The United States and Authentic Video in the EFL classroom – Part 4 Sharing and Debriefing

USA2

This is the fourth and last part in a series of posts on a PBL (project based learning) experiment utilising authentic video on the USA in a junior high school setting.

When it comes to the final presentations there are a few things that need emphasizing:

  • 1) it needs to be interesting and enjoyable for the audience
  • 2) there cannot be any reading aloud, not from the PP itself or from a manuscript – the images in the Pp should be chosen for mnemonic as well as illustrative reasons
  • 3) check that all the points in the given route plan are present
  • 4) did you remember to include the map?

Now, a regular presentation in front of the rest of the class usually tends to be rather an angst-ridden experience for most students, even more so when it is to be delivered in a foreign language. On the other hand, it is usually taken more seriously than if you have the students sit in small groups and present to each other. 

If you want your students to take the task at hand seriously, but get the anxiety a notch or two down, there is an alternative, which is generally perceived as fun for all participants involved, practically angst-free, and concluding in having your students much more fluent and proficient speakers than before the presentation stage – based on the Gallery Walk idea. In this instance we could call it The US Travel Fair.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that we have a class of 17-18 students, and each student has worked individually on one video, one part of the USA.

Option 1

Arrange the class  so that you have a row of desks for the number of students who are going to do their presentations in the first run. The simplest choice here would be to have half the class sitting down doing the presentations whereas the other half  moves around from desk to desk, listening and taking notes. When they have moved a full circle, the presenters and the fair visitors will change places and the second run is ready to start. That means we have two runs of presentations – but each student has only heard half of all presentations. 

Option 2

Arrange the class so that you have 6 fair stands (for 1/3 of the students – students 1-6). The other students – students 7-18 – circle in pairs from stand to stand, listening and taking notes. When they have moved a full circle it’s time for the second run, where students 7-12 go behind the desks, and the other students form new pairs. A new full circle and then the third and last run with students 13-18 take the presenter roles. This will take more time but now each student has heard at least two thirds of the presentations (plus his own).

Gallery walk

Let’s look at it from an individual presenter’s view of the situation. With the first option he has done his presentation from beginning to end about 8 times, with the second 6 times. For every presentation he becomes more confident, more fluent in his role and at the end of the game he is pretty proficient in talking about what he’s seen and experienced in the video. One might think that this would be perceived as boring and repetitive, but surprisingly enough most students find it deeply motivating and gratifying as they themselves become aware of their progress as speakers. 

The Travel Fair visitors have come to the fair in order to decide which part of the USA he/she would like to visit based on the presentations. He’s to take notes, listen carefully and then at the end of each run make a Top 3-list, with  carefully elaborated arguments for his selection based on the presentations he’s seen. 

Final discussion and debriefing

When the fair is over, the students can sit in groups of four (Option 1) or six (Option 2) to compare and discuss their Top 3-lists, and agree on a new Top 3-list for the whole group. Each student has to defend their choices based on the arguments he has formed for himself, and verbally “fight” for his candidates to make it to the Final 3. Their own presentations will not be included in the discussion because no one in the group has heard any one else’s – they sit in groups according to their roles in the different runs of the fair. The teacher might help here with a list of things to consider (language use – how enjoyable/interesting the presentation was – how informative etc)

When they’re done or when time is up, each group will present their new Top 3-list to the teacher and the rest of the class.

Finally it’s time for the wall posters to be put up on the wall. Here it might be nice to have a formal exhibition opening, where the students are invited to walk around, discuss what they see and what they recognize from having heard at the fair. Alternatively they could be given a list of questions based on the posters and their task would be to find the answers, an activity which might ensue in a gamified quiz in class teams with prizes to win.

My end notes

The teacher’s role in this whole project has been minimized; it is highly student-centered every step of the way. The students have  used all language skills – listening, speaking, writing, and reading – with an emphasis on listening and speaking, skills that tend to be secondary in school project work. It has been a large project, both in terms of time spent and effort made, and it has been described in a very subject specific way. It can, however, very well be modified to suit any topic really in the language classroom. One might not have a 50-minute long video on 17-18 different aspects of one single topic, but one video really is sufficient to meet these particular project requirements – it’s just a matter of cutting that one video into smaller segments and have the students work on these. Alternatively the students can work in pairs and not individually which means that the need for video material has been cut in half. If the video segments are smaller, less lesson time is needed, and the whole project could be done in a week or even less.

