This is my response to the reflective task Exploring your context 2 from Sandy MIllin’s ELT Playbook 1.
The task – What do you have?
In this task, I had to make a list of the resources that I have at my disposal in my classroom, from learners themselves to blackboards, etc. I then had to think of two possible uses of each within classes. Finally, there were some questions related to the uses of the resources, potential changes to the classroom, and what I’ve learnt from this task.
Part 1 – The resources
Prior to beginning this task, I thought that my list would not be very long (perhaps 10 – 15). In reality, the list included more than 30 items! Granted, I got creative, however it was a shock to see so many resources. As there were so many, I decided to categorise the resources based on their usage, i.e. how often they are used.
Course books, learners, whiteboard, bell, pens, pencils, eraser, wifi, tablet, tables and chairs.
Radio/CD player, CDs, dictionaries (mono- and bilingual), vocabulary cards (cards that are created so that vocabulary can be recycled), notice board, post-its, colour pencils, ruler, glue, computer, loose paper, projector, and mobile phones.
Reading books, posters for VYLs and exams, window, teacher training books, blutac, string, plastic cups and headphones.
Part 2 – Using resources
Instead of writing two uses for each of the resources, I chose to write two uses for two of the resources from each category (this blog post would be very long otherwise).
- Use the learners as stimulus. Every learner comes with a full life story and different experiences. At the start of my career, I often tried to dictate to learners what situation they need to imagine themselves in and who they should imagine themselves as. Now, whilst this is acceptable for some activities, learners don’t always respond or perform well… plus it’s sometimes difficult to always think of new situations and cover all the necessary information. But, luckily, I discovered (or rather, read) that people can talk forever if they are talking about themselves! The trick is to create situations where the learners can rely on their own experience and knowledge of the world, rather than pretending to be someone else and inventing information as they go along.
- Learners as teachers. Peer teaching and collaborative learning is a vitally important aspect of classroom practice. Using the learners as teachers ensure that learning is always taking place, allows scaffolding to be in place to support weaker learners and provides opportunities for learners to demonstrate their ability.
- Voice saver: Sometimes it’s difficult to tell everyone in a 30-person class to stop speaking without yelling. You will be amazed at how effective a bell can be in this situation!
- Buzzer. I often play games that in order to be able to answer, the learners need to ring the bell to show that they know the answer. Adds a bit of ‘game show’ twist the lesson and learners love it.
- Recycling (This covers both of my uses as there are loads and loads of different ways to recycle using these cards). I mentioned this before, however, it’s importance can never be overstated. Recycling of vocabulary (and structures) is one of the most important aspects with regard to acquisition… I’m not even going to put in references for this as it should be common knowledge (although if you are interested, check out Thornbury, Harmer, Ellis, etc.). Vocabulary cards are a great way to realise recycling. The vocabulary cards that I have in my class look like this: Some games that I like to use with these cards include back-2-the-board, charades, Pictionary, etc.
- Label everything! With my YL classes (sometimes even with teens and adults) a great warmer is Label everything! Learners are each given a stack of post-its (use different colours if you want it to be a competition) and are given 1 minute to label as many things in the class as possible.
- Error correction. While monitoring, I use post-its when writing down errors. I then keep the post-it until I’ve dealt with the error.
- Peripheral learning of vocabulary. Most of the posters in my classroom have loads of vocabulary with pictures. when I do use them (which is rarely), it is more in a peripheral learning manner, i.e. once learners know that it is there, they will look at it themselves in class time. For example, the last unit I did with my YLs was jobs. On the wall, there was a poster of people in different situations doing different jobs (with the job titles written parallel) – the learners constantly referred back to this throughout the unit (even for the jobs that we hadn’t covered yet).
- What’s happening? Something that I haven’t actually used posters for, however I would like to try. I’ve recently discovered the poster for a series of books that I work with and I plan on using them for practising the target language from the unit, which at the moment is the present continuous.
- Prepositions pong. This idea I stole from my colleague Simona (Thank you!!). In short, the class is laid out as if everyone was about to play beer pong (this could be an interesting class activity as well). Each of the cups has a preposition written on the side, and then each team must throw the ball into one of the cups. To win, they need to get a ball in each of the cups and use the preposition correctly! Perhaps not as fun as the original, however phenomenally entertaining nonetheless.
- Mini rubbish bins. Kids love to use coloured pencils, and these pencils often need sharpening. To save time, plastic cups can be placed on the tables as mini rubbish bins, thus ensuring the learners don’t need to leave their seats.
Part 3 – Follow-up questions
What resources would you like to use more?
I would like to try to use posters more initially. I think they are a great resource, especially with YLs, and the great thing is that many of the course books that we use in our academy already have pre-made posters for each of the units.
Is there anything you would like to add to your classroom space? Why?
In the perfect world, I would have a fully integrated projector, smart board, the works, etc. I already use a projector, however there is only two for the whole academy, so they need to be shared. And, when I do use them I need to bring portable speakers, etc. to make the experience fully appropriate and worthwhile.
What did you learn from this task?
Well, firstly, there are so many resources in my classroom! Like I said before, I was shocked when I saw my final list. Secondly, that there are many resources in my classroom that I perhaps don’t utilise enough (I often get in the habit of using the same things over and over again. And lastly, being aware of everything that I have at my disposal in the classroom aids in planning. I planned a few lessons yesterday and having the list of resources next to me helped me understand how I could make some of the activities flow smoother and more interactive for the learners.
Part 4 – Notes
Who would benefit from this task?
Every language teacher in the whole world. It’s a simple task, however the rewards/benefit from doing it are numerous and worthwhile!
How could you build on this?
Sandy mentions about trialling new resources in her book, and I really like this idea. I think choosing a new resource to use once a week and then keeping track of how each resource was used and how effective it was would be a great way to build on this.
As mentioned, this task is useful for every teacher, so hopefully my response has motivated you to do it as well!