Sharing Thoughts in the Language Classroom
by Hall Houston
One important resource in the language classroom resides in our students’ heads. Students fantasize, scheme, imagine, and reflect, all out of the range of everyone else’s awareness. In this brief article, I’d like to suggest a few activities for helping students to share their thoughts and focus on the nature of thinking.
In my new book, Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT you can find many more exercises on thinking, creativity, critical thinking, and memory:
You can use the following activities as warmers or as fluency exercises at the end of a lesson. Feel free to alter them to fit your lesson plans.
Inner and Outer Worlds
Before class, make a few sets of 4 cards with the following sentences on them:
IMAGINE A PERFECT DAY.
IMAGINE YOU’RE IN AN EXCITING MOVIE.
IMAGINE YOU’RE IN A DIFFERENT HISTORICAL ERA.
IMAGINE YOU’RE TAKING A GREAT VACATION.
Make enough copies of the cards so that each student will have a card.
At the beginning of class, tell students they’re going to do a visualization exercise. You’re going to give them a card with instructions on what to imagine. In a few seconds, you want them to sit comfortably and close their eyes. They should try to imagine the situation in as much detail as possible. After 5 minutes, tell them to open their eyes. Ask them to look around the room for 1 minute and observe their surroundings without speaking.
Put students into groups of 4, where each group member has a different card. Tell them to discuss their visualization experience.
Next, put students into new groups of 3 to discuss these questions:
How did you feel about the visualization exercise?
What was the best thing about it? What was the worst thing?
Is visualization a good way to learn English?
Do you like to daydream?
What do you like to daydream about?
What is the best place to daydream?
Do you daydream during class?
What job is most ideal for someone who likes to fantasize?
What’s She Thinking?
Before class, select a short film clip (one or two minutes) that features an actor or actress not speaking or moving around, but just sitting or standing. (Alternatively, you can use a photo.)
In class, tell your students that you are going to show them a short film clip. You want them to observe the person in the clip, and imagine what they’re thinking.
Play the clip a couple of times. Give students a few minutes to take notes, and then play the clip once again. Ask students to write a short paragraph of the person’s thoughts, written in the first person, from that person’s point of view.
When students have finished writing, collect the students’ papers and put them on the walls for everyone to read.
Before class, write down three thoughts you had today. These might be about today’s lesson, or on a completely different subject.
In class, read out your list. Encourage students to ask you questions about your thoughts.
Next, ask students to create their own lists individually. Then ask them to share in pairs. Call on several students to tell the class one of their partner’s thoughts. Ask them some follow-up questions and give students an opportunity to do the same.
Variation: you can provide specific topics for this activity, such as Three Thoughts I Often Have In This Class, or Three Thoughts I Haven’t Expressed Up To This Point.
Variation 2: to transform this into a game, you can ask students to create one fictional thought. Students can read out their lists and get the class to guess which thought was made up.
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