June has been challenging but exciting at the same time. I’ve finally been able to work with my students face-to-face and full time, which is the exciting part. The challenging part though is that we’ve been in the middle of a heatwave and since summer holidays are slowly approaching, it’s harder and harder to keep up the ‘serious‘ classroom work. In other words, lately, it’s been a challenge to find suitable materials for the final revision which would be a) meaningful and b) fun. Now, without trying to toot my own horn, I must say that over the past couple of weeks, this very blog has proved to be one of the handiest places to turn to whenever I needed inspiration. After a long period of time passivity, I caught myself frantically searching the site for some speaking activities I remembered from the good old times. I mainly needed to dust off the rules and instructions I had already forgotten. And I was pleasantly surprised how valuable this teaching journal actually is in this respect.
In the meantime, full of energy and enthusiasm, I kept inventing new activities as well. I’ve discovered that jigsaw and information-gap activities work really well in my teaching context these days. I don’t know if it’s because the students, after a long time of self-isolation, crave cooperation and collaboration, or because it is me who likes to see my students fully immersed in an activity, communicating and negotiating in the target language.
Today, I’d like to share a couple of activities that worked really well. I’m doing so for half selfish reasons – because some people out there might find this entry useful but also, I realize my future self might find it handy too.
General Knowledge Quiz (45 minutes):
I googled about 60 interesting general knowledge questions with answers. They were challenging enough to pique my students’ interest but adjusted to their current level. The students worked in pairs. Each student got the same handout. However, Student A got questions 1-30 with answers and questions 31-60 without answers. Student B, on the other hand, got questions 1-30 without answers and questions 31-60 with answers. Students took turns. Student A asked question number 1. If Student B knew the answer right away (this was possible but quite unlikely) – he or she got two points. If Student B didn’t know the answer, they could ask their partner for help.
At this point, Student A had to offer 3 options (one of which was the correct answer). If Student B guessed correctly, they got one point. Then it was Student B’s turn to ask a question 31.
Example: What’s the highest mountain in the world? Correct answer: Mount Everest (Student A had to come up with two more mountains, e.g. Mount Elbrus and Mont Blanc).
In case you are wondering, yes, I could have provided the students with the three options right away but it turned out that the fact that the students had to come up with 3 plausible options was the most interesting and fun part. This way, in my opinion, the students were more engaged. In other words, the felt like they own the activity since they were partially responsible for the content.
Crossword – across vs down (45 minutes)
I went to an online crossword generator and created a large crossword in which I used words and their definitions we had covered over the past few months. Each student got a handout with an identical blank crossword. Student A got the clues for the across words (on a separate handout) while Student B only got the down clues. First, they worked individually on their part of the crossword. When they both finished, Student A provided the clues for the across words they had come up with (without looking at the original clues) and Student B provided the clues for the down words. So, in stage 2, the students had to create the definitions off the top of their heads – in their own words. Sometimes, the students came across a problem, e.g. a word did not fit in, so they had to figure it out together. For example, this happened in situations when two or more synonymous words could be used for a particular clue. Eventually, the whole crossword was complete and the teacher was happy. 🙂
In conclusion, the first activity is well-suited for heterogenous groups, i.e groups which don’t necessarily have the same learning backgroud. There is no particular grammar or vocabulary area you are focusing on. Its main aim is to generate discussion, creativity and collaboration. It’s fun and competitive too. The second activity is great for revision of specific vocabulary areas.
Here’s another set of activities I wrote about some time ago here on my blog.