I’m busy producing a second edition of “Lesson A Day”. I’ve had lots of nice feedback and teachers are appreciating this organized but low key approach. Just click on the lesson idea and get the suggested resource. Enough for one a day for a whole month! Also use the voicethread for this and get the Teach / Learn coursebook with it.
Most enthusiastic language teachers “Go To Pieces”, meaning they literally use material that is in pieces and compels students to practice and communicate. At its heart, “pieces” is a way of teaching that puts communication at the core of language teaching and learning.
Think about it. “Pieces” as an approach or frame, stretches over a wide swath of materials, methods and delivery practices. The blank dialogue is front and center. But you also have jigsaw type activities. Gap fills are basically whole texts in parts (some parts missing). Retelling is basically putting the pieces of a story back together again. Same with sequence or ordering activities. I could go on and on – there are so many activities which the teacher deconstructs and asks the students to reconstruct – to put the pieces back together again….
I want to highlight one such activity. Yesterday, still after 8 months, unpacking my boxes of books and writings, came across this poem, one of a series I made at the time. From one newspaper, I made a collage, a poem.
This would be a simple but wonderfully creative and student centered activity. Give students any disposable text (flyers, magazines, newspapers, brochures) and let them be creative. Then present to the class or share in some form.
Go to pieces is a great philosophy for a language teacher. Why I’ve told many of my student teachers over the years that a pair of scissors is the best friend, most important tool in their kit.
Maybe during this activity, you can play this great tune – “Pick up the pieces”. 80s funk at its best.
Getting our students retelling, even in a very simple form, is SO powerful! It creates active listeners and learners and really enlivens the learning process. Throughout my own career as an EFL teacher, retelling is something I plan into my lessons for all levels of learners. Just “remembering” what we’ve learned is a simple form of retelling and something that allows repetition and a “jellying” of the learning experience. Retelling is also incredibly social and we are hard wired for this – think of how we are captivated around the campfire by “story” or how powerful a hold gossip has on us. You can harness this ancient force in your classroom too!
The best way is to give students a variety of language material – audio / video / written. Doesn’t have to be what we commonly associate with retelling – a story. I usually use 4 different types of material for a larger class. Allow them time to understand the material and then put them in groups to retell / share what they were given. Monitor and then when most have retold, split them up into other groups to retell again to new partners. Continue until the final step – have them retell what someone else told them! This type of jigsaw style lesson works well for retelling.
Language is intimately tied to memory. And we understand too little about memory. However, over the years I’ve understood how student’s with higher levels of fluency in a second language have a great ability to retell and “remember” language. So retelling is also a perfect placement/level test. Give students a very simple paragraph or story. They should even at a very low level, understand all the vocabulary/ideas. Next, create checklist of main ideas and information. Ask the student questions and check if they can recall the information. The more information recalled, the higher the level. A simple and effective formative test. See the power point below for some examples.
** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
This is a standard communicative language teaching activity – aka – Information Gap. Some other CLT activities you may know are: surveys, interviews, role plays, discussions/free talking. I choose 2 way tasks as the top dog because it is “controlled” and thus allows more scaffolding and success by students. Two, it has repetition. Finally, it is a task and has built in motivation to complete and finish. Tasks are a great way to get students “communicating” and not just memorizing or parroting without meaning. The basic thrust is to communicate meaning to another person. A two way task (aka – pair work ) does this with head on directness….
Basically you give students A and B similar but varying incomplete information. It can be text, dialogue, picture or even video. Then they have to fulfill a task to complete their own information. For example give two pictures – one for Student A / the other for Student B. Student A through questions, must discover and record/draw what is on the other picture. Student B, the converse. That’s “2 way tasks in a nutshell ! Even watching Mr. Bean can be a two way task. Just show the video with one or two students describing the action while the other has their back turned to the screen.
See these two way 2 way tasks for ready to go, “in the box” examples.
See this discussion for more resources along this vein; Pair work, communication games etc…. This is a great way to get your classroom “speaking” and producing language!
A couple “caveats”. One – don’t over explain the task! For instance, with these pictures below, let the students discover the way to ask each other for the information. This could be done in many ways! Numbered boxes, prepositions etc… Let the students control how to complete the task – they will enjoy it more. People love a puzzle! Two. If you are going to explain – model it. Do a dry run with a good student in the front and the rest of the students asking. Do the dry run without pens – pencils down! Then when in pairs, they can record the information.
** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
Show ‘N Tell
Yes, this is not just a stand by but a great activity for bringing the REAL and real communication into the classroom. It works in an L1 classroom and even works better in an L2 classroom!
The simple version is to have the children bring in a personal item that they want to share with the class. Make a whole lesson of it or schedule it (I prefer the whole lesson).
Make sure to do the following:
1. Model Show ‘N Tell by bringing in your own item! Get the children to ask you about it and give your own presentation and “show”.
2. Make sure to pass the items around. Don’t worry, even if fragile, kids will be careful (usually more so than adults). Children learn language by touching – believe it or not!
3. If you want to make a language lesson of it – write down some key questions / question words, so students can be prompted. Or the day before, brainstorm questions to ask! Write them on chart paper for reference during show and tell.
4. If you can, get them out of their desks and to another area. Sitting on the floor is best. Make it special!
5. Even try filming it! Parents will love this but make sure you run this by administration….
And do you know the bonus, for you the teacher? — Well, besides having a fairly easy lesson, you will get to know your students so much better! And there ain’t no better way to teach them better than to know them better!
I spent some time making a new word game. You could make your own too! I’m just testing this out and would like comments. Further editions will be “lower” in level and much easier. Just want to see how this might work as a concept. I got the idea from this blog I visited awhile back , Guess the wordle wiki – where they post one 3 wordles each week. Scroll down to hit “Today’s Wordle”
You can get a lot more Wordle games on EFL Classroom’s wordle page!
It’s called What’s the Wordle? Much like Guess the Google on our Games page. Students are shown a wordle [ a great place for you or your students to make word pictures!). They must guess the title or category/reference. they can make guesses then correct together. A correct guess gets a point or score as you see fit… Also points for adding to the vocabulary / wordle lists….Here is a worksheet but get the powerpoints with the “thinking song” to stimulate brainstorming and create atmosphere. Also , you can print the ppt slides as handouts (File – Print Preview – Print – page #- enter).
Let me know what you think, comments appreciated. Now get What the Wordling!