Digital storytelling dolls and LegoMen

dolls0315

You've taken and shared the photos, now tell the story… | Photos: Esther and Class 3D

Esther tells me she had a lot of fun with this idea, which started out with teens using their smartphones to take photos of dolls, LegoMen, PlayMobil figures (hugely popular in Spain), Action Men, teddy bears or whatever they could find either at home or in shop windows.

Esther says:

Once we had lots of photos, we pooled them and I let the students pick whichever "characters" they wanted. The photos were all over the place, including on phones and Facebook but eventually one student had access to them all and put them in a PowerPoint for us all to see.

Once we had that, I let them pick whatever characters they wanted and then, in pairs, they incorporated the characters into "stories". I've got this tremendous mix of levels in the same group so I gave them a lot of freedom: some of the "stories" were just simple dialogues, others much more complex, including several PowerPoint stories, one a Prezi (probably not a good idea).

The "Cinderella" dolls [see image] were the most popular and produced some amazing stories!

Collecting the photos took about 10 days, which included two weekends (but note that it wasn't Esther doing that!) and the learners had a week in which to present the finished story in some form, with some being printed, some being shared digitally.

For a mixed ability group (and possibly for any group), allowing the learners leeway on their choice of tools and the actual format of the story — dialogue, poem, "proper" story, etc. — is a great idea.

A single place to post the photos to would probably have been a good idea (that was my fault, Esther 😉  ).

Roleplay lesson from supermarket receipts

Can you justify what's on your supermarket receipt?

How much of a lesson can you get out of a supermarket receipt…?

Here's one that might sound a bit weird but seemed to work quite well when Kim tried it out in an adults post-First Certificate class, who had been doing a coursebook unit in which various "enviroment" themes had come up.

It required the learners to keep any supermarket receipts (!) and bring them to a subsequent class: They then had to defend what they'd purchased, from an environmental point of view, in a mock trial (I told you it might seem a bit weird 😉 !)

Rough outline of the lesson
Class one (Friday)

  • Learners were asked to keep and bring to class any supermarket receipts

As "homework"

  • Discussion and photos, and comments on what they were buying and how "ecological" it was, via a WhatsApp group

Class two (the following Friday)

  • Preparation time (15 mins): preparing the questions (amount of packaging…? how much meat…? how far the food had traveled from source…? etc), some of which had already come up in earlier classes and/or in the WhatsApp discussion; in order to  have a "case" and a "defence" ready for "the trial"
  • Role play the trial (10 mins): Team A = 2 defendants plus 2 lawyers vs Team B = 1 judge; 1 prosecution lawyer; 1 assistant prosecutor; 1 star witness
  • Role play 2 (10 mins), with the roles reversed
  • Sentencing (5 mins)
  • Discussion (15 mins)

Ideally, of course, you'd have the receipts in English, but Kim got round that one by having the prosecutors requiring the defendants to provide the translations during questioning.

No technology whatsoever involved in the actual class but fun, and not a photocopy in sight!

How do you control what learners are up to?

Learners using mobiles

Learners using mobiles: or are they just WhatsApping their friends…?

Another question raised in the workshop I gave last Friday:

How do you control whether or not your learners are doing the task you set on their mobiles? How do you know they're not using them for something else the moment you turn your back?

It's probably an issue that arises more with young learners than it does with adults, but if you've ever used a computer room with teens you'll know that it's also a danger with desktops, not just with mobile phones.

My best advice would be this, which a teacher on a summer course with me once said when another teacher raised the same question:

If my students start going to Facebook instead of doing the task I've set them, I don't blame them; I blame myself — for not making my task interesting enough to them.

Set a really interesting, creative task, in other words, and the problem is less likely to arise. It's perhaps less a question of controlling than one of motivating.

To that, I'd add the following tips:

  • Set a strictly limited amount of time spent on phones/computers in class (a 5-minute alarm set on your phone, or with a browser countdown / the one on your IWB, works well, but remember to turn the volume up 😉 !
  • Set that time slightly under what you think they'll need
  • Always specify something else for your fast-finishers to get on with
  • Always do everything in pairs, with one computer/phone between each pair — there's more communication, more use of language (provided it's in English!), and less temptation, or possibility, of taking a sneak peek at Facebook

Any other ideas? Do add them in the comments…

6 generic, productive activites with YouTube

 

One learner watching, two listening

One YouTube clip (no sound) + one watcher and talker + two just listening and asking questions = so much language

In my workshop at IH Barcelona on Friday, I suggested the following generic activities to be done with YouTube clips.

I'm a huge fan of Kieran Donaghy's Film-English.com, with its brilliant selection of YouTube and Vimeo clips and accompanying lesson plans, but sometimes you just see other clips that look just so amazing for class — except that you don't have a lesson plan.

Below, generic ideas that lead to the production of a lot of language without your requiring any more material than the clip itself.

