Fun warmer with 'would rather'

Coke vs Pepsi

Here's an idea [content in Spanish] which my colleague Xavi Mula published on our Spanish teacher training blog earlier this week.

Xavi's idea was to get the learners to produce their own 'would rather' cards and bring them to class for a fun warmer/revision activity.

If you need some examples, you'll find lots in the link I posted on Twitter about a month ago:

If you had an Edmodo group or something similar (for adults I'd recommend a private G+ community), it could be a fun, on-going thing.

If you were using a WhatsApp group, it would work great there, too. Try challenging your learners: who can come up with the best 'would rather" — i.e. the one that produces the most replies?

Writing prompt: a photograph of me as a kid

Photos of childhood

Photo: left, my brother; right, me

The photo on the right has amused entire generations of learners here in Barcelona when I've showed it to them: me, aged 3, wearing wellingtons and an ill-fitting Balaclava helmet that makes me look a lot like Action Man! Mum's can be so cruel!

It might actually later have been my Mum (also an English teacher) who suggested a photograph of yourself as a kid as a writing prompt, which is how I first used the accompanying photo in class — showing it to my learners as an example and then getting them to find their own, and write about the childhood memories it brought back.

If you're using something like an Edmodo group, or a G+ Community (make it private if you are), or WhatsApp with your learners, get them to share the photos there and see what memories they have in common. That's how you want to use digital spaces — i.e. socially, and not just for posting the homework, or answers to exercises (a sure-fired way to kill interest in your group!)

Photos like these — because of the powerful memories associated with them — are so much better for class than anything you or your learners will ever find on Google!

Creative writing with the monkey selfie story

A little more on something I tweeted earlier today, having spotted it during my daily minute browsing The Guardian on my way to work…

The Guardian disagrees with what the Telegraph claimed about the monkey owning copyright (!).

Here's the video of the original theft:

I'm not that sure that I'm going to get a lot of language — always the objective — out of either the articles or the video, but it's the idea that I like: couldn't we get a lot of fun, a lot of interaction and language out of imagining we're the monkey and have actually learnt how to use Facebook and Instagram and so on?

IDEA #1 | The Facebook post and/or tweet
So we have the picture (though, how many of my teens can themselves pull great monkey faces, and use their own images…?), how about our learners write the Facebook post and/or 140-character tweet that the monkey would upload to their new account?

We want to get the interaction that will produce more language so each learner (or pair of learners) has to be (a) the monkey that stole the camera and then (b) another jealous — or not — monkey without the camera and has to respond to the post, which would need to go on something like an Edmodo group. You could use a Facebook group (or with adults a private G+ Community), but I'm all for the greater, ad-free privacy that Edmodo offers.

No technology? You could use pieces of (scrap!) paper and "post" on your classroom walls…

IDEA #2 | Give me my phone back!
Alternatively, again if you have an Edmodo group, how about dividing your class up and have them negotiate recovery of the phone?

  • One of the learners is the monkey
  • Others are other monkeys, who also want the phone and/or have stolen other phones
  • One of the learners is the tourist, the original owner of the phone
  • The rest are other tourists, who could also have had their phones stolen

To keep your Edmodo stream a little under control, I'd recommend no more than about a third of your learners as monkeys, and only monkeys being allowed to post new "notes" — people are only allowed to "respond" to notes. You probably also want to take email "alerts" off for the duration of the activity (!).

Twitter might also be a fun way to do the same activity.

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post only one thing a day (frequently not even that), always and exclusively things I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Getting the most out of technology: sharing is caring

A further quotation I used in my conference talk last weekend, one that came from my own children, who used it when they were very small as a magic phrase which instantaneously ended their squabbles. They are now 16 and 19 and it's been fascinating to watch two digital natives grow up; and having learnt so much from them, I had to include something that they've taught me!

One of the fundamental changes that Web 2.0 tools have brought about is that they make it so easy for users to share things. If the use we're making of technology doesn't lead to that, then we can't possibly be using it to its full potential.

Perhaps the problem is with the word "we": it's not "we" the teachers that should be using classroom technology at all, but our learners. And if what they're doing with it doesn't lead to sharing things online, then we need to rethink what we're asking them to do.

On a class blog, have your class post photos (taken either on their mobile phones or with a digital camera) of their first coffee of the morning, on a regular basis.


You could, alternatively, substitute "breakfast" for "coffee", as in the image (above).

Original source: Tumblr

I've suggested a blog but you could also use a Facebook group or Edmodo or a Google+ Community, though (for reasons of its superior privacy, my personal preference would definitely be for Edmodo).

I like this task for a number of reasons. It's suitable for quite low levels; it's creative; it involves sharing and, because it does, it helps create a sense of community, which is excellent for your group dynamics, both online and in the time you and your learners spend face-to-face.

Another thing I like about the task: it requires the learners to take their own photos, not steal them from Google-is-Evil. As far as humanly possible, I don't set tasks which can be illustrated with images stolen by and from Google (or anywhere else).

What's not so good about the task (and it's a serious defect!) is that it probably won't lead to a lot of interaction (think "comments"). It's not enough for language learners merely (as on Facebook) to "like": you want them to actually use English to communicate.

In order to get more interaction, your learners could have ongoing negotiation of what posts should include to make it most interesting; and discussion of, and research into (think mini-webquests) how the photos could be improved is a further possibility.

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