Six Olympic-style language games

The Irregular Verb Ski Jump and 5 other language games!

With the winter Olympics being 1) over half finished and 2) held in my homeland of Canada I thought it would be a good excuse to do an Olympic related six. Although I stopped my last class just before Christmas the following six activities are all fun sports-like games I’ve done with my students in the past, although perhaps not precisely on the winter Olympic theme. Anyway, see what you think. Many are suitable for adults and children!

1 Lexical Luge or Bobsled – For this activity you need a series of lexical categories (e.g. animals, food, clothing, crime) suitable for your students’ level. On the board draw an image of a steep hill and a luge track on it (it doesn’t have to be exact, a windy route down a big mountain side will do). Draw five different X’s at various points on the track. It should look a bit like this, but as a slide.

Start: _________X______X__________X___X_______________X – Finish

Now the game works like this. A student comes up. You give them the lexical category. He/she has to say 5 words (one for each X) in as quick as time as possible. Do this with a stopwatch. If they make a mistake, add 5 seconds to their final time. If they make three mistakes they have “flown off” the side of the track and are disqualified. Students could do this in teams of four, making it a bobsled race. The student/team with the fastest time gets the gold medal. Add more Xs to make it a more challenging track.

2 Irregular verbs Ski Jump – For this activity you need the ubiquitous list of irregular verbs. Draw an image of a ski jump on the board. A student comes up in front of the course. Give them three irregular verbs (e.g. make, go, eat). They have to say the past tense forms. If they make a mistake they sit down again. If they get them right they have made a successful jump. They then have 30 seconds to say as many pairs of infinitive and past forms of irregular verbs as they can, e.g fly-flew, teach-taught, buy-bought etc. Count how many correct they get in the 30 seconds (another student can time this). They score one point per correct pair. Their total points is the total distance jumped. At the end the student who has jumped the furthest gets gold medal.

3 The Olympic Rings Alphabet Game – Students play this in teams. They have to work together and make an alphabet of sports words. E.g. A Athletics, B basketball etc. Set a reasonable time limit (ten to fifteen minutes). At the end, check answers. For every five correct words in their alphabet each group gets an “Olympic ring”. Can any group get five rings?

4 Figure skating Recital – individual programme – This one takes a little more setting up, and you need students who are willing to “go for it”. Each student has to choose a short text, either from the coursebook or another source (a poem, an extract from a speech they find on the net, a paragraph from a novel). They need to memorise the text at home. The next class nominate a series of students as judges. Students get up and recite their memorised text aloud. The judges award points on choice of text, difficulty and pronunciation and award a final score out of ten points.

5 Figure skating Recital – pairs programme – Very similar to above, but this time students work in pairs and choose a dialogue to memorise. Other students act as judges and award points in the same way.

6 Spelling Halfpipe – The halfpipe, I learned this Olympics, is the acrobatic jumping you do on a snowboard. For this activity in class you need a long list of words that are difficult to spell (e.g. Wednesday, separate, writing…) It’s better if you have this list in different categories: hard, very hard and fiendishly hard. You can probably find lists of difficult to spell words on the net if you search around, or if you have Penny Ur’s Five Minute Activities there is a list in there. Run this like a typical spelling bee (spelling competition). Students choose the category and you give them a word to spell out loud. The more difficult the word, the more points it’s worth (you decide on points). Each student spells five words total. Calculate the points and decide how you want to award medals.

So there you have it. Now I know that some will say these are competitive, and maybe some of this activities will not work with a class of 175 (or insert your own “large number” here) students. But the ideas are surely flexible enough that with a bit of creativity you could make some of them work in some of your classes. What do you think? Do you have another favourite sports-related vocabulary or grammar game? Post a comment.

Advertisements
Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (11)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Six best movie-clips never to use in language teaching

Warning, use these clips at your own risk!

I’m pleased to announce the first REPEAT OFFENDER here at Six Things, none other than the great Pete Sharma. I think this is a post that Pete has been meaning to get off his chest for some time, and what a treat. Here is a full multimedia collection of celluloid moments not to be used in ELT, selected by self-confessed movie-buff Pete Sharma. Enjoy!

(1) Film: Witness

Starring: Harrison Ford

Teaching point: non-verbal communication

The little Amish boy uncurls his finger and points at the photo of the cop. Harrison Ford moves slowly across to him. This powerful spine-chilling “J’accuse” moment, conveyed (crucially) without words, is totally comprehensible to absolute beginners. Indeed, the whole film is largely comprehensible to lower level learners, and a great way to tune them in successfully to the punishing authenticity that is film. Incidentally, I have actually used this clip to demo NVC (non-verbal communication) on a native speaker communication skills course.

