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…

Redesign your classroom

Love this video, and the idea behind it, which comes from the excellent Edutopia (via the equally excellent MindShift).

With or without actually showing the video to students, the idea of redesigning your classroom makes a great language classroom task.

Surveying people on what they'd like (Google Docs forms are wonderful); collaborating on creating the redesign (a shared Google Drive document is again great for that); and an oral presentation to the class (backed up with a shared Google Drive presentation, PowerPoint, Prezi…); followed by discussion of which is the best idea (an Edmodo poll and comments…) are some of the ways your learners could use technology to create their redesign.

All you'd then need would be the funding ;-)!

Fun with question forms… and Prezi

The above was my first ever Prezi, created to demonstrate what a class of learners had to do, i.e. then create their own Prezi, with their own "answers", for which every one else then had to guess the questions.

We shared all the Prezis via a class blog, and then spent 20 minutes or so madly guessing questions to some wonderfully bizarre answers, and getting some intense, fun practice in question formation, by the end of which the learners themselves were refusing to answer any question not in its proper form!

We did have a winner — the last man standing with an answer to which we still didn't have the question.

For demonstration purposes, in my example, I included the questions themselves, which the learners obviously didn't do.

The activity, which is surely a very old one, whose original source I've long since forgotten (help, anyone?) is fun without technology, but sharing the Prezis probably made it more fun, more intense, and possibly more meaningful.

See also Fun with conditionals

Prezi or PowerPoint?

How to enjoy 2013: A brilliant Prezi by Peter Kuyt

Prezi or PowerPoint?

It's getting round to that time of the year again: our annual ELT Conference in Barcelona (February 8-9) is ten days away and I'm collecting my thoughts on the backs of envelopes (seriously!) on what I'm going to say in my session.

I ask myself the same question every year: should I use Prezi, or should I play "safe" and use PowerPoint?

Don't get me wrong: I like Prezi (it's fun) and the learners I've tried it with have liked it (they thought it was fun, too!). This Prezi activity in particular always seems to work well.

But lots of the Prezis I see don't actually seem to be that much of an improvement on PowerPoint, and don't really seem to have made any consideration of how Prezi could be used to present things differently.

Peter Kuyt's Prezi (see above) is brilliantly clever because it actually does that. You couldn't do that in PowerPoint!

Hello to those of you in Hyderabad!
A special welcome to those of you taking our online Technology for Language Learning course, which started Monday.

Prezi the end of the world

Here's a topical — and pretty cool — Prezi for today.

I'm a big fan of Prezi and your learners can do some fun things with it. It's a neat way to present project work but I have my doubts as to whether or not it's in fact that much of an improvement over PowerPoint if it's being used as a formal presentation tool before an audience.

Perhaps it's just that there are bad Prezi's in that context, just as there are bad PowerPoints. But look for example, in this case, about how much information there is on some of the "slides" here. That would be bad in PowerPoint, and in Prezi poor design does not suddenly get better.