Athletes don't eat photocopies before competition!

This one came from the amazing BuzzFeed, where I probably spend more of my free time than I should, but find some real fun material for class in doing so, with the video above being an example.

Such things are great because for the 60 seconds it takes you to spot them (OK, maybe I was there a bit longer!) you've got a ready-made lesson, because it comes with a ready-made question that is doing to generate 60 minutes of lesson, and quite possibly more.

They're also great because the video is your material: you really don't need anything else, and instead of wasting time producing material (and this is a strictly no-photocopies lesson!), any preparation time can be spent on how to squeeze the maximum amount of interaction and language out of it.

A very rough lesson outline for just about any level B1 or above:

  • Pyramid discussion on "What athletes eat before they compete"
  • In small groups, brainstorm and then rank the top 10 resulting ideas
  • Agree as a class on a top 10
  • Then (and only then) watch the video, with no note taking
  • With a partner, note everything you recall being mentioned, and attempt to produce the top 10 from the video
  • Watch again to see if we were "right"
  • Assign one meal to each pair (or let them pick the most interesting, most weird…) and have them investigate the science (or lack of!) behind what the athlete eats, with mobile phones providing an ideal, in-class research tool
  • Report back, in small groups, probably in the next class, as a presentation (think shared Google Drive documents or Prezi) and/or in an Edmodo group or on a class blog/wiki
  • Optionally, if your learners are also athletes (or have been, at whatever level, including school), have them — or one group — research and report on what they eat

You can get so many great lessons out of  brainstorm > watch/read > compare > research > report/present, because it generates so much interaction and therefore language.

If you have an interactive whiteboard, if you keep stopping the video (you'll need to be quick!), you can easily screen capture the different meals, import them into your IWB software, and then export them as a series of images.

Better still, have one of your learners do that for you. (You'll never have to deal with fast finishers again 😉 !)

I've added a new category to my blog: Smash the photocopier! With the exception of banning Google Images, and possibly the mandatory use of smartphones in all classes, that's possibly the one thing that would most transform English language teaching, IMHO…

How do you learn all the prepositions in English?

Here's one that came from Maria, who attended a session I gave recently, and who asks if I can recommend a site where you can "learn ALL the prepositions, if poss. with an example, the pronunciation and a diagram". I'm not sure that I can, Maria, but here's a couple of ideas that I think might work better than such a site, even if you could find one.

In the image, above, a young learner at IH Barcelona has drawn a picture to illustrate "Where's Oscar?", in order to practise and learn the prepositions. In the insets, there are much more complex examples for the same purpose, part of a complete collection of "all the prepositions", produced by design students in their English class (the original idea there came from a dictionary illustration, so long ago that I can no longer remember which dictionary!).

How about a spot of creative writing?
Alternatively, how about getting your learners to see how many prepositions of time and place they can pack into a single story of a limited number of words (say, 120-180, depending on their level).

The start of an example story, for quite a high level:

On a cold starless night in 1858, in a small village outside Astorga, an old man dressed in a threadworn overcoat sat on a bench looking down the road into the trees, expectant…

At a lower, level, you could take the story In a dark, dark wood and get your learners to create their own version (illustrated, with their own artwork, if they're young learners), again incorporating as many prepositions as possible.

If your learners share their stories (think Edmodo, a class blog, a wiki…) and you/they award "prizes" to the best, the most original, the best ghost (etc.) story, and the one with the highest percentage of words that are (correct!) prepositions in the text, and so on, it becomes challenging, creative and fun, as your classroom should be.

How do you learn all the prepositions?
I like these ideas more than a single "site" providing you with practice "exercises". Apart from meeting such words in context — which is going to require extensive reading and listening in order to meet them many times — the learners really have to use them and manipulate them creatively, which they will have to do with these tasks.

Doing the kind of task suggested above collaboratively involves more of that; sharing the end products (after all a huge part of what 21st century technology allows us to do) also means that the learners "meet" the prepositions in context more often, in reading the work their peers produce.

But… if anyone can think of a site like the one Maria was after, do add it to the comments ,-) !

See also
Short, creative writing projects with Twitter, Edmodo