Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dictionary Scavenger Hunt

Two days ago as I published the post about Scavenger Hunt I remembered that it could also be used for dictionaries. Most of the students don't really know all the ways in which a dictionary can be used, so doing a Scavenger Hunt activity with it can be very helpful. They usually think that dictionaries are just books in which you can find a translation of a certain word and have no clue about all the synonyms, antonyms, pronunciations, variations, multiple meanings, parts of speech a word can belong to, historical connotations and origins, idioms, collocations, etc. 

You should just copy a page of your favorite dictionary (monolingual, of course) and ask questions about things that can be found there. This way your students will get to know everything dictionaries can offer.

Example of such an activity can be found here. (Keep in mind that this activity is for users who already have some linguistic knowledge.)

How do you introduce dictionaries to your students? 

P.S. If you still haven't, check out my Facebook page in the right sidebar for more updates about language teaching. :) Thanks!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

I’m sure you all know how the game Scavenger Hunt works and in this post I’ll give you two suggestions for its use in class.

Suggestion 1:

You can use this game as a form of reading exercise, where your students practice their skimming and scanning skills. What you have to do is prepare different kinds of texts that you will hang around the classroom + make a worksheet with questions. The answers to the questions are, of course, to be found in the texts. Divide your students into teams and let the fastest one win. Make sure to produce questions for which your students will have to go over the text (i.e. don’t ask questions that can be answered by just looking at the title) and that there are many different types of texts. Tourist brochures from the places you have visited can serve as great materials for this game, especially because they are completely authentic.

Some of the reading materials for this activity that I made can be found here + questions here.

Suggestion 2:

Use this game as a means of familiarizing your students with their new course books. This will make them more aware of what they can expect in their current school year and if you pick a good course book, you might even motivate them to be excited about learning English.

This time students can work in pairs, and you just come up with questions to which answers can be found in the course books. Since there is little chance that the majority of you are using the same course book I have come up with some general questions that can help you with your own version of the game - make sure to adapt them to your course book. Download them from here.

How do you usually make your students familiar with their course books? What is your experience with this game?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Useful Classroom Vocabulary

In this post, I’ll present something very useful for your everyday classroom work. I adapted the materials which were kindly given to me by my friend AnÄ‘ela, who is just starting out as a teacher of English and German as foreign languages. (Best of luck, my dear friend!)

So, what are these materials about?

Well, we as language teachers, except from the language knowledge and classroom management have to be able to react quickly and in an appropriate way. If you are teaching only in the foreign language, some of those reactions might not always be the most accurate. There are numerous situations in which our language knowledge shows its real face, so not to say something unfitting or completely wrong, here is a list of possible situations and what you should say when you want to deal with them. There is also a list of useful phrases and sentences, which can be used in classroom and are very often influenced by our first language. Make sure to master these.

I know this might sound a bit over the top, but for us, who are non-native speakers of the languages we teach it is important to be as accurate as possible even when something takes us by surprise.  

Have you ever had any awkward situations in the classroom caused by wrong use of certain language structures? How did you deal with them? Do you find these lists helpful?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Find Someone Who

We have finally come to an end with these get-to-know-you activities and the last one I’ll present is the well known “FIND SOMEONE WHO”. What you do is hand out worksheets with some statements to your students. What they should do is mingle around the classroom and find someone who matches the statements given.  When they are all done, they read the statements out loud and name the students who match them. 

This can also be a great starting point for some follow-up get-to-know-you activities (maybe even some of those mentioned in my previous posts). You can also ask the students to “prove” their abilities (e.g. if someone can do a French braid, let them do it; or if someone plays a musical instrument – ask them which one, for how long etc.)

You can do this with any kind of statements, just be creative and adapt it to your learners’ level.  The important thing, though, is not to give statements which can be matched with a person based on their looks, since this will prevent students from speaking. The worksheet that I created can be found here, so feel free to use it anytime. 

Alternative version to this activity can be a Bingo activity. You can use the same statements, just put them in a form of a table and distribute the sheets among the students. They should find the people matching the statements as quickly as possible and write their names in the boxes. Once they have a whole row or a column filled with names, they should shout: “Bingo!” and they have won. The rest of the students should continue playing.

You can download the example Bingo sheets from here.

Have you already prepared some get-to-know-you activities for your students? Did you find the ones on my blog useful?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ice-breakers ctd.

Today we continue with get-to-know-you activities.

