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Teaching Tips 33

Mapping it out
Stirring it up! April Fool's Day
Storming away!

Mapping it out
world map



Back to more serious matters this week - hope last week's April Fool Tip didn't cause any confusion!

What visuals have you got on the walls of your classroom or in your bag to take to the company class? Posters, examples of your students' written work, the phonemic chart? What about a world map? If you have one I'm sure you're well aware of how useful a map can be as a reference aid when the need arises.

Here are a few specific ideas on using that world map in class:

- possibly the most useful for me - which places have been in the news recently? Current affairs warmer discussions are instantly placed on the map & the discussion revolves around the map.

- for introductions to places/countries - the place is identified & the students brainstorm all they know about the geography, the people, the culture, the political system etc.

- if you are from another country, for you to use as a reference when passing on information about the life & culture of your homeland. If you have a more detailed map of the country you're from as well, then all the better. And, of course, for the students to do the same. And where the group members have travelled, what happened to them etc.

- to teach specific language through - place names, nationalities, travel vocabulary (travel, trip, voyage..), been/gone, present perfect (He's been to six countries) past simple (He went to Hungary on Saturday, Finland on Sunday & finished in Switzerland on Monday), future plans (He'll be travelling to Majorca next month for a meeting & Mexico the month after for a presentation), conditionals (If you go to Spain you'll be able to visit the Prado Museum), present wishes (If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be and what would you do?), etc.

- as well as providing the context & sentences the map can be useful when drilling - point to the countries & places to elicit further sentences - eg. He's been to Spain, He's been to Italy, etc.

- persuasion discussions - more interesting than town/city discussions - give out places & students think of advantages to living there & then do battle to persuade the others their place or country is more interesting/beautiful/healthier etc

- discussing cultural differences, using the map as a frame of reference - could generate into stereotypes so careful.

- narratives - if a journey is being related on a tape, or you're telling it, as an initial task the students could listen & look at the map & mentally trace the route. If asked to write about a journey it could again be used as a stimulus.

- seeing different things through the eyes of different nationalities. A window on the world.

Having a world map at hand is the same as having cuisenaire rods at hand, the longer you have it there the more uses you find for it.

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conflict man

Stir it up






1st April 2002 - April Fool's Day

You may remember at about the same time last year a Tip titled 'Cognitive & Affective Confusion'.

In that Tip the University of Soto del Real published research that confirmed that the more confused the students were, the better they learned. Since then I have been trying my best to enforce this excellent way forward. No longer do I plan lessons but make it up when I arrive in the class. I deliberately ignore what I have told the students we were going to do & look for something else way beyond their level. I find this last second rush & change an effective first step towards creating complete havoc by the end of the lesson.

Recently the University has come out with some more startling research. This time they say that not only confusion promotes better learning but combine this with peer antagonism then students can move into the superlearning bracket. The idea is that you have to pitch the students against each other so that a mutual dislike begins to form. This, with much provoking by you, then turns into a higher level of hate, a state they call 'learning nirvana'.

Great you say, but how can I do this? Well, start off by favouring a few students in the group & ignore the rest. Then the next week change the ones you favour & be nasty to the others. You could let slip certain unsavoury facts about the students, as well as start a few rumours about select individuals in the class, generally stirring them up as much as possible. At the same time, carry out some really wicked humanistic activities like getting all to discuss their most horrific moments of their lives - you could provide a communicative purpose of them deciding who had the worst moment. They could then roleplay these moments in front of each other - thus providing a great degree of communicative stress, which makes learning more efficient. While the roleplays are going on, class derision is to be supported. And don't forget to put students who dislike each other together. You might like to have a group tutorial, discussing the negative aspects of each student. If, as a result, there is any actual physical violence then you can really say you have achieved your aims!

So, they've done it again at the University of Soto. Cutting edge stuff.

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Woman brainstorming Storming away!




The Collins English Dictionary gives a definition of 'brainstorm' n. as:

1. a severe outburst of excitement, often as the result of a transitory disturbance of cerebral activity.

2. Brit. informal. a sudden mental aberration.

Brainstorming is a very useful activity in both teaching & training but I'm not sure I'd go that far. Sounds more like heavy overload.

The definition given of 'brainstorming' n. is:

- intensive discussion to solve problems or generate ideas.

This is more like it although still I'm not sure of the 'discussion' bit. It can be an individual activity, no?

There is a lot on brainstorming on the net & I came over the following UK-based site which you might like to check out:

They talk of brainstorming originating in 1941 with Alex Osborn, an advertising executive, who was looking for more creativity. He used the term 'think up', which later became 'brainstorming', as "a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members". He formulated several rules to be followed by the group;

No criticism of ideas

Go for large quantities of ideas

Build on each other's ideas

Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

When these were kept to a lot more ideas were created & within these he found more original ideas were coming out.

It is a very useful technique in our teaching & a healthy habit to encourage in our students. As you can see from the four 'rules' above it is also a very good technique for developing & consolidating group dynamics. Here are a few occasions when it might be used:

pre-lesson brainstorming - tell your students what will be covered in the next lesson - this could be from the timetable you give out every two weeks - & they can then brainstorm what they can before they come to class. The readier they are the quicker you can get on & the more you will be able to cover. Tell your students that they'll be getting more for their money!

to introduce a theme - get the students to throw out all the words they can think of to do with that area. The problem with this is that not everyone will know all the vocab & might want it clarifying which would take much longer. Just tell them that you'll be looking at the vocab through the theme & the aim here is to just sink into the area. You could get the stds to write all the vocab they know on the board - again they run into the same unknown vocab problem.

pre-reading or listening - like the theme, get the stds to brainstorm all they know about the topic of the text they are about to read or listen. They could do this silently for 30 seconds, in pairs or as a group, depending on your aim. Same roles could storm together before splitting up into different roleplays.

pre-roleplay - this is preparation time before a roleplay - they storm how they are going to act & what they are going to say.

language presentations benefit from a storm at the beginning so that the new can be linked into the known. For example, a quick storm of ways of expressing the future before going on to look at the future perfect with an intermediate group.

problem solving activities to develop speaking & listening skills can be brainstorming sessions in themselves.

mind mapping is a way of storming ideas on paper, as well as a recording process.

Man brainstroming

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