Number one for English language teachers

Minimal resources: Students' ideas

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Run out of ideas yourself? Let your students come up with the ideas! Adrian Tennant provides tips and ideas for incorporating ideas from students in your lessons.

Some of the most productive lessons, and the most useful, can come from the learners. Here are some ideas of how you can incorporate ideas from your learners.

The student test

Most tests actually check what your students don’t know rather than what they do (unfortunately this is the very nature of most testing). However, it doesn’t need to be like this. Here is an idea to make the whole process far more useful.

  1. Divide your students into small groups (between 3 and 5 students is best).
  2. Ask the students to look back over what they have been learning (you might want to set a time limit).
  3. Then, ask the groups to write a test for the other students. The tests can then be exchanged and each group try another test. Once the tests have been done the original group can mark it.
  4. Finally, collect all the tests in and take a look at them – particularly at the questions, not just the answers.

Oops!

  1. Make a note of 8 sentences that contain mistakes that your students make – these can be from written work or from when they speak. You will need two pieces of paper (for larger classes you may need more).
  2. On one piece write down the eight sentences, but correct 4.
  3. On the other piece of paper write down the same eight sentences, but correct the four sentences that on the first piece of paper were left incorrect.
  4. Now divide your class into two groups and give each group one of the pieces of paper.
  5. Ask the students to work in their groups and decide which sentences are right and which are wrong.
  6. Tell the students to correct the sentences that are wrong. The students should make their own copies of the sentences.
  7. Next, put the students into pairs – so they are working with someone from the other group – and compare their answers.
  8. Finally, collate and discuss as a class.

A student dictogloss

  1. Find a suitable piece of writing from one of your students (sometimes it is fine to work with a piece that contains mistakes as these can become part of the focus of the activity. However, it is worth thinking about how the individual student may react to their mistakes being discussed by all the other students).
  2. Tell the students you are going to read out a short text.
  3. Ask the students to put their pens down and just listen.
  4. Read out the text once and then ask the students to note down all the words they can remember – this should be done focusing on key words and NOT trying to remember everything verbatim.
  5. Read out the text again and then ask the students to work in pairs and reconstruct the entire text. Then ask the pairs to compare their texts.
  6. Finally, compare their texts to the original and discuss.

An object feast

  1. 1st lesson: bring in a small object, or a photo. (For example, I would bring in a photo taken from a visit to the rainforest in South America. Another friend would take in a Boomerang they bought while on holiday in Australia). Tell the story behind the photo/object and then put the students into groups. Ask the students to write questions to ask you. Conduct a Q&A session.
  2. 2nd lesson: Ask the students to bring in an object or photo. If your class is large divide into small groups and get them to discuss their photos/objects. In small classes the whole activity can be done together.

Word limits

  1. Ask your students to choose 3 words that they have recently learnt and to write these words in their notebooks.
  2. Next, ask them to write 4 words that they associate with each of their ‘key’ words. Put students into pairs or groups and explain the task.
  3. Students should take it in turns to explain each of their key words to the other students in their group. However, when explaining they must not use the other words that they wrote down (those that that they associated with each key word). They must not mime, draw or resort to L1 either.
  4. Often students get better at explaining if they have to do it more than once. Therefore, after the first go put students into new groups and get them to repeat the activity.


The question box

  1. 1st lesson. Ask students to write down three questions (you could limit the focus or allow the questions to be about anything) that they would like answered. If you want, this can be done for homework. Put all the questions in a box.
  2. 2nd (and subsequent lessons). Put students in groups and ask each group to pick a question from the box. In their groups they should discuss the question (you might want to set a time limit. e.g. 10 minutes) before reporting back to the class. If there is one question of particular interest you might want the class to spend more time on it.

Our project

  1. 1st lesson. Put students into groups and explain that over the next X weeks/lessons they are going to be involved in a project. Give the groups 6 minutes to brainstorm project ideas and then two minutes to vote/choose which project their group will do. (Alternatively, ask students to think of projects on their own and then form groups where all the students have similar ideas).
  2. 2nd (and subsequent lessons). Devote a section of the lesson (from 10 minutes upwards) to the groups discussing their project. During this time they can set tasks for themselves, and each other, that can be done outside the class, discuss progress, exchange information etc.
  3. Note: It is important to have an outcome and time limit for the project. i.e. In 10 lessons time you will ‘present’ your project to the rest of the class.
    This type of project work is extremely motivating for many learners, especially those studying at school where classes are levelled by age, not ability.

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