On the whole, students find it motivating to work with authentic video. Not only do they get accustomed to hearing and understanding accents of the target language from speakers around the world, they also get to broaden their horizons and learn about things in real life, never to be encountered in language textbooks. It also stimulates more than one of the senses and a student’s performance is not dependent on their writing and spelling skills, something that is highly welcomed by students with any kind of dyslectic diagnosis. From a teacher’s point of view there is no risk for cheating by using the copy/paste functions, and everybody, shy and extrovert students alike, will have equal opportunities to shine. Laziness and failure to make an effort will, however, take its toll on the performance, and, if not before, it will be conspicuously evident in the sharing and debriefing part of the project.

 

 

 

 

Speed dating, icebreakers and PowerPoint

 

icebreakerspelet

A couple of months ago my son, who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, at the moment, sent me a card game upon request, Icebreaker. I had read about it, gotten curious and thought it might come in handy in the classroom at some point. The game is simple enough, each player takes a card and has to answer the question on that particular card. The questions are bilingual – Swedish and English – and the ultimate goal of the game is to get to know your co-players better.

Well, I couldn’t really use the cards themselves very well in the classroom. First of all, I had only one pack and I didn’t want to divide them up among the students either. But I could use the idea and the cards as inspiration. This is how it actually turned out IRL and the students loved every minute of it and spoke English as never before.

 subtitle

Step 1

Every student gets a blank piece of paper and is asked to write down a number between 20 and 29. That would be the age of their new alter ego, but I didn’t tell them that. I choose to restrict the numbers because these ages are sufficiently removed from the students themselves (who are teenagers) and for the dating game to run smoothly, but of course one can modify that for one’s own purposes.

Next they had to choose a first name (a boy’s or a girl’s) – I could let them come up with one of their own, or I could give them a list of names to choose from. I made life easy for myself and used a list from the most popular boy and girl names in the UK.

The same goes for surnames.

For the students to get a complete picture of their new identity, I also wanted to provide them with a profession, but this time I didn’t let them choose one for themselves. Instead I had armed myself with profession flashcards, and each student had to draw one card for themselves. (This might also be elaborated into a mini-lesson of revising vocabulary on professions or this speed dating lesson could have been preceded by a vocabulary lesson on professions.)

Professions2

Next the student may choose any place in the world.

All these data should now be recorded on the blank piece of paper they got at the beginning of the lesson.

 Step 2

The students will now learn the purpose for all of this; their new identities with age, names, profession, hometown etc included. Now they needed to imagine what their new identity/personality entailed. Also, at least my students need a reminder that are were now leaving their typically Finnish taciturn personality behind and assume that of an English speaker, who by nature is an excellent small talker and verbal at all times. No silent meditative pauses are allowed in this game.

 Step 3

Presenting the rules: Half of the class need to rise, while the other half remain sitting. Rearrange the furniture so that there is one empty chair in front of the desk of each sitting student. The students are then told the principles of speed dating, which involves intense social and verbal interaction between two strangers for five minutes max, until the bell sounds. The video projector will run a PowerPoint slide show with questions, changing every 30 seconds or so, and these should be covered during the sessions. At the bell sound the mobile dating part has to leave his partner immediate and move to the next sitting student and start a new conversation.

cards

The game could further benefit from introducing individual “dating forms” for the students to fill in data on each dating partner at every switch. These might then be discussed in pairs or in the class as a whole.

 Step 4

Start playing the game.  The teacher’s role is now to remain in the background, control the slide show and the bells for the partner switches, whereas the students take over for the remainder of the lesson.

This is a video made to illustrate the steps of the preparatory as well as the actual game phases, but the rate of the conversations questions has been fast-forwarded for obvious reasons and only one partner switch has been inserted.