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Thread: Activities that only work in English

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    Default Activities that only work in English

    So, at my lowest level school, most activities I plan end up being done in mostly Japanese because most of the students have absolutely no motivation to use English. I've been wanting to compile a list of activities that ONLY work if the students are using English. The most basic example is probably criss-cross/crossfire. You ask a question in English, they have to understand it, and they answer back in English (obviously if they answer in Japanese, you can ignore/veto it).
    An example of an activity that turns to Japanese really quick is the one where you stick the name of a famous person on everyone's back, and they have to ask questions to find out who they are. These activities work ok at schools where the students have an active interest in learning English, but not at others.

    Anyways, do you guys have any good ideas for activities that trap even the most unmotivated students into using English? So far I've got criss-cross, Jeopardy, and Whisper Down the Alley/Telephone/Chinese Whispers.

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    You/the teacher/a student gets up in front of everyone and puts their back to the board. Write a word/phrase on the board. Somehow the other students must make that student say what is on the board without revealing the word/saying it in Japanese. I always start this with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. That way they can ask simple things like 'Do you like bananas?' or 'Are you a boy?'. This can remain as simple or as complicated as you like. You can do this for points/as a scoring system/in pairs, as another way of doing criss/cross, whatever. My 6th graders enjoy doing this in small groups for points.

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    Shiritori, although the educational value is approximately nil I think. Especially if you let them use their books to look up words.

    Some sort of Sugoroku where they have to use English to advance and if they can't answer they have to go backwards.

    Pass the Potato (though this is similar to crossfire in that you're asking them something in English in front of their peers)

    Some of my JTEs use a 'revolving conversation battle' type of game I'm pretty fond of. Students revolve either along horizontal lines or vertical, and they have to complete a short task in English, usually in 30 seconds (timed). First, they janken to decide a winner. For JHS 1st years it might be the winner points at a picture and the loser has to say the word in English. For 3rd years, it might be 'have a short interview-style conversation'. You just tailor the material they are using to their level.

    Obviously there will be shit classes who won't participate, but I guess based on the strength of the JTE it can work pretty well. I usually hop in the line to even out the number/offer my English expertise. I like this activity for a couple reasons. First, it breaks kids out of that 'I can't talk to girls/boys' mindset because they have to do the activitiy with members of the opposite sex. I've only rarely seen kids refuse to do the activity with someone else, and usually that's because they individually dislike that person, not because that person is another gender. Second, it gets the kids moving, which is a great warm up especially for sleepy classes. Third, by having the opportunity to try the activity multiple times, they can get better with each successive partner and cement their understanding of the target language.

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    One of my school's is low level SHS. Most of the activities I give them, I supply most of the grammar and lots of the sentences.

    For example, I often use English conversation activities where I've written most of the conversation, and they just need to use the conversation template to work out some information (e.g - give the receptionist a hotel schedule and the person calling some information about the type of room they need, their name, how long they want to stay - they practice this with several pieces of different information). Maybe it seems dull but it works with my lot.

    Another is information gap type activities, where one student has a problem or a description and another student has a set of replies to give, or different pictures they need to match to the first student's description.

    I'm not sure whether you're just asking for games, but these sort of activities force the students to speak English and certainly have educational value, as they challenge the students' understanding of the English they're using. They have less creative input, which is a shame, but if the students' level is too low then I don't think there's much of a choice for SHS Oral Communication class. Free speaking exercises with a class of 40 very low level (or moreso poorly motivated) students are, to put it mildly, extremely hard to pull off and moderate successfully.

    Sometimes I do the sort of activities mentioned above but allow the students to write down what they'll say first (example: directions: teach them the terms for directions, give them a map, get them to write down some directions from point x to point y, get them to read to a partner/group who have to work out where the directions end up at).

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    Default Re: Activities that only work in English

    Battleship went surprisingly well with my low level students. Even if it degrades to just shouting out the words on the column and row, they were still using English and most of them were pretty damn good at pronouncing the words by the end of it.

