Teaching Tips 82
I can do it blindfolded!
This week we've got some classroom ideas sent in by William Sullivan from CZ-Training in Prague. Activities that ask students to close their eyes or put on a blindfold can be lots of fun.
One method of creating a genuine information gap is through the use of blindfold activities. Blindfolds can be employed in a variety of ways in the TEFL/ESL foster a truly communicative and student-centered approach to learning. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
This first activity is a great way of reinforcing the language of giving directions. After having one student to leave the classroom, the teacher instructs the remaining students rearrange classroom furniture. The student who has left the classroom is then blindfolded and brought back in. Students then use the target language to lead the one blindfolded through the maze of rearranged classroom desks and chairs to some goal—this could be a special treat, a piece of candy, a valuable item (that had previously been taken from the student), or some other reward.
Another activity—and this one is played in groups of three—is called Artist, Model, Clay. As soon as the first student (the Clay) is blindfolded, the second student (the Model) strikes a pose. The goal is for the remaining student (the Artist) to use the target language, describing the pose to the blindfolded student. Ideally, by the end of the activity the blindfolded student should be positioned similar to the pose originally struck by the Model. It is excellent for practicing imperatives (“Put you right leg out a bit more!” or “Bend your knee slightly!”) or for reinforcing parts of the body.
When it comes to asking and answering simple questions in the target language, multiple blindfolds can be used on groups of students. Once blindfolded, the students are assigned a task that requires them to ascertain a piece of information by asking each other a certain question. For example, a group of 10 are blindfolded and then instructed to arrange themselves from shortest to tallest. In this way, a simple mingle activity suddenly becomes both more challenging and more exciting as blindfolded students bump into each other asking, “How tall are you?”
Other activities involving smaller groups may involve tasks such as conducting a taste test, constructing a structure with wooden blocks, or arranging items according to a pattern. There are a variety of blindfold activities, many of which can be borrowed or adapted from any introduction to parlor games or team-building exercises. As is the case with most classroom activities, the possibilities for those involving blindfolds are limited only by the creativity and inventiveness of the teacher.
Thanks William. Also check out ideas like this in the 'Expressions of Trust' Tip at: http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips53.htm
For helping to memorise lexical sets, a very nice memory idea using an eyes shut activity with cuisenaire rods is to take a colour at a time & elicit an item of the set for each, drilling if needed at the same time. So the students associate a colour & length of rod with a different item. For example, if you are looking at animals with younger learners, take each rod at a time - 'What's this? A mouse.' After each new animal, review for the beginning 'What's this? holding up the red rod & so one. When you have gone through the set, ask the students to shut their eyes & take away some of the rods. Then ask them which animals have gone. 'The rat, the cow, the dog & the squirrel.' Then do the same & take away some other rods to test their memory. Good for any lexical set, whether concrete or not, & younger learner or adult students.
For more on the rods:
William mentioned the tasting idea above. If you are looking at an article about chocolate, for example, bring in several brands & give out pieces at a time, the students discuss them, giving them a score, & at the end show them which brand was which. The same with sweets for younger learners. Get to the taste buds & reach the brain.
Younger learners really find blindfold activities fun - a couple more ideas:
- one is blindfolded & feels a classmate's face to guess who it is.
- put classroom objects in their hands & the feel & guess.
- any kind of variation of pin the tail on the donkey, blutack the part to whatever picture, with or without verbal instructions depending on the aim.
Not with a blindfold but just with closing eyes there is the 'Guided Fantasy' activity. Ask the students to sit up & close their eyes & then you tell them where they are & guide them to the different sensations they feel & what they might be able to 'see' in their mind's eye. eg. Imagine you are walking in a forest in the late afternoon in the summer, there's a slight breeze but it is still hot. You can hear the birds as you walk down a path of pine needles. You can hear a river nearby with a waterfall......And in a second you will come back into the classroom'. This is good technique for settling youngsters at the beginning of a lesson, relaxing adults, introducing a theme, finishing on a light note etc...
Back to the contents
- 18th May
It's 'International Museum Day' on 18th May. Here's the link to the Day's website: http://icom.museum/imd.html It might seem to be a bit of a dry subject to some but it could be fun & easily tie in with units on art, likes/dislikes, discussion etc... Here are a few classroom ideas:
1. A few quotes to discuss:
"You should go to picture-galleries and museums of sculpture to be acted upon, and not to express or try to form your own perfectly futile opinion. It makes no difference to you or the world what you may think of any work of art. That is not the question; the point is how it affects you. The picture is the judge of your capacity, not you of its excellence; the world has long ago passed its judgment upon it, and now it is for the work to estimate you."
Anna C. Brackett (1836–1911), U.S. author. The Technique of Rest, ch. 4 (1892)
"Museums are the cemeteries of the arts"
Alphonse de Lamartine (French poet, writer and statesman, 1790-1869)
"Museums and art stores are also sources of pleasure and inspiration. Doubtless it will seem strange to many that the hand unaided by sight can feel action, sentiment, beauty in the cold marble; and yet it is true that I derive genuine pleasure from touching great works of art. As my finger tips trace line and curve, they discover the thought and emotion which the artist has portrayed."
