Five Fun Things To Do With Summer Classes
by Alan Marsh
1 The Onion Game
Totally unexpectedly, you are asked to join your class to another because a teacher has called in sick at the last moment. Recognise the situation? Well, here’s an activity that I often use to get me out of this tricky spot, and, an added bonus, the students usually like it too! And if nobody’s sick, you can still put two classes together anyway for this activity. Students usually enjoy the chance to mix with learners from another class. Check with you DOS, though, that it’s OK to do this.
Step 1 First of all clarify that the class are going to be engaged in a speaking activity in which they will be able to develop fluency. They will also be able to compare their speaking fluency level with that of another class.
Step 2 Put the two classes together. Ask them to introduce themselves to each other – as a task objective ask them to try and memorise the names of everybody in the room. Let them mill about as they do this. Then conduct a round-up.
Step 3 Next, organise the chairs in two concentric circles. The chairs in the inner circle should face outwards,and the chairs in the outer circle should face inwards. Each chair in the inner circle should be facing a chair in the outer circle.
Step 4 Ask students from class A to sit in the inner circle facing somebody from class B sitting on one of the chairs in the outer circle. If you have an odd number, get two students in the inner circle to sit together and work as a pair.
Step 5 Now write a topic on the board (e.g. My Best Friend). Students think about this topic for a few moments. They then interview their opposite partner about this topic. A suggested list of topics can be found at the end of the piece.
Step 6 At a pre-arranged signal from you (eg raise your hand, play a note on a musical instrument, play some music on a tape), the students in the outer circle all stand up and move one seat to their left. They sit down, say hello to their new partner, and begin to chat about a new topic on the board or they can repeat the same topic – they often do it better second time round. But change topic for the next move.
The go on doing this until they hear/notice the stop signal again. The students in the outer circle get up again, and again move one seat to their left, where they meet a new partner and discuss another topic.
Go on with the activity for as long as you feel that students are getting a buzz out of it. You might like to follow it up by writing up on the board some useful expressions students have used and which the whole class might like to share. This can then be followed by writing up on the board some examples of inaccurate language that have been used, and inviting students to sit with somebody who is not in their class and to work on correcting these mistakes collaboratively. Finally, you might like to ask for feedback regarding what students thought of the activity, and this may well lead into a discussion about the need to seek opportunities to develop speaking fluency outside the classroom. I remember one group of four students who met regularly after classes every day to go on with the activity (they chose their own topics) and would come to class each morning with a list of questions that sprang out of their ‘chat group’ e.g. ‘How can I say … in English?’ or ‘Is this right in English?’
By the way, the activity can generate quite a hubbub, so just check with teachers in adjacent rooms that you won’t be disturbing their classes.
Here are some topics:
Elementary upwards My best friend / My family / My house / My town / Last weekend / What I like and don’t like about Malta / My hobby / What I like and don’t like about my language course / What I find easy and difficult about English / Find out as much as you can about the person facing you etc. etc.
Pre-Intermediate upwards: As elementary, plus: My first boyfriend/girlfriend / A book/film/person/singer/band that has really influenced me/ A wonderful experience / A wonderful/disastrous holiday / Three wishes for myself / Three regrets I have / The job I would really love to do / What’s wrong with the world / The three most urgent problems in the world/my country / What my country could teach Malta and what my country could learn from
2 The Golf CourseGame
Draw the following (or similar) ‘Golf Course’ on the board. Make sure narrowest columns include the highest numbers (and one or two lower ones)
Step 1 Divide the students into teams. Each team chooses a name for the team
Step 2 A team member is blindfolded (check this is OK). Put obstacles (e.g. chair, bag) between the blindfolded student and the board. The student has a board marker in their hand. Their team now has to guide them around the obstacles to the board – but only through oral instructions (Check these before you start the game e.g. Walk straight ahead! Stop! Turn left a bit! Move to your right !etc.)
Step 3 When they get to the board their team has to guide them to make a mark on the board in one of the ‘golf holes’ (Up! Down! Left a bit! Right a bit!). The first place touched by the nib of the marker is the number of points the team will get if they get the next part right. First touch of the marker on the board counts!
Step 4 Show a flashcard or write a word prompt and the team have to either (a) make sentence which is true about themselves or their team or (b) form a question to ask you, the teacher, using the word prompt/flash card prompt e.g. used to – Mario used to play the guitar Can – can you speak French? Got – have you got a pet? They get the number of points they landed on previously. Keep a record of the score!
