This is an activity from Teaching Unplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury. BUT I’m a terrible instructions follower, I mean I usually read just the beginning and then make up the rest. Or I simply forget the rest even if I read it. That’s probably because if I like the activity I just start thinking how to do it in my groups and stop concentrating on the instructions.
Anyway, I’m not going to re-write the activity from the book (it’s worth having on your shelf, but I’ll write about it later when I finish reading it) but I’ll tell you about my lesson: 4 pupils, 10-11 years old.
As the activity is like Chinese whispers but on paper, after the usual small talk I asked the pupils if the knew what Chinese whispers were. They said they didn’t but (surprise, surprise) asked me if we could just play “głuchy telefon” which is exactly Chinese whispers So there we went… We played a bit, I was very boring as all the sentences I gave were functions and vocab revision but it was OK. Then we did some reading – telling the way dialogues and I suggested playing Chinese whispers again but in writing. I handed out little pieces of paper, one for each student, and I gave my piece of paper to the first student. There was a sentence <Go straight on, take the second left and the cinema is on your right.> on it. I asked the student to read it quietly and try to remember it then I took away my card and the student had to write the sentence on his card, pass it on to the next pupil who should read and remember it, give the card to me and write the sentence on his piece of paper. And so on… I also asked them to feel free to correct it if they notice a mistake. They ended up with somethink like <go straight, second right, cinema on left> but I could see them concentrate and laugh at the end. I gave them their cards and wrote my sentence on the board so that they could compare them. They actually asked me for more sentences so we practiced telling the way and Present Perfect and apparently they enjoyed it. I’m really happy about it as this group is difficult to please.
I also did the same activity with my adult group – 6 students, intermediate level. I gave them a difficult sentence <If I had known that it was your birthday I would have made a cake, bought some candles and a present for you.> They couldn’t remember it half way so we ended up with: <If I had known your birthday I would have bought vodka.> There was a lot of laughter. So thank you Luke and Scott
One of the things I like about this activity, especially with young learners, is that they write without realising that they are writing. And they like it although whenever I ask them to write they are unhappy. A bit like with the miming dictation – they were terrifed when they heard “dictation” but then they enjoyed it a lot.
What clothes did she wear?
I did it with my 14-year-old pre-intermediate students and with adult intermediate students
We had a-not-so-long-long-weekend last weekend (3 days) and as usual I asked the most boring question: “What did you do?” The answer was “Nothing”, obviously. So I asked “What is ‘nothing’?” so they started to tell me things like watching tv, meeting friends and so on. I asked them to talk in pairs and find out as much as they could about each other’s weekend in 3 minutes. In one group there was an odd number of students so I asked the best student to work alone and come with me outside. I explained to her that I would ask the others to talk about their partners’ weekends and her task was to ask very detailed questions which they probably hadn’t thought of asking. For example, if someone says “Tom was watching TV” she should ask things like: “What kind of program was it?” “What time did he start?” “Was he eating anything when he was watching?” etc. They did it great. Some of the students were making up details (as if it was true, no hesitation at all), some said things like “I don’t know, maybe…” the rule was that the student we were talking about couldn’t say aything, but usually was laughing. I also encouraged other students to ask questions.
In the group with the even number of students I started asking questions and then asked them to do it. They were really involved and did a lot of talking.
I also heard a comment on the last lesson that made me quite happy. Like in most language schools I have to use coursebooks. It doesn’t matter how interesting the coursebook is, after some time both I and the students don’t like it too much and when I ask them to open the books they make unhappy faces. So I cut and copy and paste. Last lesson we had Lou Reed’s “Just a Perfect Day” song. So I copied the lyrics and did a running dictation, then I asked them to listen to the song to see if they’ve got all the lines in the correct order etc. And then I asked them to open the coursebook and correct their dictation. One of the students said: “You always do that! You do some nice activity and later we find a text in the book”. Iasked if they liked it that way… the answer was obvious
Have great lessons