Helen Keller American author and educator who was blind and deaf. 1880-1968)
"The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums."
Peter De Vries
"An ideal museum show would be a mating of Brideshead Revisited with House & Garden. provoking intense and pleasurable nostalgia for a past that none of its audience has had."
Robert Hughes (Australian art critic and author, b.1938)
"I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral."
John Burroughs (American essayist and naturalist, 1837-1921)
"Attitudes to museums have changed. If it had Marilyn Monroe’s knickers or Laurence Olivier’s jockstrap they would flock to it."
Jonathan Miller (b. 1936), British doctor, humorist, director.
Daily Telegraph (London, June 7, 1989)
2. Museum discussions - a few questions:
1. Which are the most popular museums in your area?
2. Are museums popular in your country?
2. When was the last time you visited a museum?
3. Was this for a specific exhibition?
4. Are there any small museums in your area?
5. Can you think of a new museum that would be interesting to have in your area?
6. Do your museums charge for entry? How much?
7. Do you think museums should be free?
3. If your students are art-savvy, they could decide on 10 exhibits that they could have in their ideal museum. Then they could rank them in order of importance to humanity, most popular etc..
4. Students could work out a series of activities to promote Museum Day. The site suggests some activities for this: http://icom.museum/imdact_2002.html After working in groups on ideas, they could compare with the ideas on the page & decide on five important action points.
5. Copy lots of paintings, sculptures etc from the internet, let the students decide which to put in their museum. Post the copies on the walls round the classroom, review the language of likes/preferences & let the students take as tour of the museum, discussing the different exhibits.
6. With the same pictures from the net, working on the language of present/past deduction, the students could try to place them in time - it could be from the 17th century....Poss. presented as a competition.
7. General picture activities - choose three & make up a story, imagine a history behind a painting & maybe compare with the real-life story....
8. Get some brochures & leaflets from local museums for discussion work. If they are in English all the better, but if not, the discussion will be in English. Maybe a short translation task of an excerpt of the brochure as well.
9. Writing - a for/against museums essay, about their favourite painting, letter to the editor.
10. History - if the topic is looking at a period in history, discuss/create a museum of the period.
11. Younger learners could create their own museum by drawing pictures, making things such as robots. This could be a museum for the future to reflect the moment, what they consider important day-to-day at this time in history, so they might draw a Game Boy, skateboard etc..
12. A few links:
Virtual Library - index of museums on the internet.
Yahoo's directory of museums.
'Your First Stop for Art Online! Discover over 100,000 works of contemporary art. Search by medium, subject matter, price and theme... research over 200,000 works by over 22,000 masters in the in depth art history section. Browse through new Art Blogs. Use our new advanced artwork search interface.'
International Council of Museums.
Unusual museums on the internet.
Back to the contents
When we plan our courses, the plans we draw up reflect the ideas we have about teaching. If we think that grammar is one of the most useful tools, then there will be lots of grammar in the plan. If we think that functional work is the way to go then this will dominate. Likewise with skills, if we feel that the development of language skills rather than language is the road to success, we might take a more task-based approach. It is usually the case that there are many different things inter-relating in a balanced plan, sometimes called a multi-layered syllabus, but there will be still be dominant strands that reflect our beliefs & approach.
A look at the popular coursebooks on the market highlight our, or perhaps rather our publishers', fixation with grammar as the dominant strand. Even books that claim to be task-based, are based on grammatical syllabuses. As language is really organic, grammar gives everyone something tangible & manageable to hang on to. It's certainly easier to sell like this.
Our course plans need to take into account the type of course it is. Among several variables, these can be intensive or longer-term, in an English-speaking country or in the learners' home country. If there is no immediate need to use the language, as in the learner in their own country, we can take time to use a building block approach to the course. We can gradually build up the language, showing how the different aspects inter-relate. If we are in an English-speaking country, students need to go & do things with the language straightaway - they need to buy the shopping, deal with the landlord & generally function day to day in English. In this situation we will give them the language they need, taking a functional approach.
Our plans in the first situation are said to have 'low surrender value', while in the latter 'high surrender value'. These terms are taken from insurance & describing policies. The policy that gives very little back , needing you keep the policy for a long time before getting any benefits is said to have low surrender value. The other type, where you get a lot back soon, has high surrender value.
Obviously one can work with a syllabus that provides high surrender value in the learners' own country. A group of computer programmers on a reading course will need to go away & put those strategies into practice straightaway. Other professionals who need English for meetings with business associates from other countries will need a high surrender value course.
A way of providing a relevant syllabus is to bring the learner into the decision-making process. After the needs' analysis process, get together with the students & discuss what you propose & how it will be relevant. Take a note of their wishes &, if sensible, incorporate them into the course plan. If you feel they are off-beam, explain why. As the course progresses, make changes & tweaks to keep it all on target. This starting point & on-going attention makes for a more successful, satisfying course all round.
By the way, we do plan our courses, don't we? Or do we let the coursebook plan the course for us? Coursebooks are a helpful tool, certainly for the less experienced teacher, but to allow them to dictate what happens in our classrooms......? They are usually written by someone in some far off place who has never met our students & knows nothing of the learning situation we are in. Which approach would you prefer if you were in a language class?