An idea is worth a thousand photocopies

Another of the ideas from my talk last Saturday, with a quote from my former DELTA course tutor…

At the previous talk I gave at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference, a year ago, I explained how I'd taken a vow of abstinence, had had my own photocopy code disabled, and not made a photocopy since, using instead some of the wonderful digital alternatives (blogs, Edmodo, shared Google Docs, wikis…).

Because we now have free online access to a vast number of articles on subjects of all kinds that will interest students of all ages, the following has become one of my favourite classroom activities, as it produces lots of student-generated language and discussion and doesn't involve queuing up to use the photocopier.

Have your learners negotiate and create their own digital list of "The top 5-10 [whatever] of all time"

Rough outline of stages

  1. Find an idea that will engage your learners (sources: blogs, RSS feeds, The Guardian, Twitter, …)
  2. Have your learners (face-to-face) brainstorm their own list
  3. Share the list online (blog, Edmodo, Facebook…)
  4. Extend list over course of 3-7 days, perhaps before the class meets again
  5. Negotiate reduction to 5-7 (10) points, possibly F2F in next class
  6. Provide link and compare "our" list with the original article
  7. Exploit article for language work and/or developing reading skills, using an interactive whiteboard if available
  8. Exploit the readers' comments accompanying the article
  9. Further discussion

We can spread this out over several days, do some of the discussion face-to-face, some of it online. Note how much we can get out of the article before we ever even actually look at it (stage 6, above).

As with all the uses of technology I suggest, we're in fact making fairly minimal use of technology here.

Examples of online articles
All of the following articles have popped up in my Google Reader feeds for sites like Lifehacker, Mashable, and Wired, which are great sources of such material.

I love all brainstorming activities! By definition they are creative (on which Carol Read gave a brilliant plenary at the conference); they are student-centred; give rise to conversation, social interaction and sharing; which leads to a focus on learner-generated emergent language; and they involve creating something, not merely consuming more photocopies.

Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

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  1. Here's another article that would work, from one of my favourite bloggers, Doug Johnson: Things that will disappear in our lifetime.

    Anyone "doing" the future?

  2. You suggested this one to me, Tom: as a follow-up to the Great places in the world to stand article, I got my learners to take photos of Great places in Barcelona to sit. We did more or less what you've outlined here, got a lot of discussion from it and it made a super project. Shared the pix on Facebook (yeah, I know you hate it) :-). Un beso, K.

  3. No, not a big Facebook fan, Kate! But if your learners are happy with it…

    Glad the idea worked well.

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