martedì 18 febbraio 2014

Vocabulary & Grammar Auction: A Revision Game

Are you looking for a checking activity before a diagnostic or progress test about grammar and/or vocabulary? If your answer is yes you have just found the right post for you!

- What's an auction?
It's a public sale of goods or property, where people make higher and higher bids (= offers of money) for each thing, until the thing is sold to the person who will pay most.

- What's a Vocabulary&Grammar Auction?
It's a fun game which will let teachers understand which topics students have assimilated well and which aspects students need to repeat. This game is perfect for pre-teens and teens but it is also suitable for adults (as a teacher who borrowed the idea told me). It usually lasts 1 hour.

1) Preparation
a.Worksheet with about 20 questions about the topics learnt.

b. British pound banknotes [I printed them from Google Images] (£6000 each pair or group)

2) Procedure
a. Put students in pairs or in small groups (3-4)
b. Give them the same amount of banknotes and tell them they can bid up to £300 for each question.
c. Give students the worksheet and tell them they are going to answer 20 questions about the topics learnt. Time: 20 minutes.

d. Read the first question and students start bidding. When the bidding starts to fizzle out say, "Going once, going twice, sold!".
e. Get the money the pairs or groups bid. 
f.  One member of the highest bidder pair or group comes to board. If their answer is correct they will win the money the bid otherwise another pair or group have the chance to answer and get the banknotes.
g. Go through the 20 questions. The team with the highest number of banknotes will win the game.

3) Advantages
I think this game has two main advantages for students: 
1. Peer teaching/correction - during the first 20 minutes students can share their opinions and doubts. 
2. A remedy for shyness - if students are unable to answer or are insecure about a question they will just bid less or won't bid at all. In this way they won't get embarrassed in front of the others if they do not know how to answer a question.

If you play this game with your students, please let me know your impressions!

lunedì 3 febbraio 2014

The Power Of Language Exchanges

Learning English in a non-English speaking country gives students fewer chances to practice in real life what they learn in the classroom. However, I am sure that even in the smallest town of the world there are a few native English speakers. Find them! Why? Read the post and you will understand!

A Language Exchange is considered a method of language learning based on mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages (ideally each learner is a native speaker in the language the proponent wants to learn). It is also called Tandem Language learning because there are usually two partners. They can meet in person, exchange e-mails, talk on the phone or today use social networks. It usually consists of an informal conversation which lasts about an hour, half the time is dedicated to one person and their language, the other half to the other person. In most cases the condition to take part to a self-directed tandem is to have a lower intermediate level.

When I set up my language studio besides teaching English, I gave Italian classes to the staff of the American ship and their families who settled down in my hometown. Once one of my Italian students ran into one of my American students during a break. They did not know how to communicate, whether in Italian or English. At that very moment I got the brilliant idea of holding a meeting in which my American and Italian students could practice their linguistic skills. I have been holding language exchanges since then. In order to allow all the students to take part to the event despite their levels I always plan carefully the activities.

Our language exchanges can be divided in two different kinds: CONVERSATION GAMES and BOARD GAMES. I'd like to share with you one example for each type.

Conversation Game: Speed dating
This is the first activity I did during a language exchange so as you can imagine it can be considered an ice-breaker. I got the idea from the speed dating taking place in bars to find a soulmate.  Students were matched in pairs (if the number of people speaking the two different languages is even it is much better). They were given the worksheet in the picture below which helped them to start the conversation. They started speaking in Italian but after five minutes I rang a bell and they had to talk  in English. Every five minutes I rang the bell and they swop the languages.
I recreated the relaxed atmosphere of the bar by offering them soft drinks, tea and coffee. They had so much fun as you can see in this picture.

Board Game: Visual Game
This is a team game. The aim of Visual Game is guessing what the member of your team has drawn. There are five  categories you can choose: house tools, risk, verbs and places, hobbies and sports, sayings and famous quotes. In the game we played I kept the categories but I wrote my own words, phrases and statements. It was a chance to review some vocabulary and learn some new expressions. My students did not use the notebook from the box but small whiteboards.  Italians had to guess what was drawn in English and the Americans in Italian.

In my opinion, learners get a lot of benefit from the language exchange. In this diagram you will find five reasons why language exchanges are great.
To sum up,  language exchanges cannot replace the teacher's lessons but they are a chance to practice what students learnt in the classroom and they let learners get closer to the culture of the language they are studying.

"The language exchange is a better way to learn and compare yourself with other people. You can listen to different pronunciations and accents", Silvia (upper-intermediate student)