I have no idea!
Finding Ideas for interesting lessons - for teachers; 6 Creative ways to practice English online - for students; Personal experience - Anastasia Talakina.
WHERE TO FIND IDEAS FOR INTERESTING LESSONS
Everything has been done before us, some may say, and there are no original ideas anymore. But can we say the same about teaching? The internet is full of ready-made lesson plans on almost any imaginable topic, there is a myriad of textbooks to choose from, all created by professionals, so why even try? One reason may be, is that we live in an ever-changing world, trends, and opinions shift and transform by the day, and our language will adjust to reflect those changes. A lot of the materials and textbooks will have lost their relevance by now, and we are not just teaching our students to use the language today, but they will really apply it tomorrow.
The question of why aside, we are faced with another one: where? And then maybe “how?”. Let’s discuss the intricate art of being a creative English teacher.
Keep up with the news
In order to provide the most relevant and up-to-date experience, the teacher themself has to be aware of what is going on in the world. And although it is virtually impossible to know everything, you can ask your students to bring in the bits that concern them personally, or the ones they find interesting. Just reading the news may give you ideas for lessons - new inventions to talk about technology, a natural disaster to talk about climate, celebrity gossip for media, or Met Gala to talk about fashion.
Every year Oxford dictionary publishes a list of words that have been added to its register. This vocabulary is often pretty specific and colloquial, but some may reflect the new trends and concepts that have recently emerged. There is also a “Word of the Year” chosen specifically to reflect the most important events that have happened, which can lead to very interesting discussions and debates, and students may also suggest their own ideas for which words should be picked next! In 2021 the word chosen was “Vax” highlighting the medical breakthroughs and the rise of Covid vaccines across the world.
Defined by some people as an evolved form of ideas, memes have become embedded into everyday conversations and texts, ranging from universally recognised to highly obscure and niche. The average lifespan of a meme has dramatically declined to only a few days, vanishing into obscurity once the public is tired of playing with it, and being replaced with something new. On the other hand, memes can be a great way of teaching colloquial expressions, phrasal verbs, humour, and even aspects of the target culture.
Pay attention to them, as you scroll through your newsfeed, for anything that may inspire you. And not only memes in the traditional sense - screenshots of interesting or funny Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook posts often illustrate candid human interactions and experiences!
Take any modern coursebook and take a look at the list of professions listed under the “Jobs” topic. You are likely to see words like "scientist", “accountant” and “doctor”, but what are the chances of seeing an “influencer”, “beautician”, “Youtuber” or even “SMM”. However, recent studies reveal that nowadays children dream of becoming bloggers, musicians, and game developers, so shouldn’t our lessons include those professions, too? Just by discussing what new jobs have emerged, you will spice up the routine topic of professions.
Don’t roll your eyes now, video content is replacing photographs, and never before so much teachable material has been created on a global scale. Reactions, personal stories, funny anecdotes, aesthetics, and dancing - the videos are short, catchy, and engaging. You may need to spend up to a week to adjust the algorithms to your preferences, but once that is done, you will have plenty to choose from.
Challenge the conventional
We are so used to certain things we never even question them, but maybe we should? One article discussed the shift from seasonal artisanal labour to an industrial conveyor belt and how that changed our perception of time. Hours became measurable in money and that created the need for limiting that labour and fighting for “free time”. Today we see our free time as the absence of work and have to fill it up with meaningful activities, but the question “How was your weekend?” would have confused a victorian farmer. Isn’t that an interesting thing to discuss in class? Take a look at the customary and common and ask yourself “How did we come to this? Why is it so?” and then turn it into a lesson!
Where do you get new ideas for your classes? We are dying to find out and get inspired!
6 CREATIVE WAYS TO PRACTICE ENGLISH ONLINE
Learning a language should be fun – and it doesn’t always have to involve textbooks, teachers and IRL (in real life) classes! There are plenty of opportunities to learn English in creative ways online.
So if you’re unable to learn English in a conventional way, it’s time to think outside the box. Here are six fun ideas on how you can learn English online on your own or with friends.
1. Start your own speaking club on House Party
A good house party can be a beautiful thing – there’s the chance for interesting conversations and the possibility to make new friends. It could also be an opportunity to practise your English speaking skills with strangers. But if, for whatever reason, you’re stuck in your house with nowhere to go, you don’t need to miss out.
We’d like to introduce Houseparty! This free app lets you video talk with up to eight people at a time. It’s like a virtual hang-out, making it the perfect tool for hosting your own English speaking club from home. Contacts of contacts can even jump into your chat room if it’s unlocked which makes it a funny way to meet new people.
Don’t have time to plan any fun conversation topics beforehand? No problem. Houseparty has some really great games to break the ice. Just make sure everyone sticks to speaking English. Then sit back, relax and watch new friendships blossom.
