mercoledì 4 settembre 2019

'Escape EFL Classroom' workshop: Behind the scenes - Game-based learning and gamification (1)

A new school year is about to start here in Italy and I am ready with a new project. If you have been following this blog, you would know by now that I am really into games. Thus, my new workshop for secondary school students is a special Escape Room, which is a 60-minute real-life adventure game. When I played this game for the first time with a group of friends I immediately thought it was great for my students because
-  it involves the use of the four linguistic skills,
-  it promotes peer-learning, 
-  it entails different teaching methods and approaches which suit different types of students.
I have decided to write a series of blogposts about my new workshop which analyse the different parts of it. Today I will start with the reasons why I use games in my workshops for students and teachers. 


Why 'gamification'?

Kapp describes gamification as ‘the careful and considered application of game thinking to solving problems and encouraging learning using all the elements of games that are appropriate’ (Kapp, 2012, p.12). We can infer, thus, 'gamification' is an integration of game elements and game thinking in activities that are not games. In particular, games have some distinctive features which play a key role in gamification:
- users (students) are all participants,
- challenges/tasks that users perform and progress towards defined objectives ('levelling up' raises interesting questions for educators - not least the fact that players are allowed to tackle challenges and tests like exams as many times as necessary - and with no lasting consequences - in order to progress from one level to another),
- points that are accumulated as a result of executing tasks,
- levels which users pass depending on the point.

Why 'game-based' learning?
Unlike 'gamification', which adds game-inspired elements to your teaching practice (e.g. points), 'game-based' learning entails the use of games to meet learning outcomes. It is through the game that students learn. Moreover, playing games is intrinsically motivating because by and large it’s a voluntary activity. Games encourage independent inquiry and exploration; interests and passions can branch off from the individual game. Finally, a consensual and transparent adherence to a fictional setting or role allows players to experiment with skills and identities without suffering the consequences of failure in real life.

In my next post I'll be writing about what traditional Escape Rooms are. Stay tuned!

For further information about the 'Escape EFL Classroom'
workshop email me spiceupyourenglishclass@gmail.com.

Bye for now,
Larissa

lunedì 26 agosto 2019

Generation Z and Social Networking Apps: Back to School and Instagram

Some time ago I started my DipTesol independent research about the use of social networking apps to engage learners in communicative tasks inside and outside the EFL classroom. Last spring I also set up a closed Facebook group to share activities which include the use of social networks to learn English as a foreign language. 

Social scientists who study young people have found that their digital use can be inventive and even beneficial. This is true not just in terms of their social lives, but their education too. In fact, thanks to the online world, young people can now publish ideas not just to their friends, but to the world. And by writing for strangers, their sense of “authentic audience” makes them work harder, push themselves further, and create powerful new communicative forms.

One of the apps which is most used by young people in Italy and in Europe is Instagram, which is a social networking service built around sharing photos and videos. (If you want to know more about it, check this article.

It is almost time to start your lessons again and I know you are more than excited to meet your new and old students! I am also sure that you are looking for an activity which is not the usual 'What did you do last summer?', though. This the reason why I am going to share with you the following Bingo game.


RULES OF THE GAME

1. Distribute the cards and pens or pencils to each student.
2. Tell the players that they must interview each other. Have each player go around the group and ask other students questions.
3. When they find someone who replies positively to their question, they have to write down their name and then move on to another student for another question.
4. The student who first completes the grid with 9 different names, raises his/her hand and shouts, “Bingo!”
E.g. A: Did you use #summer and #beach?
B: Yes, I did.
A: Can you show me, please?
B: (Showing his/her Instagram account) Here you are.
A: (Writing down B's name) Thank you.

Download the template here. You will also find a blank template you can use to write down your own questions.

Have a wonderful back-to-school time!

