January 12

Snowball

Some shameless fun yesterday with my adult group!

1) Brainstorm the topics which can come up during the speaking exam, e.g. family, education, holidays, food, music, etc. Get a list of about 15.

2) Give each student a piece of paper and have them divide the paper into 6 squares. Tell them to write a different topic in each square and a personal information question for each topic.

3) Have them scrunch their paper into a ball and divide the class into two groups – half them stand on opposite sides of the classroom. Have a 20-second snowball fight.

4) After the fight, tell students to grab a snowball, sit down and interview their partner using the six questions.

5) After they chat, tell them to write a second question for each of the topics on the paper. Again, have a 20-second snowball fight, then have students interview their partner with the new snowball they pick up at the end.

My students really enjoyed it – as they are on the naval base, they are under a lot of pressure with exams, routines and duties and so they enjoyed a bit of silliness. Plus, it practises question formation as well as getting them to think about the typical topics of the exam. It’s really easy to adapt this activity to different levels as well, as the questions can vary from using very simple tenses and structures, to using conditionals and encouraging a wider range of structures in their responses.

May 30

The together teacher

I’ll admit, I’m definitely a bit of a list-geek and I like to think I’m generally well-organised though will happily admit things fall through the net (and it really annoys me when they do).

Since September, I had been using one of the Additio weekly planners which are hugely popular here with mainstream teachers. It was a gift from my friend Amy, as she knows how much I love notebooks and being organised. To be honest, it worked really well for a long time – there’s plenty of space to plan lessons, plus room to write down meetings and things to do, plus it has a monthly planner at the front…all in all, it’s a great planner.

However, my colleague Carmen recently gave a talk at TEFL del Sur which has made me even more organised and much happier about the way I set up my to do lists. Her talk was based on a Coursera course which she’d taken called Get Organized: How to be a Together Teacher. During her talk, Carmen showcased some planner templates which had been presented during the course and inspired me to change from my stylish planner to homemade bits of paper.

So why the change?

Firstly, I’m now teaching a lot less than I was earlier in the year and doing a lot more work on the computer. I found that the planner only really stayed open in an upright position next to me if it was pegged up and it wasn’t easy then to turn to different weeks or to the monthly planner. Unforunately, my second-hand desk isn’t wide enough for my laptop and an open A4 planner!

Secondly, teaching less meant that I didn’t need so much space to plan lessons, but definitely need more space for my to do lists! So creating my own planner meant that I could have clear spaces for my different ‘hats’.

Having separate weekly and monthly planners means I can easily flip between the two and colour-coding activities makes me happy: meetings, deadlines, birthdays, essential-don’t-forget-to-do-this items – each has its own colour.

You can see it hasn’t made me a perfectly oiled organisation machine, as I’d originally intended to write this post on Monday, so I’ve simply delayed the pleasure of scratching it through with my red pen!

November 23

Recycled Snowflakes

I set up quite a fun out-of-class with my YLs last year and I’m keen to do it again as it’s a beautiful way of decorating the classroom.  I showed the groups a couple of examples of snowflakes and asked what they could see in the pictures (mine both came from a supermarket catalogue so there was, quite fittingly, some Spanish ham and other cured meats!).  Most of my learners got involved last year and we had a variety of different materials: catalogues were popular as well as post-it notes and wrapping paper (not suer about the ‘recycled’ aspect of that one, but nevermind!).

February 16

Ask the Experts

This is a fabulous game which I picked up at a conference years ago, but rarely play as I always worried that it would only be good for higher-level learners.  However, if you limit the questions, it could be a really useful game to play with younger learners and lower-level adults as well as it really enourages them to focus on sentence structure.  Here’s how I set the game up with my B2.2 group the other day:

I gave each learner a piece of paper and asked them to write a topic on it – I said the topic could be very general or very specific.  After collecting in the papers and shuffling them, I gave each person a topic and asked them to imagine one question they would ask if they met an expert in that topic.

Next, I explained how the activity works – we are the panel of experts and are going to answer these questions; however, each person can only say one word at a time.  We did a quick concept-check with the question, “What’s your favourite colour?” to check they had understood how to play.

The first question was on the topic of films and we had to recommend a good soundtrack composer and the second one was about the dangers of mobile phones.  It was a fun activity as we moved away from the original topic – on the subject of mobile phones we somehow ended up talking about people who cook chicken in microwaves with no protection.  I admitted to the class that I wasn’t sure how the game is originally played – whether you just keep speaking until you get to the end of a logical sentence or if there is a time- or word-limit.  Thinking about it now, it could be good to work in two teams and for the other team to judge the experts on the content of their answer; they could also transcribe the sentence to check it was grammatically sound as I error-corrected on-the-spot during our game.