Diary from London: In the spotlight
In his seventh diary entry, David Foster uses London’s big moment to inspire his students to create a multimedia welcome for visitors.
I can remember the first time I came to London. My parents brought us down from Manchester to see the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum. A moving Tyrannosaurus Rex, that’s pretty cool, but not as exciting as the Tube, London’s underground. Swinging gates. Escalator into the deep. ‘Keep to the right!’ People rushing past. Twisting through tunnels and speeding through the darkness in a carriage full of the most interesting collection of people imaginable. Every age and background. London calling! I wanted to be a part of this.
I’m sure you can guess the reason for my reflections. The Olympics has put the global spotlight on our eclectic city. It’s the topic of every conversation. So, this has got me thinking about the place; how I came here and all the reasons I love it.
What about the students? They have chosen to visit the city at its most exciting moment. During the summer our student numbers reach a peak and for a couple of weeks there is the atmosphere of an international carnival to rival the Olympics. But what impressions do the students have of the city they have come to check out?
This week, over twenty classes have been involved in a competition to create posters, brochures or videos on the topic of ‘Welcome to London’. To do this, students first discuss their experiences and impressions of the city, then turn these into work which will be displayed in the school for new students and visitors arriving in the coming weeks.
Although it can take a little time to set up such tasks, I always find that once students grasp hold of the idea it really allows them to express their own personalities. Walking into one class, I find one group creating a stop-frame animation. I ask, ‘How many photos have you taken?’, ‘Two-hundred and thirty six so far!’ is the answer. Another group is constructing what they tell me is a London robot. An original response to the task! The final group are editing a London video. Giovanni explains the different software he’s been using. It’s a really interesting conversation and it stretches his English.
I think this is the hidden motive for setting your students task-based learning. The end is less important than the means. Student work together throughout the week corralling all the organizational and decision-making language they have to complete the task. Teachers in all the classes are kept busy answering questions from the students: ‘How do I write this?’ or ‘How do you express that?’ The students have a purpose for learning language, not for some imaginary place or situation outside the classroom, but right here and now.
The competitive element of many classes working on the project adds extra excitement. As the week goes on, the students are working on their projects outside of class time, spending more time together. Friday comes and there is a mad rush to display work in the cafe then move around, discussing what other classes have produced.
So, what did students have to say about London in their finished posters and videos? The range of ideas and suggestions they have are just as diverse as the city. They are adorned with slogans and phrases like open seven days a week, full of surprises, party all night or packed into the tube like sardines! Amazingly, it’s clear the students really want to absorb and use the language they are seeing and hearing in the city. I’ve added some pictures and videos to my twitter feed; I hope they will inspire you. So for now take care, chill out and enjoy the Games!