Here's one that was a one-off but a lot of fun (if a bit crazy!): an impromptu, unplanned, materials- and preparation-free class that came about when two students and I failed to find a bar (in the centre of Barcelona !!!) to watch the Manchester City vs Real Madrid Champions semi final and ended up following it via the text commentary on four different mobile devices, each connected to a different website — left to right, above, The Guardian, The BBC, Marca.com and (not shown) El Mundo Deportivo.
With the first beer, the conversation got on to which of the four would update first and which we could trust to give an unbiased account of the game and it just kind of developed from there — with a fair bit of translation being required (not necessary a bad thing, if you ask me); a lot of working out meaning from context; and lot of new vocabulary; a lot of wanting to understand the text(-s); a lot of fun, not to mention quite a lot of beer and patatas bravas!
You could do the same thing after the event, by painstakingly copying the commentaries and printing them out (etc) but your learners would probably already know the result and so there wouldn't be the excitement of that.
There were eventually four of us, two (myself included) self-confessed haters of all things football, and one who is (I quote) "proud to neither know nor care anything about football". Fun also, for the two fans to have to explain what was happening to her (and why they were getting so excited about it).
I'm not sure it would work in a larger group, but if you happen to have a private class that kicks off at 20.45 on a Champions night, with someone crazy about football, entertaining!
Here's an idea that Andrew Wright suggested in his recently session at IATEFL: to, first, get your learners to list everything they know about gardening; and, then as a discussion activity, to talk about how that could be related to life.
As I live and work in Barcelona, where virtually no one has a garden, I picked cycling for the example (image, above) that I created to show to the group I tried this with. And I let them pick literally any of their own interests.
I instructed them to list, among other things, the slightly bizarre, slightly nerdy, slightly tongue-in-cheek things about their hobby (my example was that the only really good thing about cycling is the amount of food you get to eat!). I also asked them to make all the items on their lists impersonal — achieved in part by pairing them as far as possible so that two people were creating the list on a hobby they shared.
Probably best as a task for adults rather than my teenagers (could you relate painting Warhammer figures to life 😉 ?).
My idea was to get them to use their phones, and the pictures I was hoping they would have there, to illustrate the whole thing. The Over app would have been brilliant for adding captions but we didn't in the end get there.
We used pen and paper to create the list, but list.ly is a great alternative if you want to do activities with lists.
See also my article on OneStopEnglish for 10 fun tasks with lists (subscription or 30-day free trial required).
My presentation for OneStopEnglish at IATEFL 2016, in Birmingham last Saturday.
For OneStopEnglish, I have written a series of articles on tasks which involve the learners, not the teachers, using technology either inside or outside the classroom.
The articles, for a wide variety of levels and ages, include around 70 different tasks learners can do and share these three characteristics:
- They have the learners not the teacher using the technology
- They involve using only a minimum amount of technology
- They are designed to produce a maximum amount of interaction and use of language
In his plenary session the previous day, Andrew Wright was talking about learners creating their own stories and said this:
They're not doing it for you, they're doing it with you, for themselves.
21st century technology allows people to do precisely that — or at least it does if you the teacher take your hands off the mouse and keyboard, and hand over the technology to your learners.
Subscription is required for full access to OneStopEnglish. but you can also have a free 30-day trial, and school access is another possibility- As there are over 9,000 resources there, it's a site I highly recommend.
One I spotted on Twitter last month, where I keep an eye out for the excellent Vimeo Staff Picks…
And one I tweeted earlier this week…
We have to assume, of course, that bunnies can either write or speak for this to work. Teachers sometimes say to me "My learners just aren't that creative", to which I always say "You have to ask them to be"; and the more you do, the more they will be.
Writing or speaking tasks
Whether this is to be a writing or a speaking task, I like to make such things collaborative efforts, with learners working together in pairs or groups of 3 and producing a single version of the story between them.
If it's to be a writing task, Google Drive documents that the learners (not you!) set up and share with you and everyone else are amazing (a class blog makes a great alternative) — but do make your learners deal with all the setting up: you're not in class as technical support!
And for a speaking task, my preferred tool is for the learners to record it using the excellent Spreaker Studio app.
Thanks to Amanda for trying the second story out and providing feedback.
On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post no more than one thing a day, always and exclusively things that I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.
In my recent session on classroom drawing at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference, I explain how my son's primary school teacher had inspired him to do better at school by putting not ticks but quick doodles of football players on his work.
Toni, however, remembered not so much the football players as the drawings Agustí used to do on everyone's reading records…
As I suggested during the workshop, even if you never draw on your board, learn to doodle, and — especially if they are young — doodle on your learners' work!