Bye for now,
Larissa

Ps: If you use this activity, let me know your feedback please!
If you are interested in learning how to use social networking apps in your English classes, email me spiceupyourenglishclass@gmail.com.

lunedì 10 dicembre 2018

POINT YOUR FINGER: a game my adult learners really enjoy


A few weeks ago I gave one of my workshops for teachers about how to use games in order to teach English as a foreign language. Only one of the participants didn’t show interest at all, and yes I took it at heart. I approached the neglectful lady while everyone in her group was focused on the task and she was phubbing instead. ‘I don’t want to sound rude but’, I began. She looked up, glanced at me then looked down back to her smartphone. I hesitated but then I continued, ‘Don’t you like this game? In the next session there will be more exciting activities, don’t wor…’, ‘I don’t care at all, my boss paid for this course but I teach adults, professionals, business people, I have nothing to do with snotty kids’, she cut me off. Well, at that very moment the angel me and devil me started arguing. ‘Move on to the next group and try to be helpful’, ‘No way, she insulted all your theories you should show off your knowledge about how powerful games are for adults when it comes to learning’. As you know (or you don’t), I chose to follow my angel me’s advice and I carried on with my monitoring activity’. 
That evening, on my way back home, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘ Why do so many people still think that games are only for kids? And more importantly, what’s wrong with adults playing games?’ 
I’m sure that adult students’d better let their hair down after a long day at work rather than being in the spotlight if they got an irregular past simple wrong. Especially professionals and business people who are always under pressure benefit more when they learn in a playful environment.  
There is no doubt that children’s learning process is way too different from the one of adults but a playful activity has never harmed anyone. There are games for children and games for adults, there are games for children which can be adapted for adults. There are games adults like and games they do not like but that doesn’t depend on the fact that playful activities are only for kids but because the structure or goal of the game isn’t interesting/exciting enough. 
This is the reason why I’d like to share with you one of the games my adult students enjoyed most. 

GAME: Point your finger


LEVEL: Intermediate - upwards

LINGUISTIC SKILLS: Speaking/Listening

GRAMMAR FOCUS: Have you ever + Past participle? 
                                   Present perfect VS Past simple

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4-6 p/group

WHAT YOU NEED: 1. A set of ‘Have you ever…?’ cards

2. A truth metre and sticker finger for each student. (Tips: 1. Fold an A4 paper in 3 parts so that the truth metre cannot be seen by the other students. 2. Use a sticky note to make the finger.)
RULES: 1. Ask one of the students to pick a ‘Have you ever…?’ card and read out the question. 
2. Everybody (including the student who has read out the question) needs to stick the finger onto one of the four options:
0=never
1=once
2=sometimes
3=always
(Students need to be careful not to show their answer.)



'Truthmetre'
3. When everybody has answered (I suggest that you set a time limit), ask students to point their own finger at the person they think has answered 3 (always). 
4. Start to check the answers by asking the student pointed by the one who read the question and then continue clockwise.
5. The students who have pointed to the ones who have answered 3 win 3 points, those who have pointed to the students who have answered 2 win 2 points and so on.

When I played this game for the first time I was amazed because when a student said, ‘0’, she couldn’t stop talking, she had to explain about her answer because the students who had pointed at her wanted to know why she answered ‘never’. Honestly, all the students talked a lot because they were eager to share their personal experience, I had to stop them talking! 

It was such a pleasure to see them speaking English and having fun. 
Thus, ‘fingerly'-speaking, thumbs up for games, all the time… all ages!

sabato 6 ottobre 2018

Jenga in the EFL classroom

Hi everyone!

Here I am with another board game you can play in your EFL classroom!

Name: JENGA
Rules: http://www.jenga.com/about.php

In my opinion this game is great because it can be adapted to different levels and needs.
I used the following activities with my learners.

ACTIVITY 1
Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Teenagers/Adults
Type of activity --> Ice breaker
Skills practised --> Speaking and Listening

Before the lesson: 1. Put ice-breaking questions on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. Each learner pulls a block.
2. They need to answer the question AND ask it to someone else.


ACTIVITY 2
Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Any
Type of activity --> Storytelling
Skills practised --> Vocabulary, Speaking, and Writing

Before the lesson: 1. Put words on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. A learner pulls a block and starts a story using the word on that block.
2. The next student uses the word they pull to continue the story.
3. If the tower falls they need to quickly end the story.

In case you have a large class: While each learner comes to the front and continues the story, have the whole class write their own version using the blocks pulled.


ACTIVITY 3
Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Any
Type of activity --> Revision

Before the lesson: 1. Put numbers on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. Divide the class in two teams.
2. Have two learners from each team come to the front of the class.
3. Ask one of the two students to pull a block.
4. Read out the corresponding question.
5. The first student to answer the question correctly can choose if they want to pull a block, or have the other team pull a block.
6. Once the next block is pulled, read out the question corresponding to that block.
7. The first team to make the tower fall loses.