(2) Shirley Valentine

Starring: Pauline Collins

Teaching point: Simple present with adjectives of frequency

My whole life I have done the daily routine class with students, thinking: “When do I ever, in reality, explain my daily routine?” Then, I’m watching Shirley Valentine and suddenly, shocked to find egg and chips on his plate, not steak, Joe says:

Joe: “It’s Thursday. We have steak on Thursday. We always have steak on Thursday.”

Shirley: “We’re having egg and chips for a change. You like egg and chips.”

Joe: “On a Tuesday. I like egg and chips on a Tuesday”. (Priceless). “Today is Thursday.”

Shirley: “Well pretend it’s a Tuesday.”(!!)

Joe: “Where’s me steak?”

Shirley: “I gi’e it the dog!”

Not only that, he enunciates slowly and clearly, so angry is he. I want to round off all my present simple classes with this clip! Alas, I could not find it on youtube but it’s worth getting the whole film just for this dialogue!

(3) Film: High Fidelity

Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black

Teaching point: Yet

Rob (actor John Cusack) in romantic agony questions the meaning of yet: What did Laura mean last night when she said, “I haven’t slept with him yet.” Yet! What does “yet” mean anyway? It means you’re gonna do it, doesn’t it? Or does it? We then get the rest of the great clip above. Gets to the very heart of language drilling: a real world take on asking a question to which you know the answer, but you ask anyway – just to practice!

(4) Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Starring: Steve Martin

Language point: The language of complaining

Coming from an indirect culture, many is the hotel I’ve been in and tiptoed down to complain that the TV is broken. “Excuse me, er, sorry to bother you but, and I’m sure it must be my fault, I’m afraid the TV is……..” Inside of me is a Steve Martin trying to emerge. Here he is, complaining that his hire car isn’t in its bay, a scene which starts off like any other customer service dialogue. Warning: you will hear the F word a LOT in this clip!

Never has the gap between ELT dialogue and the silver screen been wider. Student task: redraft this conversation to make it, er, more polite.

(5) Film: It’s a wonderful life

Starring: James Stewart

Teaching point: conditional type 3

When alien Mork comes to earth in the old US series Mork and Mindy, it transpires all the English he learnt was from transmissions of television shows. Wow. A dream scenario! No teachers, just students totally immersed in a world of film. No need to teach Conditional Type three, then. Just show that last 20 minutes of It’s  a wonderful Life and have your learners report back. Most everything they explain will use the target  structure! We all know the ending: “Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life.”

So, if George hadn’t been born…well, you get the picture (pun intended). Cue summarising Back to the Future and a host of films on time-travel…….

(6) Film: Double Indemnity

Starring: Edward G. Robinson

Teaching point: ESP – lexis

The fabulously named Barton Keyes (Edward G.) works in insurance. Norton, Keyes’s boss, has just tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a client that her husband’s death was a suicide. It’s the words and the incredible speed of delivery that makes this speech so magnetic. Anyone for a gap-fill?

“Come now, you’ve never read an actuarial table in your life, have you? Why they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by colour, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poison, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by “types” of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth; suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under the wheels of trains, under the wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from “steamboats”. But, Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record, there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. {..} We’re sunk, and we’ll have to pay through the nose, and you know it”.

I’ve waited all my TEFL life to use this dialogue with a student. Before I die, I just want to teach an actuary in order to use it. How sad is that?

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 8:06 am  Comments (17)  
Tags: , , ,

Six scary things about the internet

The internet can be a big bad place. Recently I seem to have come across several warnings about web use and computers, some I knew about and others I didn’t. I’ve collected six scary things here that can form part of a discussion on online and computer activity or just generally serve as an awareness-raising reading for teachers and learners moving into the virtual environment.

1 Flame wars and smack talk – The internet is said to have a disinhibiting effect on people’s communication, meaning that they will sometimes say things in online discussions that they would never dream of saying in face to face communication. This hostile and/or insulting behaviour is called flaming, or sometimes smack talk. When users fight fire with fire it descends into a spiral, also called a flame war.

2 Internet addiction disorder – There is some disagreement as to whether this is a separate disorder or rather just a symptom of other disorders (e.g. gambling or porn addicts who go online). Apart from the obvious – wanting to be online all the time – symptoms include fatigue, lack of sleep, irritability, apathy, racing thoughts… uh oh this is feeling close to comfort I’ll stop there 🙂

3 Creepy Treehouse syndrome – What a great name for a syndrome. This has been defined as a place online that adults built with the intention of luring kids in (by Jared Stein, see a more detailed exploration here). In education circles, some people refer to the Creepy Treehouse syndrome when a teacher for example “forces” students to join twitter or Facebook and become friends or followers. Needless to say, this is rather hotly debated (see here for example)

4 Trolls – Internet trolls are unpleasant people who post insulting, inflammatory or irrelevant messages in online forums or on blogs or other public areas. The prime motivation of a troll is to disrupt communication or provoke an emotional response. If a troll is baiting you online, you are giving them exactly what they want by rising to it.

