On the fifth day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me: FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS
Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration! Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:
12 blogs worth clutching
11 tips for writing
10 tricks for reading
9 pretty pictures
8 talks worth watching
7 simple statements
6 games worth playing
and five of my favourite things. No brown paper parcels tied up with string here – just five simple activities that I use all the time and can help break up the monotony of the lesson. I don’t claim authorship of any of these – in fact most of these can be found in the one extent copy of ” diht aet álaeran englisc to aelfolc” – a primer that was in wide use after the 1066 invasion of England after which none of the Norman lords and masters could talk to their Anglo Saxon serfs and had to arrange hasty lessons. “diht aet álaeran englisc to aelfolc” can be found on the shelves at the Bodleian Library, next to a copy of what appears to be the publisher proofs for the very first edition of Headway Elementary (or héafodaerneweg folcsóp).
(1) Backs to the Board.
I’ve mentioned previously, how this activity was demonstrated to me on the CELTA and how I use it with virtually every class (though sometimes I give it a rest to avoid overkill!). The following description is from the teflgeek “Activity Reference“
Essentially a vocabulary review game / activity. Divide the class into two teams (they can choose a team name?).
Take two chairs and turn them round so that anyone sitting in them will have their backs to the board. One person from each team comes up and sits in the chair. The teacher writes a word on the board and the other members of the team try to explain the word, without actually saying the target word. The first person (sitting in the chairs) to say the correct word wins one point for their team. Change the person sitting in the chair after each word, so that all team members get a chance to be the guessers. You can use this with single vocabulary items or with collocations, phrasal verbs, or even full sentences!
Rules: People sitting in the chairs may not look at the board. Explainers may not say the word OR ANY FORM of the word – for example if the target word is “teacher”, teams cannot say “teaching” / “teach” / “taught” and so forth. The only language allowed is English (or your target language). No mime or gesticulation is allowed. No writing things down. no saying the first letter of the word or spelling the words. Points can be taken off for infractions!
Obviously, these rules can be relaxed for lower levels. Fun for all ages and abilities!
(2) Running Dictation
I have a suspicion this one might have come from Nick Kiley, almost ten years ago in China. A running dictation is a great way to get your classes up and moving – especially if they’ve been sat there for a while. It practices all four skills and because there’s a focus on accuracy (i.e. correct transfer of information) can be a nice way to introduce a language point.
What you do – take a target text, not too big, probably about 75-100 words (this will depend on class age and ability – I’ve done this with a list of ten words, or with ten short sentences, or with a short letter). Stick a copy of the text somewhere nearby, ideally outside your classroom – the door to the DoS office is a favourite location – but out of immediate communication range.
The learners work in pairs – person A runs to the text, tries to remember as much of the text as they can, returns to their partner and tells them what they can remember. Person B listens and writes it down. When person B has finished writing, they run to the paper and read the next bit before returning to tell person A who writes it down and so on. At the end of the activity, you can ask pairs of learners to compare their texts for accuracy, or if you’ve extracted the text from the coursebook, they can check it against the original.
Generally, I use these as a means of providing the target language, so I tend to follow the activity with some kind of language mining task – for example if the text had been an anecdote designed to highlight narrative tenses, the task might be to sequence the events in chronological order.
(3) The Domination Game
It sounds worse than it is…. And it’s another one I’ve mentioned before, but seeing as that was two days after this blog first started I don’t think anyone noticed. So I feel no guilt about reproducing it here! This one is, I think a teflgeek original: I originally cooked it up as a comparatively fun way of doing revision / practice of an entire FCE Use of English paper without melting the learners’ brains or causing everyone in the room to lose the will to live….
The term “comparatively fun” is used advisedly – this one can easily run past it’s “use by date” if you let it – if you feel that learners are beginning to shift uncomfortably around, then just cut the whole thing short and declare a winner!
As mentioned, it was originally designed for an FCE Use of English, but it can be used with absolutely any Grammar / Vocabulary revision task – basically all you need is 42 questions. In the past I’ve used it with three separate “revision” pages of a course book – as long as the question references are clear, it’s all good!
Basically, the game is a combination of “blockbusters” and “reversi”. Teams have to try and get the greatest number of connected squares they can. Teams win a square by answering a question correctly. The strategy element is introduced as teams can obviously block each other, cut each other off – and steal squares from each other by surrounding a square on two separate sides.
A full procedure, game grid and question reference sheet are attached and available to download as a pdf file here:
teflgeek – The Domination Game
(4) The Never-Ending Mingle
We’ve all done those “Find Someone Who” tasks, where learners walk around the classroom with a bit of paper, asking the same question to ten different people – and usually getting the same short and effective answer – “No!” The never-ending mingle avoids some of this by imposing two simple rules on the activity (1) learners aren’t allowed to ask a question to the same person twice (2) Learners swap cards after each Q& A encounter. This way, learners will ask as many questions are there are people in the classroom, quite possibly talking to each person as many times as there are people!
Variations: (1) let the learners think up the questions. (2) learners think of more than one question (three seems like a nice number) (3) learners include a follow up question (to avoid short Yes / No type encounters)
Feedback: “John, what was the most interesting thing somebody told you?”
(5) Reason to believe
This is one of my ultimate cover lessons – particularly useful at short notice. I do it at least once with every class I teach, in one form or another. It’s one of those that works better at higher levels, but I think could work anywhere from Intermediate upwards, as it relies on learner ideas rather than language per se. There are opportunities for language input built in, and these could be developed further if necessary.
Essentially it’s an opposition debate, where learners debate the things they believe in – or not as the case may be!
Downloadable pdf version of the plan is attached here: teflgeek – Reason to believe.
On another note: Reason to Believe was my very first post on this blog!
So these were a few of my favourite things – what’s your favourite five?
(NB Apologies to all students and teachers of “Old English” for the very dodgy book titles at the top of the post…. You can blame my general ignorance of old English grammatical structure and inappropriate use of the Old English Translator for any and all mistakes contained within!)