Monday, 20 May 2013

Bringing languages to *real* life

As a department, we much prefer to create our own listening and reading materials for classes instead of using textbooks, unless something really fits a particular topic well or exploits a certain point. With my year 10 this week, covering what is perhaps usually a quite mundane topic, I tried to engage them with images and photographs instead and tailor my activities to suit. 

Reading - We are on the GCSE context of relationships and we needed to revise family and physical description, so I wrote a short description of both of my parents and showed them photos. The pupils then had some time to read the texts from the board and try to remember as much as possible. I gave them a memory test whereby they had to tell me how much they could remember about my parents from the written descriptions. I was quite honest and matched the pictures to my description for my mixed ability class - if you were testing a high ability class this would be a good way for them to prove their reading skills! It was a really nice activity for them to practise their reading as they actually cared about the answers instead of reading from a textbook about fictitious characters and they wanted to get to know me and find out more about my family. It was a also a lovely way to build positive relationships with what has been at time a tricky group to get to know. 

Speaking - We then went on to discuss what makes a good friend. After brainstorming some qualities of a good or indeed a bad friend, we did a bit of group talk about some famous people and whether they would make a good best friend. I picked people which would generate some discussion and argument for the tables - Chris Brown, Nicole Scherzinger, the Queen, Jeremy Clarkson - before summarising some key vocab that came out of our discussions as a class. It was then time to practise some listening.

Listening - I chose to use a Voki character (www.voki.com) instead of reading aloud to my class. It provides a visual animation to your voice recording, or if you don't have access to a mic on your laptop, it has a handy function where you can convert text to speech in a number of different accents. I recorded a short piece (the limit is 60s) describing my friends with a random little pink bunny rabbit character. They then had to decide which friend was which from a photo I gave them and answer some simple listening comprehension questions. Again, this was a nice way for them to find out a little bit more about me, whilst using vocabulary from the topic in a real context. I could also adapt the text to include certain structures that I wanted to exploit before setting them up with a transcript to have a go at writing their own text about their own best friends.

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