Ice breaker – Word Cloud

First impressions.

Some might say they can define the whole nature of a relationship.

So how to facilitate student-student or teacher-students first impressions to be favourable and make sure it stands as a solid foundation for further positive rapport in the classes to come?

As part of classroom management, establishing rapport and dealing with different cultures and moods in the classroom are always a challenge.

One suggestion is to initiate every course with an ice breaker and keep stimulating students to create and strengthen a social bond between the whole class (teacher included) throughout the course.

This does not mean everyone has to become best friends, or even keep in touch outside the classroom.

What is key here is to promote rapport via respect of each other’s individuality – which can be fostered by simply having students not hearing, but truly listening to each other and civilly handling differences in the classroom.

Sounds complicated?

Do not fret though, my friends. The games are here for you.

Today’s post is a very special ice breaker that not only has a social aspect to it, but can also help you to check language level placement. Making your life easier by killing two birds with one stone: do you like the sound of that? Me too.


Drama Game: Word Cloud– Ice Breaker

Type: Ice breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Create a social bond and check level placement

Interaction Pattern: individual / whole class

Material: Board, A4 paper

Timing: 10-15 min (depending on size of the group)


Procedure:

 

Draw a cloud almost as big as your whiteboard and write some words (names, places, occupations…) or numbers that reflect truths about you. However, don’t write sentences. Just leave all of those scattered pieces of information on the board for students to see once they enter the classroom.

 

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Tip:

Have the word cloud drawn beforehand, so that you don’t waste class time and also when students arrive they can be curious about what’s on the board.

 

Greet students and welcome them to their new English course.

Tell them that before starting, you should get to know each other and this is the chance they have to meet you.

Point out that on the board there are some pieces of information about you. However, you are not going to tell them what they are. THEY should ask you questions and the answers should be the words they see. They cannot use the words on the board, though.

E.g.: “What do you do?” is a valid question and the answer is on the board (teacher). Whereas “Who are Tania and Roberto?” is not a valid question. They could ask “What are your parents’ names?”, for example.

 

Tip:

Write information on the board according to questions you expect students to know by now. Bear in mind their language level and age when thinking about what you will present them with. Also, make the range of information wide enough so that students have an idea of who you are and what you stand for.

Remember: you can only ask for what you have.

 

Students take turns asking questions while you answer ALL of them.

Cross out the words and numbers they ‘get it right’ from the board until they have guessed all of them.

After it is over, invite them to draw their own word clouds on an A4 sheet of paper. Give them a few minutes for that.

Depending on the size of the group, decide if you will ask every student to show their cloud and have the whole group play the game together or divide them in smaller groups. If you go for smaller groups, make sure you ask them to report information they found out about their colleagues with the rest of the class in the end.


This activity is multifaceted due to the fact that you are not only giving your students the opportunity to review vocabulary and structure they have previously learned, you are also creating a personal bond with them. All of this while you assess their use of language through question formation.

And it’s fun, of course!

Tales from the classroom – The complainers

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There is nothing more terrifying than a cold audience.

That horrifying feeling of talking to students and getting….. NOTHING!

Or worse: getting nothing but complaints!

I can still remember – with shivers on my spine – a certain group I once had that no matter what I tried, they remained unsatisfied.

They would constantly complain about everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

The class is too slow. Now it’s too fast. Your accent is too American. There are too many windows in this classroom… The list is endless.

I thought that they would never go for playing games in the classroom since they liked NOTHING about the course: and I was right.

But, as I am a terribly stubborn human being, I decided to insist on it anyway.

I remember the first time I proposed a game to them. They looked at me with a ‘what the hell’ face and, as I insisted, they did it in a very cranky way.

And so it went for the next month: me insisting on the games, they doing it out of obligation and ‘good will’.

I only kept doing it because, honestly, they would complain about anything anyway, so I decided to make the classes a little more lively, even if just for a few moments.

And you know what happened? They complained!

But this time, in English!

And that right there was my reward.

They might not have noticed at the time, but the games were actually helping them improve their fluency – and I could notice!

I just kept saying to myself, ‘They complaining in English now! In ENGLISH!!!!’

So one day I did something sneaky: I recorded the whole class.

Afterwards, I sent them the video via email and asked them to pay attention to how much L1 and how much English they were speaking. And that changed everything.

They still complained about the classroom, my accent, the textbook, the coordination, the duration of the class…………….. But they were happy they were speaking English.

