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Monthly Archives: July 2008

>By Anna – Beijing, China

I think showing movies to the students is one of the best ways to teach English (if not the best). There’s almost everything in the movies. Everything is authentic. Students at all levels need to watch movies as much as they can, provided time and money affordable. Like in my school, which has primary and high school students, we have different movies for the students. For little kids, we have Tom & Jerry, Rainbow Fish, etc.; for high school students, we have Noting Hill, Antz, Men in Black and so on. In universities, they offer a course called “advanced visual-aural-oral skills” for graduate students.

Movies can be used for different purposes. As there’s almost everything in them, teachers need to direct Ss’ attention to some of them. As a Chinese myself, I find watching movies most challenging. There’s always a lot that I can’t figure out while watching a movie. That’s the exact area where the Chinese Ss need help from a foreign teacher because it has the least to do with grammar. It’s all live English for which we may not find any help or explanation from our textbooks or grammar books. Besides, it’s a rich resource of cultural things.

>By Margaret “Peg” Orleans – China

Some games that students with very little vocabulary may be able to play and enjoy:

1. A Visit to Grandma

Students sit in circles of four to six. The first one starts with a pattern sentence like, “I’m going to visit my grandmother. In my bag I will take” and names an item (no matter how ridiculous–no need for it actually to fit in a suitcase) that begins with the letter A. The second student repeats what the first has said, adding an item that begins with the letter B, and so on around the circle and through the alphabet. (Lots of chance to practice pronunciation and listening, but students have some control since they are choosing words they understand.)

2. Dictionary Before and After

Working in pairs, one student chooses any English word she knows. The partner attempts to identify it by guessing words. After each guess, the student who has chosen the word responds with before (meaning “My word comes before your word in the dictionary) or after. One demonstration before the whole class in which you guess a student’s work is usually enough for everyone
to catch on.

3. Be Write Back

Students form equally-numbered teams of about seven to ten people apiece. They line up Indian file and the last person on each team is given a slip of paper on which is written a four- or five-letter word. At the start signal, these students silently trace the word on the back of the student in front of them with their forefingers. Those students can request a repetition, if necessary. When they understand (or think they understand) what the word is, they trace it on the back of the person in front of them, and so on, until the first students race to write the word on the blackboard. (Nice change of pace for tactile learners.)

4. Tillie Williams

Maybe they won’t have enough vocabulary to be able to join in when they catch on, but even the youngest of my students like this game. When I have to fill in at the last minute for a junior high teacher, I generally play this game. I begin by describing a fictitious friend named Tillie Williams, who has very strong likes and dislikes. I tell students when they understand Tillie, they should join in. Often half the class will be in on the trick, while the other half will still be baffled, but everyone can be playing actively. For example, Tillie likes swimming pools but hates lakes. She likes yellow but not orange. She’ll eat apples, but not bananas. She plays tennis, but not badminton. You should frequenly repeat a refrain like, “Her name is Tillie Williams. She may be a little odd, but she’s not very strange.” (The trick, of course, is that she likes only things with double letters.) The clues offered above were all generated by students, once they had caught on. I try to save those with easy words for students, but Japanese has the advantage of thousands of loan words from English, so that I can use fairly high-level words that I know students will understand. You may not have that advantage with Chinese students.

Anyway, I hope some of these are useful activities for giving students a chance to speak up and feel some success with English.

>By Betty Lee – Shengda College, Zhengzhou, Henan, China

There is a game called Celebrity Heads – or something like that. In its original form the names of famous people are used and the object is to discover which celebrity you are. It is usually used by teachers as an end-of-year activity. I have used a modified version of it in all sorts of classes – maths, science,… even oral English in China.

Normally you have 3 students at the front facing the class – I think it is preferable to have seats for them.

Someone writes a word on the board behind each student. They are not to see the word.

The first student now asks the class a question requiring a “yes” or “no” answer. If the class answers “yes” the student may ask another question but if they answer “no” then the next of the 3 students may ask a question.

Continue in this manner until the first person guesses the word on the board behind them. You may continue until each guesses their word or finish then.

Reward the winner by having them write the next 3 words down or have each student who has just been “in” write the new word for the person to take their seat.

There are some skills to be learnt about choosing “good” words and also about how to ask the questions.

It lends itself well to learning new vocabulary.

My college students only had one session with it but really enjoyed themselves.