway our perception of facts rather than a part of objective reality.

1.2. It is important to distinguish between a fact and a characteristic of fact added by the original narrator of the story. For instance, in the Little Red Riding Hood, 'wolf' as one of the characters is a fact while 'an angry wolf' is already the original narrator's opinion.

1.3. It is necessary to note that facts cannot be taken out of the story until there is a sufficient reason for this (see step 9) If facts are just omitted from the story, as a result we have a new story rather than the original story told from a new point of view.
Ability to single out various groups of features of an element (characters, setting, plot, etc are features of the text here) and trace the change of their values depending on the vantage point of the observer.

Ability to trace changes in the system if one of its elements is changed or missing (here omission of a fact from a story can make it a new story).
Step 2.
Choose the narrator.
2.1. The narrator is a character from whose point of view you want to tell a story. It is not necessarily an animate object, nor should this narrator be originally present in the story. For instance, in The Little Red Riding Hood the following new narrators are possible: wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, wood, bear (e.g., the one from Goldilock and the Three Bears), etc. Ability to vary values of features beyond possible and real (e.g., inanimate narrator)

Ability to imagine and evaluate how an element is transformed when certain features change their values (exactly this skill is required in order to choose the most suitable narrator for one's intentions)
Step 3.
Choose the addressee and the situation in which the story will be told.
3.1. The more detailed is a description given, the easier it will be to make next steps. Students tend to limit their description by just labeling the addressee and the situation, e.g., the wolf tells a story to his grandson at home. In this situation, it is important to ask students to single out other important features, for instance, age of the grandson, his attitude to the grandfather, how much he likes fairy tales, who else is present at home when the story is told, which moment it is, etc. Ability to see an element in the system of other elements

Ability to see an interaction of elements as a change of values under the same names of features of one or several elements interacted.
(E.g., the story will change - certain values of features under certain names will change - depending on the values of features of the addressee to whom this story is told)
Step 4.
Choose the function of the story.
4.1. The function of the story told from another point of view must be different. This is the reason for telling a story. Otherwise it is just enough to agree with the original version.

4.2. The function of the story cannot appear out of the blue. It is strongly motivated by the situation and the addressee.

4.3. Formulate the function keeping to the following formula: a) verb + object(s) b) change (or specific kind of change) + parameter of the object that must be changed. For instance, in case of the wolf's point of view in the Little Red Riding Hood: a) explain the situation to the grandson b) change the grandson's opinion about the young wolf = improve from ashamed to proud.
Ability to see function as one of the features of an element.

Ability to see a change of function of an element as a result of a change of certain values of features of other elements it interacts with (e.g., if the addressee - one of the elements - changes its value under the name 'relation to the wolf' from 'grandson' to 'fellow-wolf', the function of the story can also change to, for instance, boast in front of them, i.e. change their opinion from 'cowardly' to 'brave').
Step 5.
Describe the narrator by means of the Element - Name of Feature - Value of Feature (E-N-V) model.
5.1. Try to consider different names of features. Do not limit your description by character and appearance. Other features may be very important as well, e.g. intelligence or communication skills in case of wolf, as they can make a significant impact on how the narrator sees the story.

5.2. Take into account that it is possible to consider name or even value of feature as an element that can be divided into a name of feature and a value of feature. For instance, appearance of the wolf can be considered as an element. Then a possible name of feature would be 'height' and a value of feature 'medium'.
Ability to present elements as a list of features and certain values under them;

Ability to see those features of elements which are often not obvious and thus not paid attention to by many observers;

Ability to consider names of features and their values as elements with their own names of features and values under them.
Step 6.
Which values of which names of feature (from those mentioned in 5) will you choose as the basis for you story? (Check that they are the most resourceful ones for performing the function mentioned under 4)
6.1. At this step, we look at the list we got at the previous step as resources. Now it is necessary to choose those of them which are the most suitable ones for performing the function formulated at step 4.

6.2. Evaluate the ideality of the resource chosen. The ideal resource is the one which performs the function by itself (i.e., it is evident from the original story, no necessity to convince the addressee it is so - no additional investment - on the one hand, and the addressee makes the conclusion required himself). For instance, it is clear that the wolf is quite intelligent from the original story (he planned the operation well) which is obviously one of the reasons to improve the opinion about him.
Ability to differentiate between values under certain names of feature upon their ideality, i.e. suitability to serve as a systemshape feature of an element which performs a certain function in a given specific situation without any additional changes required.
(For instance, in the situation of 'telling a story to the grandson in order to improve his opinion' ability to plan is quite an ideal value of feature of the element 'wolf' as no additional changes are required to make it serve as an agent of the wolf's 'positivity').
Step 7.
Think of other specific values of features (from those mentioned in 5) which can make a significant impact on how the narrator sees the P-Facts (mentioned in 1). ii
Use those values of feature that can help you perform the function formulated under 4.
7.1. Pay attention that you do not automatically restate the major facts of the story as they were. For instance, the wolf would hardly view his meeting with RRH as incidental (he is intelligent, everything was well planned), nor would he probably leave without comment the fact that the mother sends a small girl alone through the forest.