That was one of the most difficult groups I’ve ever had, but of one thing I’m sure: there is nothing a very stubborn teacher who insists on getting their students to learn can’t do!

Review and Lesson Plan – Social activism at school

What should we teach our students?

Textbook content? Structure? Pronunciation? Or could we take more risks and include topics related to critical thinking, such as social activism?

To the Master in Education Nasy Inthisone Pfanner, “our job is not only to teach grammar, vocabulary and literature but also to prepare pupils for the real world”. The Austria-based teacher depicted this idea in an article published this month on Voices magazine – the bi-monthly newsletter of IATEFL – entitled ‘Social activism at school’.

In the article, she exposes how she went about implementing a social activism activity with her students, aged between 12 and 13. The teacher encouraged students to think about rules and social behavior that they considered unjust or needed to be changed in order for the world to be a better place. After leaving her students intrigued, she assigned the task as follows:

“For individual homework, they had to make a poster about an issue they were interested in, get signatures from at least ten people (but not someone from our class) in support of the cause, and give a brief presentation in class. (…) As a class, we then discussed what they could do to make the world a better place.”

Nasy Inthisone Pfanner

 

She also suggests a few vocabulary items to be taught before assigning the task, such as ‘injustice’, ‘resistance’, ‘politics’, ‘profit’, ‘public opinion’, ‘strike’, ‘change’, ‘activist’, ‘corruption’ and ‘commonsense’. These could be presented before the whole debate begins, as a means to trigger students’ curiosity and also engage them..

The tasks elaborated by her promoted improvement not only in the use of the language – focusing on structure, vocabulary, writing, speaking and listening – but also involved students in their community, facilitating a more natural use of the language as a tool to communicate thoughts and ideas, instead of mere second language classroom practice.

Pfanner does not mention drama games in her article, however I thought it would be a perfect match if some games were incorporated as the different phases of the activity unveil. Below is how I would go about the whole thing with either teenagers or adults. (I wouldn’t recommend this project for young learners since the concepts dealt with are far too abstract for them. Perhaps I can think of a young learners adaptation for this activity and post it later)

 


Drama Project: Social Activism

 

Type: Project

Age: Teenagers and Adults

Language level: A2 on

Aim: Promote real-life language production through social activism and enable students to think critically about their environment

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Video, Paper, Candy (Red, blue and yellow)

Timing: 15-20 min for each phase / 5 weeks in total


Procedure:

This project is designed to last 5 weeks and is going to be divided as such in this lesson plan.

 

Week 1

Tell students you are going to work on a long-term project.

Today they will watch a video and learn new words and expressions about what is it is.

Ask students to take notes of what they see – people, places, actions – as they watch the video.

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Show students the following video about modern social activism.

 

Tip:

It is possible to turn English subtitles on for this video on Youtube. Maybe it would be a good idea, especially for lower levels, since the objective is not to explore deeply the language in the video, but engage students in the topic.

After the video is over, have students compare with other students the words they have.

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Ask students to report their findings to you and write on the board all the words they came up with.

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Tell students they will play a game in groups. Either you assign them, or they arrange themselves in groups.

Also, write in bulk letters ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’.

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In the groups, students should take turns saying ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’ and add a word. They can use the words on the board (elicited from the video) to help. The first student should say Social Activism reminds me of + his word. The second student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + new word. Third student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + second student’s word + new word. And so on.

The objective is for students to drill the words in a lively way through a memory chain game.

Have students play for around 3 minutes, then stop them.

Elicit some of the ideas that arose that are different from the ones on the board.

Tell student the project is going to be about social activism.

Set the task for the next week: students should write a paragraph explaining what social activism is in their opinion.

They will have to present it in class, so they have to make their presentation interesting by either using audiovisual or props.

Tip:

If you have large groups, presentations could be in pairs, to take less time.

 

Week 2

As a warm up and vocabulary review for the activity, play paper balls with the words and expressions students came up with the previous week.

(If you don’t know how to play paper balls, click here for a full lesson plan)

Divide students in groups.

Tip:

Try mixing your students and not letting them always group up with the same people. This way, your group should be more integrated and students will have the opportunity to be in contact with different opinions and values in the classroom, as they will in the real world.

Tell students that during the presentations, each group will have to come up with a question to each presenter. Groups write the questions during the presentations and ask them right after the presenter is over.

Tip:

This practice keeps students alert and focused on the presentations. Also, Viola Spolin always affirmed that when everyone – presenters and audience – have a clear task to perform, it is easier to keep focus and enhance productivity in drama. For more on Viola Spolin, click here.

