Monday, 23 July 2012

Put it on a timeline!

Timelines are a visual, easy way to display information that could otherwise look thorny or complicated. This is a timeline with a brief history of the role of the first language on second language acquisition research, which I made for my Contrastive Linguistics class.

What I like about this timeline is that I can have a quick overview and text view as well, where my explanations and comments are neatly organized.

Other timeline generators:

This is probably the best known online timeline generator. It's good when you add specific events but it's not that simple when it comes to seeing the attached comments.

It helps you create visually appealing timelines, with pictures and videos, etc. The problem is you can't edit your timeline once you finish it, so you have only one shot (unless you subscribe to the full version).

Capzles is nice to create personal timelines, useful to work on projects about holidays, personal stories, etc.

Timeline Maker for Schools
This is a more basic, easier tool to use with kids.

Do you know any others? Let's add them here!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Adults also want to have fun!

Hi there! Long time no see! (has it really been two months since my last post???).

A couple of weeks ago I came across a brillant, thought-provoking video by Angela Maiers about the importance of playing in the learning process. In the video she shares what she learnt herself by observing children, the way they play and the way they learn in the sandbox. The video is called The Sandbox Manifesto and I seriously think all of those who work with children should watch it. It's gripping and inspiring! You can enjoy Angela's video here:

After watching it I kept thinking about how important (and difficult!) it is to keep the ability to look at things through fresh eyes when we grow up. Being open and ready to feel curious, to be amazed by the world, to be dazzled by those sorrounding us. Isn't this an essential ingredient for a successful learning recipe?

In the last couple of years I've worked mainly with adults and I noticed -many times- that even the most serious businessmen are ready to leave the "formal" part of the class behind and have fun when the activity proposed is relevant to their interests and they can see the point of it. If you think about it, playing is natural for all of us, even for grownups (you can meet quite a few interesting blokes on Second Life or The Sims!).

Here are some games (both on and offline) that have worked for me and my students. Have a look!

All of us, some of us, none of us
This is a variation of one of the best known activites in ELT: Find someone who... You give your students a list of prompts to discuss and write three columns on the board: all of us, some of us, none of us. They have to walk around the classroom and talk to their classmates to find out information about the prompts. They end up with sentences such as "all of us were born in Buenos Aires" or "some of us can play golf" or "all of us read at least one of Peter Druckers' books", depending on what you are working on.

Call my bluff
Students talk about themselves and include one piece of information that is not true. The others guess which part is a lie and try to discover the truth behind it. In a nice variation of this activity, you read out a word and all students have to write a definition on a slip of paper. You hold a bowl with all the definitions inside (including the real one), read all definitions out loud and students take a vote. I tried this after working on dictionary skills and it was fun!

Rumour has it...
In this game one person of the group leaves the room and the rest tell him/her that someone told them a secret and that s/he has to guess the secret by asking yes/no questions. The trick is the following: whenever a question ends in a vowel the answer is yes, whenever it ends in a consonant the answer is no. Things can get pretty confusing! One note of caution here: make sure everybody understands this is a game (once one of my students said "oh I have it, is it that I'm cheating on my wife?" Plop! End of game!).

Guessing the question
This is another activity that works very well to work on question formation. Students A says something about him/herself (it should look like an answer, eg. "40 years old") and student B has to guess the question. 

Divide the class in two groups. One player from group A takes a card with a rord on it and has to give hints to his/her classmates for them to guess it. The catch is that the card also contains several words s/he can't use. For example, if the word is marketing, your taboo words could be market, commercial, campaign.

You know I'm a big fan of technology integration for all levels and ages. So I tried some pretty interesting activities online and I must say my students loved them!

The idea of this activity is to create a comic about a character or event previously discussed or that is part of a book or article already read in class. What they find motivating about this activity is that they need to change genres and turn a narrative into a dialogue (which is quite limited BTW, because they have to organize the information in four or five comic frames). Here are some nice web-based tools to explore:

Stag'd project

You can also check out a blogpost I wrote on the use of comics a while ago.

Creating a brochure or newsletter
I like to take a project-based approach to Business English from time to time. I think this kind of work helps students practice everyday business skills apart from teaching them the relevant language. The challenge to come up with an end product such as a brochure or a newsletter turned up to be quite motivating. A very cool tool we've tried is Letterpop.

Creating a presentation
Presentation skills are vital for most adult learners. They just can't have enough training on this. Some times they choose to wrap up a project by creating a presentation to sell a product, show results to a fake board, etc. I've put together a whole binder on presentation tools, because this tends to be a key topic in my classes. You can have a look at it here: Presentation Tools ELT by Bárbara García.

So... let's play! What about you? 
Any winner games you'd like to share? 
Please do!