In this post I would like to share teaching ideas by two Polish teacher trainers and educators, Magdalena Kania and Łukasz Knap. 2 weeks ago, I attended a workshop organised by DOS ELTea where Magda and Łukasz presented 3 incredible sessions packed with classroom takeaways. I picked my two favourite ideas and used them with my students. Take a look what happened.
Idea #1 by Łukasz
Łukasz kicked off the workshop with his session on using social media to facilitate language learning, authentic communication between students, and creative thinking. His ideas involved using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I found the last one the most captivating as I know literally nothing about being on Instagram. At the same time, almost all of my student, especially teenagers, are active users! Being given a bunch of awesome ideas, I knew I would want to harness the power of this social medium in my classroom.
The Task: Hashtag warm-up
As every Instagram user knows, hashtags are the key to finding the photos there. These hashtags tend be more or less literal, crazy, funny or outlandish. In this task, we present our students with a photo from Instagram and ask them to guess what the hashtag might be. The weirder the hashtag, the better as it forces the students to brainstorm more intensely and become more creative. At the same time, given we are dealing with quite savvy Insta users, they might impress us with the knowledge of the hashtag lingo.
My two cents
I followed up with a brief discussion:
- What makes a good hashtag?
- Which one is your favourite?
- What photos would you post under each of the hashtags in the presentation?
If you don’t know where to start researching your hashtags, this website might help.
I used this activity with my teenage students (levels B2/C1) and they loved it! First off, they felt very comfortable and confident dealing with the Instagram content. I am not sure they would have been so enthusiastic if I had just shown them random pics from all over the web and asked them to invent the titles. Sure, the outcome might have been the same, but the level of relevance would have definitely been much lower.
The guessing part of the activity was a lot of fun and my student came up with some brilliant and creative ideas (#food you don’t want to eat, #food your grandma would never make, #scary makeup, #the voice bathroom audition among others). They showed a lot of interest discussing the nature of hashtags and their influence on the way people communicate in general. What I thought would be just a short follow-up turned into a meaningful discussion that was entirely student-led. All in all, this activity absolutely delivered and I am definitely keeping it on the rooster. Next challenge: trying it out with my adult learners!
Idea #1 by Magda
Magda’s session was about coming up with amazing lesson activities using only pen and paper. Hers was a true testament to the fact that low resource classrooms are by no means less engaging or attractive for our students. Magda presented 10 activities (some enthusiastic audience participation took place there!) and it took me a while to decide which one I would use with my students first. I finally settled on the task which I myself had the biggest fun participating in.
The Task: Word Chain aka The Centipede
The idea is brilliant in its simplicity and leaves it all up to the students.
Start with choosing two random words (or even better, have your students choose them. Using the glossary at the end of the coursebook or opening the book to a random page and choosing a word might help!) Write them in two corners of the board/ worksheet and draw 4 or 5 empty squares between the words. The task is for the students to draw a logical connection between the first and last word by making a story. To do this, they will have to insert missing keywords in the empty squares.
This activity might be done in pairs or groups. The two words might be different for each group or the whole class might work with the same set. The goal remains the same: be creative! We might add a time limit or impose a category (horror story, romantic comedy, action, etc.). My students ended up inventing a connection between the expressions: ambitious goals (Gold Advanced page 40) and small children (page 66).
I had high hopes for this activity and it totally delivered. Since my students are quite advanced, I was ok letting them work with collocations rather than single words. I also allowed 5 minutes to complete the task. They came up with some compelling stories and all groups ended up using totally different words to insert in their stories. This no-prep activity offers way more language practice than it might seem: there is negotiating and brainstorming ideas, there is narrating the story, and, last but not least, vocabulary and grammar review. Most importantly, it is a fun and very dynamic activity which I think is perfect to open or finish the lesson.
So, why is attending teaching workshops totally worth it?
It was my first experience attending a teaching workshop and I hope it won’t be the last. The biggest draw for me is the fact that such events offer its participants loads of hands-on experience and help see how various activities should be executed and how they work in real life.
There is also the possibility of seeing other teachers in action, which for me is an invaluable experience as I mostly work alone with my students and never get to observe my colleagues.
Finally, workshops let us find out what it is like to be in our students’ shoes (Do I understand the instructions? What does doing this task really entail? What language do I really use when doing it?). I personally found it very refreshing to be on the receiving end of classroom instructions and tasks, and it made me reflect a lot about my own teaching style and the way I approach materials creation. Thank you to Magda and Łukasz for an incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking day!