Teaching with a blank piece of paper

Blank Piece of PaperEven now, this late in the day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me — more promising than a silver cloud, and prettier than a red wagon.
– E.B. White

I’ve just returned from “a return” to nature. Hiked 30 hours through Killarney Provincial Park. Amazing mountains, nature, wild. I suffered and was “with myself”. No gadgets or wifi. Just my mind and foot after foot after foot step.

In teaching, I don’t always go with technology.  I’m a big fan of just using a blank piece of paper and having students create content. My Teach | Learn coursebook is full of examples of this and is built on the back of my “blank piece of paper” philosophy.

Language to be practiced, just needs a focus.  The teacher provides this and then delivers content so the students are prompted to produce language around the topic.  I outline many activities in this  Wiziq Online session demonstration I did a number of weeks ago.

But I thought it would be handy for other teachers to list here the possible lessons you can do with “only a blank piece of paper”. So here it goes. (update:  Now download this as a “50 list” – 50 ways to use a blank piece of paperintheEnglish language classroom

1.  Vocabulary discussion: brainstorm vocabulary or write it on the board. (ie. names of family members).  Put up the target language structure (ie. Who is ______?  ________ is my _______ ) Students ask / answer questions to the teacher and then the same in small groups with their own list on a blank piece of  paper. Can  be done with any vocabulary word bank and target language.

2. Vocabulary Guessing: brainstorm vocabulary or write it on the board. The teacher describes one and students guess which it is. Continue until all guessed. Students then brainstorm vocabulary set words on a blank piece of paper and play again in small groups. Works wonderful for celebrities!

3.  Bookmaking. fold a piece of paper, make a book. Draw pictures and write sentences for any topic. Great for closing a unit and consolidation.

4. Grammar Poems. Do one first as a group, then students do their own. For any topic. Then get them presenting their poems.

5. Categories. Students use a blank piece of paper as a graphic organizer. Fold in columns or rows and then categorize brainstormed vocabulary. (ie. food.  Cheap / Expensive / Healthy / Unhealthy)

6. Alphabet lists. Students are given a time limit and must fill in boxes for each letter of the alphabet. Most words got, wins! Fold the paper to make the alphabet organizer.

7. A Piece of paper as a slate / answering board. Make any game interactive and have all students answering by laminating blank pieces of paper and giving students markers. They write answers and everyone answers by raising their answer board.

8. Pass the Paper games. A game I adapted/invented. Students pass around a piece of paper and when the music stops, the others must tell the person with the piece of paper to do something or ask them a question which they must answer.

9.  Drawing and labeling.  Students draw an object (ie. car) and then label the object on the piece of paper.

10. Posters and projects.  Students make posters with important information about a topic/theme.

11. Student made worksheets and word finds. Give students a blank piece of paper and let them make the exercises and worksheets! They are experts and have probably done many. They learn a lot through this method/approach.

12.  Writing prompts. Give students a prompt. They write for “x” minutes on a blank piece of paper.  Or prompt and have the students write only one sentence, fold over and pass on. Continue the writing chain and read the funny version at the end.

13. Snowball fights.  Write 3 sentences about yourself. Crumple up and have a snowball fight. Pick up the snowballs, uncrumple and guess who it is!

14. Storyboards. Fold a blank piece of paper so you have 8 boxes. Students draw pictures and write sentences to make a storyboard.

15. Arts and Crafts. Try Origami or maybe making Talk’em Cootie Catchers.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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