It’s interesting how Stevick explains the necessity of games in the classroom: they are not just a welcome change of pace. Games are necessary for short-term motivation: they have simple goals that can be achieved within one lesson (rather than an exam or new career) and can thus provide a sense of progress and meaning to classroom activities.
And a simple activity with Cuisenaire rods (other objects can be used as well): students are divided into several groups; one group builds a structure from the rods hidden behind a notebook or another tall object; then they describe it in English so that the other groups could build the same. It’s not as easy as it seems, and I really like the information gap and the competitive element here. Stevick also mentions the ‘psychological safety in numbers’: the competition is happening between teams, not individuals, and therefore is not as threatening. And the language components? Colours, prepositions, other ways to describe location – what’s not to like?
If you’re feeling a bit under the February weather, here’s a great collection of activities to start your lesson on a high. You can choose anything from a viral Instagram photo to a ‘write-around’ activity, depending on how serious you want to be and whether you want to create a ‘hook‘ for further learning. The only technique on Terry Heick’s list that I would be wary about using is meditation – I’m definitely not an expert, and I’m not sure it has a place in every classroom!
Here is an inspiring post by Alastair Lane about writing ‘gamebooks’, or ‘choose your own adventure’ stories for language learners. Much as I love reading, I have never been a fan of those books: I just want to focus on one storyline and one world that the author has created for me. On the other hand, these books are a great opportunity for narrow input and revision, and they can be incredibly motivational provided they are written well and use elements of gamification. And, judging by the post, Alastair’s and his co-authors’ books are definitely worth checking out!
P.S. I’ve already linked to an article about QR codes to make adventure stories in the classroom; ‘A hero’s journey’ describes the power of narratives for learning. If you’re interested in the process of creating graded readers, check ‘Up a level, down a level’.
Here is a nice fresh activity from Teresa Bestwick to celebrate the winter mood: write topics on sheets of paper, have a snowball fight with them, keep one snowball each and write questions to interview your partner based on the topics. What makes this speaking activity different? The physical silliness of course – a perfect stirrer for a tired or fidgety group. Check the original post for a full description, or have a look at another of my favourites by this author: Scissor quizzes.
Here’s an entertaining take on the age-old game: ‘human’ tac toe for vocabulary revision. Cristina was inspired by the video of a game show and created her own version for the classroom. The rules only seem complicated when you read them first, but the video makes things much easier. If you have students write their own questions, it will become low-prep and high-yield – what’s not to like?
Here’s a fun activity to encourage young students to clean up the classroom before they leave: you select an object that could be rubbish, but could also be something out of place, and don’t tell the students until they pick everything up. Once someone has it (and the room is clean), you announce the winner. There are some caveats to this game, and I suggest you check the original post for more advice, as well as child protection rules of your school before you give out sweets as prizes – but boy do I love this game!
Now, this article about educational technology is definitely worth a read whether you are pro-tech or anti. The author (Paul Emerich France) begins with an analysis how individualisation provided by tech at schools can lead to limited interactions between students and deprive them of ‘points of convergence‘ in the classroom, the human dimension of learning. He goes on to look into possible reasons for our over-reliance on technology, and his conclusions are not very flattering. Perhaps it is easier for us? The article ends with a set of questions which we should ask ourselves before introducing technology into the classroom, and the final question goes like this: does this technology enhance human connection? I don’t think it can get clearer than that, do you?