Some suggested prompts:
can got are like do spiders pizza were shall when what did yesterday what time
how long maths why who ever usually tomorrow where favourite what kind Christmas
birthday used to / since + time for + time in + time been going to
3 Fortunately/Unfortunately Game
This is a fun activity which gives learners further practice with verbs in the past tense. The function is narrating a story.
1 Draw a smiley face and a miserable face on the board. Write this sentence on the board: It was raining. ____ I had an umbrella. Elicit fortunately (accept luckily and ask for another word with the same meaning.) and drill it for pronunciation. Then elicit unfortunately by writing ___________ my umbrella wouldn’t open. (accept but and ask for another word with the same meaning: the opposite of fortunately)
2 Say the class is going to tell a story in the past. Each part starts with fortunately or unfortunately. If the previous part starts with fortunately, the next part starts with unfortunately. Demonstrate with a strong student e.g.
Teacher I went to the beach. Unfortunately ..
Student 1 ... the sea was rough. Fortunately ….
Student 2 …there was a swimming pool nearby. Unfortunately ..
3 Put students into groups of 4-6. Each group forms a circle. Say you are going to say the first sentence and then delegate one learner in each group to say the second sentence. Then the next student says the third sentence, and so on. Each group has to do 2 rounds each (3 if the group is smaller than 4), depending on the number. Tell them to try and memorise their story. NB They have to use the past tense (remind them).
You give the first sentence e.g. Teacher I went to a party. Unfortunately …
Monitor the groups.
4 Stop the groups. Ask them to quickly go over all the sentences and to try and memorise the whole story.
5 Pair/group students from different groups and ask them to tell each other their first group’s story. Appoint someone in each group to start. Check instructions and monitor.
6 Take some central feedback. Ask which story sounded the funniest, or the silliest, or the most creative ….
4 Teenage Class Magazine
This is an activity which students enjoy immensely (especially teenagers). What is more they use their English in a productive and realistic way. It is also very good for class dynamics and they have something to show for their stay here in Malta.
Acknowledgement: I first got this idea from my colleague and friend Julia Pearson
Old magazines 1 piece of A3 paper for each pair A pair of scissors A glue stick
· Show them copies of previous class magazines so that they get an idea of what they are supposed to do
· Appoint an editor from the class, or let the class appoint one.
· Students discuss ideas for the magazine with the editor who then decides which ideas will be used.
· Students discuss who should do what. (If there is a dispute it should be decided by the editor).
· They have to fill at least one A3 paper folded in the middle to form 4 pages A4 size.
· Students pair off and work on their pages. They can cut out pictures from magazines, draw pictures or cartoons – whatever they like to enhance their articles.
They can work on this for the last two days of their course. When the magazine is finished make a photocopy for each student and keep the original yourself. You can build up a collection to show the next classes.
You will find that each group tries to outdo the magazines they have seen and often come up with an idea they haven’t seen in any of the other magazines so each one will have something different.
N.B. It is a good idea to include a survey in the magazine. You can have a lesson on question forms a few days before and introduce a questionnaire. You can then suggest this to the students as one of the articles for the magazine. Ideas for survey topics: Daily routines of Maltese (travel to work, food, leisure time, etc.); tourists’ perceptions of Malta; Maltese perceptions of Malta (what they like about Malta, challenges faced, etc)
Some ideas for topics: Malta night life; day time excursions; shopping in Malta; pop music; problem page; interview with teacher/group leader; crossword; funny advertisements; class members short biographies; caricatures of members of the class (if there is an artist in the class); survey
A final point: let it be the class’ magazine, and not yours! Avoid telling them what to write; only correct errors if they ask you to help them formulate a phrase – let them try it themselves first. If the final product has mistakes, well, that makes it all the more authentic!
5 Make a radio play (or DVD Play)
Read this (slightly adapted) story of Little Red Riding Hood below .
Outside Little Red Riding Hood’s cottage at the end of the forest, a big man-eating wolf crept up to the cottage door and heard Little Red Riding Hood making arrangements to go and visit her grandmother, who lived on the other side of the forest. Little Red Riding Hood’s mother had been baking all morning and Little Red Riding Hood couldn’t wait to get started
Her mother was saying: “Take care, Little Red Riding Hood. Make sure you don’t go through the forest. Some of our neighbours say they’ve heard a wolf. I’m not sure that you should go.” Little Red Riding Hood reassured her mother. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing Granny all week. Please don’t worry – I’ll be very careful.”
