Reading Stevick 8 of 10: games


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?

Start with a bang


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!

Adventures of adventure book writers


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’.

Snowball speaking


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.

Tic tac toe with living things


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?


Mystery trash for the end-of-lesson routine


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!


Humanising educational technology

Where have you bean_

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?


Name tag, you’re it


Why do I always take a stack of A5 sheets to each new group? To me, the best way to learn the students’ names is to have them make name tags, or name plates – depends on how they fold the paper really. I don’t often go further than that though, yet Cristina from CristinaSkyBox has a lot of extra ice-breaking activities for you to try, complete with links to printable samples. And if you’re in a more serious mood (or teaching an EAP course), this post by Tyson Seburn can be a great inspiration. I didn’t expect pieces of coloured paper to evolve into academic reading, writing and revising so quickly!

Is this the real thing, is this just fantasy?


I was reading this post about teaching critical thinking in history classes and thinking how great it must be to work in a school where subject teachers cooperate and teach their learners the same skills through different contexts. We don’t have that luxury in a language school! Still, I can use the historical images and the web app (Factitious) from the post and hope this helps the learners in more ways than one. For example, the ‘critical thinking test’ for spotting fake news from Factitious the author of the post describes is great for developing reading skills, internet search skills and of course critical thinking – several birds with one stone. Do try the test before giving it to students though: I got quite a few wrong!

A hero’s journey


I have to confess that my free time reading habits are not exactly mature: I love a good young adult story, preferably with magic or starships (or both), where the main character begins as an ordinary person and develops into a real hero (and saves the world, of course). It seems the writer of today’s post, Adam Powley, is a little like me. At the very least, he understands people like me and knows how this interest in ‘epic quests’ can be harnessed in the classroom to give meaning to the syllabus. It’s not exactly gamification, it goes deeper into those universal stories that define our life choices (now this is way too deep for a Thursday morning!).

Anyway: do you think it makes sense to use narratives like this for a series of lessons? Or is it too contrived? Perhaps it’s better just to inspire love of learning and honest curiosity in your students?