Bixby is the name of my favourite virtual assistant, but you might prefer Siri or, like Josh Underwood, Alexa. Whatever their name, AI virtual assistants are a fact of life and they can help us out in the classroom. If you need more convincing (or are simply looking for fresh ideas), just check out Josh’s amazing IATEFL poster page with links, references and a video where he explains how he uses AI assistants with primary and secondary students to encourage speaking, help with project work, save teacher time for more meaningful interaction… The list of possibilities is (virtually) endless! When do we start?
Here’s an unusual take on students’ notebooks: why not have movable parts and little pockets there? Probably only applicable to Secondaries, but it all depends on how you sell the idea to the students. I still haven’t decided if they are better than graphic organisers, apart from the obvious entertainment value. I like the kinaesthetic element about them, but I’m not sure how much language they would produce. Still, such a great idea… What do you think?
Here is a great post about ‘the working wall’ – a classroom display that focuses on tracking the development of students’ skills (e.g. writing). There are great illustrations and explanations, as well as the rationale for using a display like this: “An ever-evolving working wall is a fantastic way to model great writing, amazing vocabulary and to celebrate children’s writing journey.” The author recommends adding something to it daily, but also offers time-saving tips and ways to help learners interact with the display.
Now, you may be thinking: didn’t you write some time ago about too much decoration in classrooms? True. On the other hand, if a display like this helps learning and creates a stronger sense of progress, I for one am ready to compromise (or have a movable poster that can enter the classroom and leave it with a particular group of students).
What about you, would you use it in an ELT classroom, when you and the learners don’t really have a space of your own?
For a warm and fuzzy feeling from your Sunday reading, try this nice post from OUP about puppets in the classroom. I like how the author (Kathryn Harper) classifies all the possible uses, from lowering the affective filter to acting out stories and dialogues. By the way, I’m a big fan of soft toys and have been known to use them even with young adults (very ironically, of course! 🙂 ), but I have found something new in this post to experiment with.
Do you often use puppets or cuddly toys? Does it really help, and how?
Here is a thought-provoking post from the Teacher Toolkit about research into young learner classroom and how garish posters and displays can affect the learners’ concentration and learning. The videos the post links to are quite interesting: researchers speak about their findings and suggest looking at the classroom environment and taking into account the age of the learners and how easily they can be distracted. I for one have seen plenty of adults looking at some kids’ old classwork (with noticeable errors) instead of lesson materials, but it also concerns high-quality published posters. So, back to basics and grey walls?
If you think there’s just enough fun in your classroom and you don’t want any more toys or other objects, just check out Alex Case’s post about stacking blocks. He lists so many different uses for them – and justifications! – that there’s bound to be something that will suit your particular group at a particular time and enhance their learning.
He does say that blocks work best with young learners, but I would very much like to try it with adults. An activity with tangible and immediate feedback, what’s not to like?
Realia are realia, you say? But some are particularly evocative, like maps or keys: for example, check out this thread on Twitter where teachers share images of old metal keys they bought and ideas about how to use them, from creative writing to practising inference.
If you have ever seen a complete article or blog post about using old metal keys in the classroom, do let me know.
Here is another interesting use for sticky notes, or post-its: students put a red or green one on their PCs or desks to show if they are following the teacher’s explanation and whether the teacher needs to slow down and explain again. You can read more about it in this article by Kriti Khare. She writes:
“It was my way of making them be present because their contribution, even if it was half-hearted, to put up their green post-it note was required for me to proceed with the concept.”
Could be useful for those extra-challenge moments!
‘Objects’ are a very well-used tag in my blog, but there can never be too many realia in the classroom, right? Even an unglamorous kitchen utensil will shine if you know a few tips and tricks. Read Lana’s post to find out how you can use spoons to practise pronunciation, review vocabulary and organise stirrers. For even more ideas, check this video from the Teaching Channel on how to combine spoons with sticks to encourage student engagement and help with nomination in large groups; also, have a look at this version of the Spoons game by Jennifer Findley which requires some initial learner training, but is infinitely reusable.
Did you know that sweets can teach you how to write? I’m not a big fan of using food in the classroom (just one thought of all those allergies and other health issues makes me shudder), but I really like how the author of this blog post (Stephanie from Teachinginroom6) has staged the process of acquiring narrative skills. Mind you, the sweets are not a reward, they are an important prop! Stephanie says that her students now “see that a narrative that is focused on one specific event and is narrowed down is much more engaging and exciting to read.” She adds that they had “an amazing time”, and it sounds very convincing.