I found a lot of interesting ones on the internet, and this one seems pretty great. It is a game in which there is a mystery factor because students try to find out more about each other by asking questions and giving clues. They work in pairs (make sure they mingle to prevent them from talking to the same people all the time) and I think that the best thing about this game is that they also get to know you – which will probably be the most interesting thing for them. Due to that, this activity is also great to use if you are a new teacher in a class where students already know each other well. 

Another possibility is to play a snowball fight. This one is extremely popular with boys, but make sure no one gets hurt. These are the steps:

  1. Write 3 very simple sentence prompts on the board. They could look like this:
1. My favorite sport is ______________________________.
2. In my free time I ________________________________.
3. My favorite song is ______________________________.

  1. Now give each student a piece of paper and tell them to write down the sentences and finish them according to their own lives.
  2. When they are done, they should crumple up their paper and start a snowball fight. Let them fight for a minute.
  3. Each student should have one snowball in their hands when they finish fighting. They should unravel it and read the sentences to the rest of the class. The rest of the class should guess who the author is. 

There is also one activity I like to call – TRUE OR FALSE. Each person should tell two sentences to the rest of the class. They should both be interesting and strange in content and should be about something that happened to them, except that one is true and one is made up. The rest of the class should guess which one is true and the person speaking should then tell the whole story behind it. This activity would be best for advanced learners and if there are a lot of them in class, it would be advisable to do it in groups or pairs.

What do you think about these ice-breakers? Do you find them possible to do in your classes?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gossip Game

Hi, everyone!

I hope you all had an amazing summer. Mine was great and although I’m still in the mood for just lying around and having no obligations, September is almost here, so let’s get to work.

First of all, I would like to inform you that I have created a Facebook page for this blog, where we will be able to share more ideas and you will get notified every time I publish a new blog post, so feel free to like it and participate with your own ideas.

Here in Croatia, the school year starts in just two weeks, so I think it’s a natural choice to write a couple of my first post-summer posts about some interesting get-to-know-you activities. You can, of course, adapt each of these to your learners’ age and proficiency level.

First up is the so called GOSSIP GAME.

In this activity you make your students talk about each other, which is a lot easier than talking about themselves and a lot more interesting for the rest of the class. You should first distribute pieces of paper among your students and then instruct them to do the following (you can even draw that piece of paper on a board to make it easier for them to visualize how it should be done – the template can be downloaded it you click on the picture below):

1.      Write your name in the middle of the paper.
2.      Write the name of your favorite book/author/movie/actor/musician/song in the top left corner of the paper.
3.      Write your hobby/how you spend your free time in the top right corner of the paper.
4.      Write the name of a place that is somehow important to you in the bottom left corner of the paper.
5.      Write your favorite quote in the bottom right corner of the paper.

Give them approx. 5 minutes for this and then tell them to stand up and mingle a bit, or just tell them to walk around the classroom and when you say “stop” they have to talk to the person standing next to them. They should show their paper to the person they are talking to and explain why they have written those certain things. The other person can and should ask questions about them and remember as much as they can because later on they will have to report what they have learned about that person to the rest of the class.

When they are done talking, tell them to form a wide circle in the middle of the classroom and give them a ball to throw to each other (a soft, spongy one). The person who gets the ball has to report everything about the person they have talked to. (e.g. Ana’s favorite movie is “Crazy Stupid Love” because she likes the plot and Ryan Gossling is also very hot. She likes to read and draw in her free time and she even participated in an exhibition at the local gallery with her drawings of still life. For her special place she has chosen her room because she spends most of her time there and she has decorated it with many pictures of her friends. Her favorite quote is: “Don’t worry, be happy.”)

This will give you a great insight into the language knowledge of your students, into their personalities and it will be fun because they get to talk about each other.

What are the ice-breakers you use in your classroom? What do you think about this one?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'm still here!

Hi, everyone, just wanted to fill you in on what's going on.

In a few days I'm heading out to Glasgow to take part in an IP Erasmus Summer School on intercultural communication and I'm very excited about that. This summer break is pretty long, I know, but I can see that there are many of you still visiting my blog and I'm very grateful for that. I promise I won't disappoint you with what's coming up in less than a month.

I've set up a Facebook page to accompany this site and it will launch in late August when I come back. That way we'll be able to communicate better and share ideas, so stay tuned for that. There will also be some great giveaways on the blog with products that will be helpful for you as well as for your students, so make sure to come back and take part in those.

I hope you're having an amazing summer and I'll talk to you all in late August. :)