lunes, 30 de abril de 2012

Dice dice baby.

Have you ever played Russian Roulette? Slept rough in Paris? Worked as a spy?*

Sadly, questions like this rarely appear in oral exams, but the structure abounds. And it's frequent enough as a conversation starter in real life. (You remember real life... those disorientating moments when you're neither teaching nor sleeping...? No? Well never mind. It abounds in oral exams.)

If you have a dice and a cup, you might want to try this game out.

Write or project up the following expressions:

1. No, I haven't had the chance.
2. I'd be a bit scared, actually.
3. Oh, yes, lots of times.
4. I couldn't afford it.
5. Once or twice.
6. I'm not really into that kind of thing.

(Here, maybe drill for pronunciation)

This is how it works:

Student A takes the dice and shakes it in the cup. She slams it down and looks at the number, keeping it secret. Her objective is to ask the student on her left a have-you-ever question, and elicit answer 4 from student B. He has to answer, choosing the phrase on the board which is closest to his own truth.

So if I throw a 2, and I know you're not very physical/sporty I might ask you:

Have you ever tried boxing?


Have you ever been go-karting?

...and I hope you'll answer "I'd be a bit scared, actually."

And it's simply a question of going round the group and awarding points.

The nice thing about this is that it offers an insight into your students likes, interests and experiences. You may be able to use these affordances in future lessons.


This game can also be used with the structure "Would you like to...?" or "Do you ever...?", which also feature frequently in oral exams.

* PS: I have done ONE of these three.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2012

New Register Time

If you are a teacher or academic manager, you probably spend a fair bit of your time handling registers, or lesson records, group sheets, work-done records or whatever you call them.

And in springtime, a young man's fancy turns to administration. My point is, I intend to redo our old school registers soon. And my question for yous, my PLNers, is how.

What kind of document will be clear, save time, act as a lesson diary, help me to keep track of what we've done and what we'd like to do, and so on?

A separate one for register and work-done? That's how I've done it so far, but I'm open to persuasion.

I would like not to have to rely on any other documents. And I would like it to be plain A4 monochrome and easily stickable into plastic document pockets.

Brilliant ideas will be shamelessly pilfered.

So go do 
that voodoo
that you do
so well....

martes, 10 de abril de 2012

Subverting Myself

made / away from home / by jaguar
became / apprenticed / to the planet Venus
settled / an upholsterer /
attempted / his living / to live in the jungle
was / two crossings of the Atlantic / to a pirate
managed / with his mother / by a shark
ran / a mink farm / with a pistol
talked / bitten on the arm /
was / a dispute / to Buenos Aires
moved / ardently /
made / suicide / playing baccarat

Ages ago I had suggested this article to Sandy Millin for her Almost Infinite Ideas blog.  The article was an obituary of an adventurer called John Fairfax. I then made a fairly conventional reading lesson which kicked off with the matching exercise you see above. As you might imagine, students had to guess the true facts from the fragments.

Having tried the lesson out twice with groups and finding it lacking a bit in affective engagement, I stumbled on a much more enjoyable and production-orientated way of using it. Instead of matching what they thought might be the true sentences, I just asked students to come up with their favourite combination instead- just one per student:

David moved with his mother to the planet Venus.
Ana attempted suicide playing baccarat.
Carlos was bitten on the arm by a pirate.

... and so on.

"We're more popular than John Fairfax."
Then I arranged the seats with one out front facing the rest - no desks.

In turn, each person had to go front-centre and call a press conference to answer questions about their "adventure" (from which they had just returned.)

The others were all journalists and had to ask the adventurer questions, forcing her/him to flesh out the story.

"Roberto Garcia from the Financial Times - Did you have technological support?"

"Ana Campos from Hello Magazine - Where did you get the shark from?"

 and so on.

This kind of whole-class activity can be daunting for some, so I decided to be the first adventurer myself, and I took five minutes or so of questions on how I made two crossings of the Atlantic by jaguar.

[It's actually pretty easy - you just harness them to your boat like huskies to a sled, load up with tins of Baked Beans, get the whip cracking and before you know it you're in Cape Cod. A five-year-old could do it.]

If I recall, we spent most of our allotted 60 minutes on this daft game, and didn't get round to reading the article at all. In the end, I gave the students the title of the article and gave them optional homework to google it and read it.

Were there affordances?

Yup, loads: Question structures, past tenses, expressions like "How many/much/far/long", the difference between a jaguar and a Jaguar, and so on.


The idea of a press conference came from the improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway, which has been posted extensively on YouTube. Their game is somewhat different, but also has tremendous potential.

David Warr thinks I spend my entire life watching repeats of Whose Line. I wouldn't go as far as that, but I know I'm not the only teacher who thinks that improv games have their place in the EFL classroom. 

Have you ever used improv in the class? Have you ever subverted your own material? Or just stumbled accidentally on a new way of doing things?