7.2. Ask yourself a change of which values under which names of features make the new narrator different from the original one. Which changes are the most dramatic ones? They can become a basis for a new story. For instance, the wood is one tree and plenty of trees, bushes, paths and sounds at once. This definitely makes an impact on how it may see the story.
Ability to see how a change of a value under one name of feature can cause changes of other features of other elements.
(For instance, a change of the value under the name 'narrator' from 'RRH' to 'wolf' - and the element 'wolf' having a value 'ability to plan' under the name of feature 'intelligence' - will cause a change in the value of the element 'meeting' from 'incidental' to 'well-planned')

Ability to distinguish between values of features upon their importance (influence on other values of features of other elements) in a given specific situation.
(For instance, in a specific situation 'telling a story to the grandson in order to improve his opinion' such values of features as 'ability to plan' or 'sociable' are much more important that values of features 'big eyes' or 'sharp teeth')
Step 8.
Will there be new names of features of the narrator (and certain specific values under them) which were not important in the traditional version of the story and are important for the new one?
Point out how they help you reach the function formulated in 4.
8.1. It is more ideal if no new features of the wolf are introduced . However, in case it is necessary (i.e., the function cannot be performed well without them) it is important to show that they logically follow from what we already know about the narrator. For instance, presentation of the wolf as a vegetarian hardly helps us reach the function, nor does it sound convincing on the basis of what we already know about this character. Compare it with the wolf as a social creature who was simply looking for communication.

8.2. Certain new values of features of the new narrator can also be important to justify the appearance of some new events (see step 9)
Ability to see certain values under certain names of features as a cause for choosing to see one event rather than another. Ability to understand how a change of a value under a certain name of feature may cause a change in the choice of events and a type of their description.iii
(E.g., the original narrator could choose to omit the rude language used by characters when talking to the wolf as this would prevent him from reaching the function of his/her story. The wolf as a narrator would obviously mention these events as such features of other characters as 'rude language used' are quite an ideal resource for the wolf in the given situation.)
Step 9.
Will you introduce any new p-facts into the story?
How will they be justified in terms of function of the story (mentioned in 4) and resources?
Will the introduction of these facts not lead to any undesirable consequences?
9.1 New fact is always an external resource that is why it is better to do without them. In case it is impossible, check that its omission in the original story is possible to explain (some features of the original narrator - which? and the function of his story - which? made him omit these facts). Explain how these new facts help you reach the function of the new story.

9.2. An introduction of a new fact always causes changes to the given story. Check that the new fact does not lead to undesirable effects.
See examples to steps 1, 6 & 7.


Point of view activities can be approached in a variety of ways. However, if one claims to be developing students' creativity it is necessary to demonstrate how it happens. The proposed training is one example of doing it in the classroom. In addition to just encouraging students to be original, it allows us to give them tools for being such. As a result of this students master various thinking skills which may help them arrive at creative solutions not only when dealing with this particular task, but other problems in different fields as well. Moreover, the given training offers a specific example of how thinking skills can be systematically introduced into the language teaching classroom.

In the given article we have considered only one type of training offered under the Thinking Approach to language teaching. If you are interested in a more detailed information, please log on to the TA web-site at


  1. Altshuller, G. S. (1979) Creativity as an Exact Science. (Moscow, Sovetskoe Radio
  2. Altshuller, G. S. (1986) To Find an Idea: An Introduction into the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Novosibirsk, Nauka.
  3. Altshuller, G. S. (1999) 'The innovation algorithm', Technical Innovation Center; Worchester, MA, USA. ISBN 0964074044
  4. Khomenko N. Fundamentals of OTSM-TRIZ. (forthcoming)
  5. Khomenko N., Sokol A. (2000), New Models and Methodology for Teaching OTSM-TRIZ, TRIZCON2000, the proceedings of the Altshuller Institute Conference, March 2000, Nashua, New Hampshire, USA
  6. Sokol. A., Dobrovolska M., Galpern J., Lasevich E. (2002) The Thinking Approach as a Tool for the Resolution of the Key Contradictions of Language Teaching and Education. Studies about Language, No. 3, Kaunas, Lithuania.
  7. Tribble, C. (2002) Writing. OUP. (or any other book on teaching writing)


i for a special form developed for a presentation of the algorithm in the classroom, see

ii There can be universal names of features relating to all facts and specific names of features and values under them making an impact on seeing a particular fact.

iii choice is probably a type of description as well - not choosing is a zero description.


Please check the Creative Writing course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

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