This morning I saw this post by Marianne Petty in my Twitter feed called Ideas to Liven Up Your Class where the author is sharing several simple ideas to use a soft ball in the classroom to make a lesson livelier, more engaging and tech-free. [Note/update: there is a newer post on the same topic called ‘Having a Ball‘ at English Teaching Professional blog]
Reading this post reminded me of an idea I have had for a long time: ask my colleagues, other teacher educators, what objects they bring to their sessions working with teachers to make them more exciting (and excited!) and to model real classroom interaction. In my
plans dreams I thought I would ‘interview’ those trainers and ask them to share a picture of those objects. Now it seems to me that this idea might not ever happen, so I decided to ‘paragraph blog’ it here and to invite others to do the same.
To get us started, I’d like to tell you a little about the set of objects I like to use. I happened to take this picture in a session on Classroom Management for International House Dnipro teachers last year:
As you see, a soft ball is here, too. In my training sessions (besides learning names, just as Marianne described) I often use it as a turn-taking tool (throw the ball to the next speaker, or nominate the next speaker by throwing the ball to him/her). I also use those dice as soft balls if I need several groups playing at the same time.
Speaking of dice: they can be obviously used for a board game. Having these big ones work for a large class where the instructions for a task need to be demonstrated before students (or teachers!) play in their groups. I also like to create a ‘mock/fake’ board game by putting cards with words or pictures in a circle and have the players throw the dice to determine the number of steps to make and either make a sentence or give a definition, or… (well, I guess you see the point now!)
Post-it notes deserve their own post, I think. Just to say that having a pile at hand helps a lot when I want to collect some group work results (write one idea you heard from a partner, etc.) and/or collect feedback (put a note on a poster, on the board, etc.) and/or to have a review activity. With teachers it works when there are extra questions to be kept in a parking lot. As I said, this could actually be a new post. [Note: I hope to write it soon!]
The little counting sticks replace Cuisenaire rods to some extent (but weigh much less!): serve as a categorization tool (use the blue ones for pros and the red ones for cons; ask someone with a different color stick), or as a grouping tool (sit next to someone with the same color stick). They are good for story-telling, vocabulary practice, and many more ideas. I really love their size (did I mention they are very light?)
My voice is not very loud (people who have worked with me can confirm it) so when it comes to an engaging speaking activity, especially mingling (cocktail) where everyone is speaking loudly and happily, it may take a while to stop/re-direct the participants into a new task. If this seems less important in a real classroom with language learners, a training course for teachers uses the ‘compress button’ sometimes, when an activity needs to be stopped as soon as the group members see its point. I know, I know: people complain that they are interrupted in the most interesting place… At the same time, sometimes, this needs to be done. This was a long introduction to the drum in the picture: it makes a nice rhythmical sound and catches everyone’s attention immediately. And… it is very light, too (so it can travel with me if needed!)
Finally, the magic wand (sorry, a pencil and an eraser that can look like a magic wand, if used ‘properly’ with a confident gesture and a spell) Sometimes is good for modeling an activity for a Young Learner classroom, and sometimes as a metaphorical reminder that there is no ‘magic recipe’ in teaching (or training!) and that a bit of creativity and imagination can make miracles.
What do you have in your teaching or training bag? What do you like to use in class? What do you the same, and (most interestingly!) what do you use differently? Let’s keep talking in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading! 🙂
My older post on a close topic may be relevant here: Life into Lessons
More inspiration can be found in an older post on realia by Rachael Roberts: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/rachael-roberts/rachael-roberts-realia
Updates: it looks like we are enjoying a new Blogging Challenge #LivenigUpTheProcess. See great posts by Lina here, by Hana Ticha here, by Svetlana here , by Micaela here, and by Kate here. Are you joining the #liveninguptheprocesschallenge ? 🙂