ACTIVITY 4
Level --> Intermediate +
Age --> Teenagers/Adults
Type of activity --> Recognising minimal pairs
Skills practised --> Listening (Receptive pronunciation)

Before the lesson: 1. Put two different colours on the Jenga blocks.
2. Choose some minimal pairs to focus on, e.g. /iː/ /ɪ/

During the lesson:
1. Tell the class that each colour corresponds to a sound.
2. Read out a word.
3. A learner needs to pull the right block.
4. If the learner pulls out the wrong block, let them play again.


I'm sure you will have more ideas and I'd be pleased if you could share them.

venerdì 31 agosto 2018

Spice Up Your English Class - Workshops

Hi everyone!
'Tis the season to come back to school! If you want me to Spice Up Your English Class one of these days, please let me know!

Bye for now,

Larissa

martedì 14 agosto 2018

Hit The Target - A brain teaser for your summer holidays!

‘Tis the season to close books and put them away. Teachers and students alike are ready to set off on their summer holidays but wait, what about English?
Here you are a game you and your students can play under a beach umbrella!

Name of the game: Hit The Target 🎯
Level: B2 upwards
Age: teenagers, young adults, adults
The game can be played individually or in pairs.


Objective
Starting from the word indicated by the arrow, reach the center of the target by eliminating all the words included in it, which can be found in any ring, not necessarily in order, according to the rules below.

Rules

1) The word can be an anagram of the previous one.


2) It can be a synonym or an antonym of the previous one.


3) It can be a homophone (a word that is pronounced like another word but has a different spelling or meaning, for example some, sum /sʌm/) of the previous one.

4) It can be obtained by adding, removing, or replacing a letter in the previous one.


5)It can be associated to the previous one because of an idiom, collocation or saying.


6) It can form, together with the previous one, the name of a celebrity, or a place.


7) It can be associated to a work of art (book, theater, poetry, etc.), its author, or its title including any genre.


In your answer, you should explain and/or justify each association.

I made the one below for you, have fun and enjoy your summer holidays!



E.g. The first word is WILLIAM, the second word is PRINCE (Prince William), word number 3 is KISS because it's the title of one of Prince's songs.
Last but not the least, here you are template to create your own HIT THE TARGET! 


P.s. If you want to know all the answers, leave a comment! ;)

mercoledì 11 aprile 2018

From Scratch Paper To Speaking: a low-prep activity

A couple of weeks ago my laptop broke down. I felt desperate. The last time I had felt like that was when I broke up with my boyfriend 😭! And now the fateful question everybody asked me, ‘Did you  back your data?’ And my dumb answer, ‘I don’t do that,’ feeling like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City. 

What shall I do? Just go back to basics: pen and paper!


Activity: improvised speaking
Level: B1+ and above
Students: young adults and adults
Materials: colourful pieces of paper, pens
N. Students: 6 or more
*Depending on the number of students you need a different number of pieces of papers. In the following instructions you will find the materials I used with a class of 6 students

1) Give each student 5 pieces of white paper and ask them to write a person name or noun on each piece.
E.g. Donald Trump, baker, violinist, Silvio Berlusconi (examples from my students)
2) Give each student 1 piece of yellow paper and ask them to write an outdoor place. E.g. beach.
3)  Give each student 1 piece of green paper and ask them to write a place where entrance is free. E.g. library.
4)  Give each student 1 piece of pink paper and ask them to write the worst place for them. E.g. Underground at rush hours.

Now you are ready to play!

5) Two students come to the front and pick two cards from the deck of white cards and one card from the colourful deck.

6) They need to talk to each other pretending to be the people on the white cards in the place on the colourful card for two minutes.

7) After two minutes, students from their seats can try to guess who they are and where they are while the two ‘actors’ continue speaking for one more minute.

8) Give one point to the students for each person and place they guess.

Improvisation is quite difficult for foreign language students so I strongly recommend that you use this game with a class whose level is upper-intermediate or above at the end of the course so that students already know each other well and they feel comfortable to come to the front.

My students and I had a lot of fun. Let me know about you!

PS: I took me a while to type this post from my iPad 😅