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    Default Re: Activities that only work in English

    It's all well and good playing games where they shout out and learn vocabulary without any sentence structure for some of the lesson, but at SHS level, even low level SHS, they should be doing speaking activities where they use the vocabulary they know (however limited) in a meaningful way. I know they'll probably never use their English, but what really is the point of them learning it at all if all you try to teach them to do is play a very simple battleships, shiritori or pass the potato game with a native speaker? Are they meant to start up a game of shiritori with a waiter when they want to get the bill in a restaurant?

    I don't want to sound all high and mighty or whatever, but I do worry that sometimes when the kids are low level the teachers and the students just resort to games because it will at least hold their attention and keep a semblance of English, without considering the goal of actually learning a language: using it to do stuff.
    Last edited by Marrissey; June 11th, 2009 at 14:41.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marrissey View Post
    It's all well and good playing games where they shout out and learn vocabulary without any sentence structure for some of the lesson, but at SHS level, even low level SHS, they should be doing speaking activities where they use the vocabulary they know (however limited) in a meaningful way. I know they'll probably never use their English, but what really is the point of them learning it at all if all you try to teach them to do is play a very simple battleships, shiritori or pass the potato game with a native speaker? Are they meant to start up a game of shiritori with a waiter when they want to get the bill in a restaurant?

    I don't want to sound all high and mighty or whatever, but I do worry that sometimes when the kids are low level the teachers and the students just resort to games because it will at least hold their attention and keep a semblance of English, without considering the goal of actually learning a language: using it to do stuff.
    I whole-heartidly agree. I personally am not a big fan of doing games that have no real educational value. I know I am a teacher, but I'm not a babysitter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marrissey View Post
    It's all well and good playing games where they shout out and learn vocabulary without any sentence structure for some of the lesson, but at SHS level, even low level SHS, they should be doing speaking activities where they use the vocabulary they know (however limited) in a meaningful way.
    I agree here, and that's more what I'm looking for. I do vocab relays and things like that occasionally, but I'd like to the students to have to think a bit more sometimes. That's why Jeopardy is great. They have to understand a full sentence, and in most cases answer in one, too. The vocab games are fun and useful (I like them for filler, especially), but when the students are completely incapable of actually using any of the words they know in a sentence, that's not so good.

    Things like information gaps and dialogues that are almost completely written out are even problematic for my students. They will translate it into Japanese (which means that they DO understand the English, they just won't use it) instead. They know the question is "What time will you arrive at the hotel?" but they'll still ask it in Japanese.

    I like the revolving conversation idea. I'd probably be able to use it at some of my better schools, but at the low level one, even if the material was simple, I doubt it would work for them. Might give it a try, though...

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    Default Re: Activities that only work in English

    thirded. it's always nice to have an activity that SHS kids will participate in, but it's a bit of a downer that when I play games that elicit one word answers, it's generally an exercise in "listen for a keyword in mongkut-sensei's question that we recognize from katakana and fire back with the corresponding katakana word that he's requesting."

    like these kids are just regurgitating katakana stuff that's a part of their language anyway!

    but hell, I think most of my low-level kids really don't understand english at all. they know isolated phrases, they have memorized the spelling for a few words (but can't read per se), and they can plug words into a framework I give them, but they can't actually do english.

    if I can kill 50 minutes, get (a good percentage of) them involved, and boost their confidence a bit, I feel like I've done a pretty good job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmongkut View Post
    but hell, I think most of my low-level kids really don't understand english at all. they know isolated phrases, they have memorized the spelling for a few words (but can't read per se), and they can plug words into a framework I give them, but they can't actually do english.

    if I can kill 50 minutes, get (a good percentage of) them involved, and boost their confidence a bit, I feel like I've done a pretty good job.
    This is the problem I run into as well. The teachers have told me flat out we can't really have them do any writing activities because they "can't write" That's really sad to me but it's also the reality of teaching at a school that HAS to accept anyone who applies.

    The teachers are always wanting me to teach them new things but they don't even have a basic grasp of things they supposedly learned in JHS. Maybe we would actually get somewhere if we would lay down a solid foundation but in the end it's up to the JTEs what they want done in class.

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