1 | Commentators and listeners
With this one, you put learners in 3s, and have two sit with their backs to the video (sound initially off) while their partner provides a running commentary, with as much detail as possible, as in the illustration, above. The example I gave:

Here's another Simon's Cat clip and a more detailed outline of such a lesson, with a similar activity here.

Look for videos (like Simon's Cat) which have plenty of action in them, the more bizarre the better (Mr Bean, someone suggested in the workshop), as in this crazy ad.

2 | Brainstorming a better list
Everyone loves lists, don't they? YouTube does too!

But before you get your learners to watch (and before you start typing up and photocopying a True/False exercise for them!),  give them the topic, and get them to (1) brainstorm their own list in small groups; then (2) watch and check off which things on their list are mentioned; if they then (3) list everything mentioned in the video they can then (4) compare lists: theirs, the video's, and those of other groups; and finally (5) discuss who produced the best list.

Here's the hilarious video I suggested as an example:

Here's another example, with a fuller outline of the lesson. Look for "how to" videos, or just about any video with a title starting "7 things…", "10 ways…" etc.

3 | Summarise and present
The brilliant Joe Hanson [ YouTube channel ] has lots of clips this idea will work with:

I suggest having the learners watch at home, with each group picking a different video (their choice), and working on their summary outside class (think Edmodo small groups, WhatsApp, shared Google Drive presentations, etc).

What they're then doing in class time is making the short oral presentations (I suggest 60-90 seconds, maximum 3 slides), with Q+A time at the end to ensure maximum participation of the whole class.

Look for videos with lots of information and/or presenting ideas, with TED being another site with videos this will work with.

4 | TED feedback
If you watch videos on TED, you're probably familiar with how their rating system works. If you choose to rate one of their talks, you get a pop-up window with a selection of adjectives you can use:

TED ffeedback

With any video — not necessarily from TED — you can do the same thing. It works particularly well with videos that divide opinion and reaction in your class (like this one, for example) and if you allow your learners to come up with their own adjectives to "rate" it.

If you then pool the adjectives they're come up with and have them pick which 3-5 best describe it, you've got the basis of a class debate.

5 | Video clips as storytelling prompts
One of the things apart from YouTube that we looked at in the workshop was digital storytelling. I'll return to that in a separate post, but mentioned that video clips that tell stories are great as writing (or speaking) prompts for kick starting ideas (and language) to be included in digital storytelling projects.

In Friday's workshop I suggested this Springsteen song but they tell me Taylor Swift is kind of more popular now 😉 :

The Taylor Swift song has worked well (thanks, Kim) with teens who (1) brainstormed a list of what they guessed would be in a Taylor Swift love song clip; (2) checked that off in a first watching (sound on); (3) listened to the lyrics on a second watching; (4) in 3s, used the song for a dictogloss activity, with their versions then being checked against the actual lyrics; (5) debated what exactly happens in the story — clip and lyrics; before (6) recycling the language that had come up in class into their own collaborative stories (some produced in text, some in audio form).

Look for song video clips that tell stories, which then also give you a text (the lyrics) you can then exploit in the usual ways.

Here's another brilliant song clip story, with an outline lesson, and another with Norah Jones.

6 | Football (etc.)
One not mentioned in the workshop, but football is always a winner in class, isn't it? My son (one of my key sources for video clips for class) showed me this amazing Facebook page with sports clips the other day.

Generic lesson plan? Pick the right clip (look for controversy!) and you probably don't need one! With certain learners, they'll talk endlessly (possibly not always intelligently 😉 ) on the subject…

Personally, out of choice, I'd dump my coursebook and just talk about football…!

See also

More from the workshop coming. See also these links.

Start your learners on independent mobile learning

Task using mobile apps for language learning

And finally here's the last of the tasks I suggested in my recent session at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference.

If we're not recommending our learners ways in which they could be using their smartphones to do some independent mobile learning, I'd suggest that we're short changing them: there's just so much out there that would improve their English and set on the right track to becoming autonomous, independent learners, no longer requiring our assistance.

In education, 21st century technology really ought to involve a lot of that, and a lot less of learners suffering death by their teacher's PowerPoint.

Among many such apps, I particularly like Memrise, which as well as being fun and addictive seems to have been built to tap into some of theory on how we learn, as well as being free. It's neat that it keeps reminding you to get your daily dose of recycled vocab and as a learner you do have those odd moments of the day (on the bus, queuing in the supermarket…) when you're probably not going to pull out a vocabulary notebook, but your phone you just might.

The original idea for the task here was for one learner (or pair, or small group…) to try it out and then present the app orally to classmates; in fact by the end of the week a number of others were asking if they could download it as well, and a month later some were actually still using it more or less daily (thanks Deb for feedback on that — using it with late teens/young adults learning French).

Neat also that the courses are user-generated: which means that you — or your learners! — could create their own course, a great way to revise the vocabulary they've seen over the course of, say, a term.

Other apps you could suggest:

If you can suggest others, do add them in the comments…