5 Facebook depression  – This one is a bit tenuous, but I need to get my six in so here goes. According to one study of teenage girls in New York the ability to share problems and personal issues to such an extent is causing, or at least aggravating, depression. The problem with online places such as Facebook is that it allows one to discuss and cover the same problems over and over again. You know, really wallow in it.

6 Narcissism and web 2.0 – Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic, call web 2.0 the new Wild West of narcissistic culture. They say the overwhelming message of social networking sites is a focus on the individual and, often, the superficial. Two arguments they make that made me think were the following: 1) the internet makes it very easy for you to be someone you’re not (usually better, cooler, more attractive )and 2) a lot of internet communication is through images and brief self-description placing attention on the shallower aspects of the person (your carefully selected photo, your quips, your blurbs). Ouch!

So, I wonder… do you think learners and educators should be aware of these things, and to what extent? Are these real fears or exaggerated horrors about modern technological life? Post a comment if you feel like it.

Published in: on February 11, 2010 at 9:32 am  Comments (14)  
Tags: , ,

Six ELT apps for the iPad/iPhone

Immediately after the launch of the iPad, that crazy team of scientists here at Six Things (the ones who brought you six technological inventions teachers really want to see) got down to work on creating apps for our field. Here they are, still under development but showing a lot of promise already…

1. iGrind – delivers ten grammar exercises to your mobile phone every day for 20 years. A 21st century application of an idea from my co-author and friend Philip Kerr for a coursebook called Grind On.

2. iCELTA – Imagine having your CELTA teacher trainer in every one of your classes! This app quietly sits and listens to your lessons, occasionally giving you CELTA-type advice via text message (e.g. “slow down your teacher talk” “demo the activity first” “spelling mistake on the board”) At the end of your lesson press the feedback option, and iCELTA will ask you gently what parts of the lesson you thought went okay before giving you a mark.

3. imSick – makes your voice sound completely cold-ridden and flu-like for when you want to call in ill for work.

4. Dogme app – this paperless app at first emits a peaceful and purposeful silence. Point your iPad or iPhone at the students and watch the language simply flow out. The app then uses this to tailor a language learning activity just for you. Don’t ask what this looks like, it must be experienced.  Can be upgraded to synch with twitter and will broadcast the occasional anti-technology tweet. Note: this app works best if all coursebooks have been removed from the room.

5. 6things app – delivers a daily dose of Six Things joy to your phone. Never miss a blog post again 😉

6. UnderstandMe app – programmed with instructions for all your favourite activities in clear and loud English. Don’t worry about losing your voice, or your cool, ever again. The volume on this app can actually go way up so that the instructions are heard by a large class of teenagers.

Do you have an idea for a killer app for English language teachers? Post a comment.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 8:40 am  Comments (33)  
Tags: , ,

Six questions for linked language learning

Yes! Time for another guest post, this time from a colleague in Ireland, Patrick Jackson. Patrick is the author of Potato Pals. Here he shares six questions teachers can ask themselves about links, linking up and linked learning. Some good food for reflective thought here.

Think Link! Six questions for Linked (Language) Learning

1. The links between teacher and student.

Do I have mutually respectful relationships with my students and do I devote time and energy to developing these relationships?

2. The links between students.

Are my students communicating without anxiety, working together well and supporting each other? Do students have plenty of opportunity and encouragement to develop these relationships?

3. The links between teachers.

Am I connected to an active community of teachers? Does this community enrich my teaching and support my development? Is it easy for me to seek the help of more experienced teachers? Am I engaged in helping less-experienced teachers than myself?

4. The links to the world outside the classroom.

Are students being given opportunities to use the target language in a real and relevant way, linked to the world beyond the classroom? Is the language being learnt through such links? Am I giving students space and time to use this language in the context of their own lives?

5. The links between the known and the new.

Is new language being introduced in a way that makes connections with language students have already mastered. Am I helping my students to find and use these connections?

6. The ‘M’ link.

Do I use a wide variety of materials, methods and media linked in a way that students will find memorable and motivating? Mmmm.

You can find out more about Patrick’s work at his blog, The Potato Diaries, here. Thank you Patrick, for your six!

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,