2. Learn English with Alexa
Have you ever wanted an English speaking partner that you can talk at for hours and hours but won’t get bored? Look no further than Amazon Alexa.
Because she’s a communication device, Alexa is all about speaking and listening. First set the language to English. Then ask her questions to boost your communication skills any time of day. You may need to speak more slowly than usual and concentrate on your pronunciation, which is great practise!
Alexa also has ‘skills’. These are a bit like apps, and many of them are designed for you to learn English.
Daily Dose gives you a ‘Word of the Day’ or a ‘Lesson of the Day’. There’s also Cleo which lets you return the favour and teach Alexa your mother tongue.
3. Host a virtual book group
Reading a book is proven to decrease stress. So if you’re looking for a way to learn English and practice a hobby, then why not start your own book group?
You can choose to read a classic novel or re-read one of your favourite books – but this time in English. Invite your international friends to do the same. Use a video platform like Skype or Zoom to meet every week and discuss the book. Create a safe space for you to give your opinions. Talk about what you loved and didn’t love. And analyse some of the figurative language you discover.
Reading is a great form of escapism. Furthermore, doing it in a group will help push you to the finish line and complete the book in good time. You will get quicker at reading in English too.
4. Practise speech shadowing with a YouTube video
What is speech shadowing we hear you ask? Well if a shadow is someone who follows someone else, then think of speech shadowing as following someone’s voice. This includes their stress, their intonation, and their pronunciation.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds! Here’s how you do it:
Choose a video online. This could be your favourite vlogger, a recipe video or a clip from that tv series everyone’s talking about.
Next, listen to a short segment.
Then replay the clip again and repeat in your voice. Whilst doing it, try to match the accent of the speaker.
Repeat the segment again. This time at the same speed as the audio.
Keep practising until you feel confident. Then move on to the next clip.
Walking around can help you focus whilst speech shadowing. Make sure you have some headphones to hand too!
5. Take a virtual tour of a museum
Stuck at home? There’s no need to forfeit your cultural education. That’s right, you can experience the best museums from around the world. All from the comfort of your own home, and while practising English too.
Take advantage of the many artefacts, painting and exhibition descriptions written in English. Then challenge yourself to write a review. Begin with a description of what you saw. Then talk about the kind of crowd it would attract.
Finally, say whether you enjoyed it and would return for a visit in real life. Ask a teacher or a native speaker to check if it reads well. You could even leave it as a real review!
6. Play Scrabble
Board games can be a really fun way to learn English, and even better if it’s a word game. What’s the world’s favourite word game? Scrabble of course!
To play scrabble you have to arrange letters to make a word on the board. Letters give you points, and some squares on the board give you extra points. The aim of the game is to beat your opponent by placing the best words you can.
Scrabble is great for language learners. You’ll be testing your English vocabulary, and you can always look up new words in the dictionary after the game.
Don’t worry if you don’t have an English set at home. There are many online games that do the job. Compete against your friends, or play against other international players to practise your English speaking skills too. Who knows? You may become a Scrabble champion!
Read full article here.
Do you know fun and interesting ways to practice your English?
Hi, my name is Anastasia. I have been working as an English tutor for 2 years. I am really keen on languages, Italian culture, art, and public history.
All of my students are adults (age 21+), so I always try to find materials, that are related to their field of work or their interests. The beneficial way of teaching them forms in my mind after 3-4 lessons. I usually start with speaking activities, even if they are afraid to speak as they make mistakes. I use online resources for that, for example, I find recent articles like “99 Mindful Conversation Topics For Deeper Connections”. I also really like the “Wordwall” website, for the creation of my lessons and inspiration. I use a “random wheel” tool for speaking there. Gathered information helps me to decide which topics we are going to study later.
Plus, I use such platforms as “BBC Learning English” for discussions and listening. There are great short videos for different levels and the British pronunciation is a great bonus because my students have been studying some kind of blend of American and British English.
I also like the “Linguapress” website for reading activities. Their texts are interesting to read for students of this age and also helpful. For example, one of my students is an architect and I found the text for her about the history of skyscrapers. That followed a discussion and she found new English words for her profession. Also, there are great crosswords and different word games for the B1 level, and some texts are followed by audio materials if they want to listen to the right pronunciation of words.
If there is time left at the end of the lesson, I use the “Bamboozle” website and generate games. If I run out of paper materials, I use “Liveworksheets” for grammar practice. In order to check vocabulary, I always use “Quizlet” or “Kahoot”. I also usually listen to songs with my students and they are to fill in the missing words in these songs. I remember this from my studying in England and it is also fun and relaxing.
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Stay amazing ❤️