The wolf licked its lips and sped off through the forest …. towards the grandmother’s house. A few moments later Little Red Riding Hood set off. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and soon she’d almost reached her granny’s house. She sang to herself and admired the beautiful flowers which were beginning to bloom. “In a little while I’ll be having tea and cake with Granny and we’ll be laughing about the stories she’ll tell me about when my mother was a child and all the pranks she used to get up to.” An hour later she was at her Grandmother’s door.
Little Red Riding Hood opened the door and came in. For some odd reason the wolf had dressed itself up in poor Granny’s clothes. And in a voice which he tried to make sound as similar to Granny’s as possible, it said, "Come closer, Little Red Riding Hood, so that I can get a good look at you. I’ve been waiting for this afternoon for a long, long time." Well, girls have changed a lot, and they’re certainly not as naïve as they used to be (or as the wolf thought they were). Little Red Riding Hood took just one look at the wolf alias Granny, saw that the eyes, ears, claws and teeth looked nothing like her Granny’s, and thought "I’ll play along with this poor, crazy wolf while I figure out what to do." So she said, "My goodness, Grandma, what BIG EYES you’ve got!" "All the better to see you with!" replied the wolf. "And what BIG EARS you’ve got!" said Little Red Riding Hood as she edged slowly towards the door. "All the better to hear you with", said the wolf, getting really excited now. "And what BIG TEETH you’ve got!" yelled Little Red Riding Hood as she turned around and fled. The wolf roared: "All the better to eat you with!" and leapt after her. He was catching up on her fast when all of a suddena woodsman appeared took aim with his hunting rifle and killed the wolf on the spot. The huntsman was a neighbour and had been hunting the wolf since early in the morning. Now he’d bagged his prey. In an instant he’d slit open the wolf’s stomach and there inside was Granny, covered in slime, blood and bile, true, but her heart was still beating. Little Red Riding Hood was overwhelmed with gratitude. They all hurried back to Little Red Riding Hood’s cottage. When her mother saw the state they were in she was filled with dread. "What on earth has happened? Why does Granny look like … this?" she asked, terrified. "We’ve shot ourselves a wolf," said the huntsman. Now sit down and we’ll tell you all about it over a nice cup of tea. And after that, how do you fancy a barbecue? We’re thinkingof grilling some wolf steaks tonight."
"So how long have you been doing this kind of thing?" asked Little Red Riding Hood, who was still a little shell-shocked by the whole experience. "Doing what?" asked the huntsman. "Hunting wolves and, you know, rescuing damsels in distress", replied Little Red Riding Hood. "Oh, for nigh on 20 years." Little Red Riding Hood’s mother was impressed. He really was a very good-looking huntsman. But that’s another story …
© Alan Marsh
Acknowledgement: the original idea for a more savvy Little Red Riding Hood comes from Roald Dahl
The story is rich with authentic language use, and works best with higher intermediate learners and above (B2/C1), though Intermediate learners could probably manage it. For lower levels, simply write out a simplified version. The activity is best done over two or three days, rather than all at one go.
After doing comprehension tasks with your learners, tell them that now they are going to dramatise the story. If you have a large group, each group makes up a different play (or part of the play).
1 Students have to write a script (including the Narrator’s script). This will sometimes include making up the words (e.g. for the conversation in the first paragraph). They should write it out as a radio play e.g.
Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) …………..
As they do this, go around and be a language consultant.
2 Students assign themselves roles: the Narrator, LRRH, LRRH’s mother, the Wolf, the Huntsman.
3 They then work on the phonological features of their script: pauses, stress, intonation, pronunciation of specific words, loudness and quietness, etc.
4 They decide on any sound effects, and how they are going to produce them.
5 They rehearse the whole script, making it sound as dramatic as possible (and include sound effects).
6 Finally, they record their play (cassette recorders or more modern technology).
7 They listen to it.
If you they have access to a camera, instead of recording a sound version they can enact the whole play and film it (but will have to memorise their lines and film without their script in their hand!). They might also want to make impromptu costumes, rehearse movements and mime, etc at Stage 5.
Enjoy your summer classes!