One by one, students present their ideas of social activism,

The groups decide whose question is the best to be asked.

The presenter is asked one question per group and a brief loose debate is held after each of them.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later correction with the whole group.

After all of the students have presented and all discussions were held, have a brief correction moment with them.

Ask students to give you examples of causes in their community that could be benefited from social activism.

Elicit from the whole class.

Tell students this is their task for next week: think about something that is unfair or has to be changed in their community. Write a paragraph explaining what the cause is and why it is important to act on it.

 

Week 3

As a warm up and review, play Candy Colours using the following sentences for each colour

(If you are not familiar with this game, click here for a description):

  • Red – What is Social Activism in your opinion?
  • Blue – How can people fight for a cause?
  • Yellow – What can people fight for? What are the most popular causes in your opinion?

Arrange students in groups.

Have them get as much candy as they want.

Assign 3 minutes for the discussion.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later correction with the whole group.

After the time is up, have a brief correction moment with students.

Tell students this is the moment they will present their paragraphs about what is unfair or needs to be changed in their community.

Have the students show you briefly their paragraphs individually while the others rehearse their presentation. When they show it to you, correct it on the spot.

Tip:

The correction of the paragraph in this case is to avoid students to fossilize mistakes in the next activity, in which they will have to repeat themselves a lot.

Ask students to sit or stand in a circle. They will play Gossip.

(If you don’t know how to play this game, click here for a full lesson plan)

Students will ask partner 1 ‘What is unfair or has to be changed in your community?’, ‘Why does this situation needs to change in your opinion?’.

Students gossip to partner 2 the information received from partner one.

Walk around and help them express their ideas if needed.

In the end of the activity, elicit from the whole class the causes each one is going to fight for and take notes for your own further analysis.

Write on the board and tell students that for next week they should think about an action that they can take in order to change the situation.

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Elicit from them ways activists try to change things. (Ideas are: collecting signatures for a petition, organizing a demonstration, using social media, going on a hunger strike, etc…)

For next class, students should write a paragraph saying what is the best course of action to try to change the unfair situation in their community and why.

 

Week 4

As a warm up and vocabulary review, arrange students in pairs and play Word Sneak.

(If you are not familiar with this game, click here for a description)

Tip:

Provide students with words, expressions and structures they have struggled with or that they haven’t used much during the first three phases of the project.

Ask students to look back at the three paragraphs they have written so far – explaining what social activism is in their opinion, saying what their chosen cause is and why it is important to act on it and saying what is the best course of action to try to change the unfair situation and why.

Tell them they will be given 3 minutes to assemble all of them together. Later they will present the whole project.

Assist students if they have vocabulary or presentation doubts.

Ask students to imagine they are representatives in the United Nations. Everyone in class represents a community and is responsible for listening to all presentations and deciding which causes are easily applicable.

Students have to choose half the causes in class as ‘applicable’ – if you have 10 students, 5 will be chosen; if you have large groups and 10 groups are presenting, 5 groups will be chosen.

One by one, students present and other students take notes.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later. Instead of correcting with the whole class, you could prepare a feedback for each student based on their production during the whole project and give it to them the next class. This could also count as their final evaluation for the project. This way, you’ll be evaluating the process, and not only the result.

At the end of all the presentations, hold a very brief vote of the easily applicable causes.

The winners get to choose other students that did not win to work with them in pairs or groups. These groups will put the proposal to practice.

Tell students they should try to follow their own courses of action and present the outcome the next class. They will have to present it in class, so they have to make their presentation interesting by either using audiovisual or props.

 

Week 5

As a warm up, play the same chain game from the first week.

Write in bulk letters ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’.

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With the whole class, students should take turns saying ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’ and add a word. The first student should say Social Activism reminds me of + his word. The second student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + new word. Third student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + second student’s word + new word. And so on.

Have students play for around 3 minutes, then stop them.

Tell students they will present their results now and at the end of every presentation, they should ask questions to the presenters.

Assign the presentation order.

Groups present one by one.

At the end of the presentations, conduct a brief debate.

When all the groups have already presented, hand out to each student their individual feedback.

Tip:

The feedbacks should contain three parts: praise of what was positive, correction of most common mistakes and tips on how to improve certain uses of language.

Thank students for their cooperation and praise them on the outcomes.


Well I hope you enjoyed it!

See you next time, and have fun with the games!