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Need Activity Ideas! Help! Teenagers!

Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:28 am
by jesl
Hi, I need help thinking about some ideas for my class.

Situation: I have been asked to teach a one hour class at a prestigous high school, it is a club only, it is not a real class for the students, it is something fun for them. There are several high schools involved and every week about 50% of the students will be different. The host HS students will change change.

1. Age, around 16 years old.
2. I need 45-60 minute activities that will require very little explanation on how to do the activity.
3. Activity should be different every week.
4. The room is small, but I will still make them move around sometimes.
5. The English level of most of the students is intermeiate level, but anyone who has taught before knows that most of the time the students dont' want to open their mouths when a question is asked, even if you point to a student they may not answer, or understand.
6. The students need to be speaking about 70-90% of the time.
7. I prefer not much prep time for these because I can probably only use them once for this class, and I won't have other opportunties to use them anytime soon.
8. Each class will have between 30-45 people. Each class will change 50% of the students. The other 50% will remain the same throughout.


Posted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:50 pm
by Sally Olsen
If it is a club they are probably there for fun and a chance to speak English. I think we have talked about clubs before. I will look it up for you. ... light=club ... light=club

Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 1:17 pm
by jesl
Thank you for your reply Sally. However, this is the first time for me that I have asked this particular question. I went through the links you sent me, both of them, plus two more than were mentioned in one of the threads. To be honest, after looking through them, I really did not see any real ideas. Just chatter. The only one I saw was lyrics, and that won't help me as they are not really interested in that, and I can't sing.

I need some real ideas and some real activities that have been done or tried. Links to other websites for things that I could actual download and use. Or some ideas from other teachers and what they have done in the past or what they think might be good. Those other four threads really have nothing concrete in them.

I really need help, these students are indeed looking for fun only, I don't really have to teach them anything persay, just let them use the language naturally and of course correct them during the activity.


Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:40 pm
by fluffyhamster
Hi again Jesl, and sorry for not responding sooner (I got distracted by other threads).

I haven't ever had to run a regular club (especially not for several participating schools), but I have occassionally been invited along to one or two Japanese* public (i.e. non-private) school "English conversation" clubs. So bear in mind that what I'm going to suggest was for a more informal setting where the students knew each other far better probably than "yours" do or will (and they weren't really up for anything too taxing after a hard day's schooling, and would soon fall into just jabbering with those club-friends in Japanese whilst some English song they'd bought in from their doubtless bulging personal collections played on and on on loop play e.g. a Carpenters' fave, Japan was my real intro to them and I just had to then rush out and buy the album! :lol: ).

For warmers or to fill time, I'd try to find out if there are any simple verbal games in Chinese that are similar to English. For example, in Japan they play 'shiri-tori', which is the somewhat like 'Tails to Heads' (at least that's what Morgan & Rinvolucri call the game in which each new word begins with the last letter of the previous word, found in their Vocabulary (OUP)), except that the Japanese use the last full syllable (they must therefore disallow words that end in the mora -n e.g. shinbun: 'A player who plays a word ending in the mora N (ん) loses the game, as no word begins with that character' (as opposed to say na-, ni-, nu-, ne- or no-, all CV (vs CVC/-n); see the Gojuon, the 50 sounds of Japanese etc) - quote from ), whereas in English we start the next word with the just the last letter of the last (but you could try it with syllables too eh - so perhaps a better comparison to Shiri-tori would be the Noun + noun compound-combination/Word Dominoes sort of game mentioned towards the end of the following post ... 2176#42176 , rather than the aforementioned Heads to Tails). Or you could divide the class into two and ask one side to start with a colour, and then the other to respond with something that they associate with that word (and as play alternates, you can keep things simple by just linking from the one previous word or phrase, or allow things to mushroom by allowing each team to pick any of the previous words to link from (the result ends up looking something like a sprawling "mindmap" or brainstorming splash)). Don't be afraid to interject/demonstrate little anecdotes or tidbits of information, and perhaps allow students to do the same (though they could slow things down a bit) e.g. A - white; B - snow; A - ice; B - Hey, (talking of ice), a lot of people get hit/killed by falling ice in Hokkaido (right?). Once, I went shopping, and later, walking home, I saw some big blocks (had fallen) on the (same) road/sidewalk (from a dangerous "overhanging" roof - bad design ne!)...

You might like to set up a system whereby you teach them a simple game or two each week in exchange for them possibly teaching you at least one (but don't bank on even the regular students remembering). They don't necessarily need to use English to teach you, and it's nice sometimes to just actually do that thing known as chatting (intermittently, about nothing in particular, or by simply by and in the process of playing and occassionally remarking on the progress, outrageous twists of fate and fortune in the game).

Talking of short stories, I like to think of little puzzle-type stories (like the one where the doctor "couldn't possibly have been" but in fact was the injured boy's MOTHER**, you've probably heard it already): 'A man and a boy went to a party. After the party, they drove/were driving home in their car. It was late at night, and dark. Suddenly, a cat ran out in front of the car. The (man swerved to avoid the cat and the) car hit a tree. They had to go to hospital. The doctor walked in, saw the man and boy and said, "I can't operate!" WHY COULDN'T THE DOCTOR OPERATE?' In relation to their answers (that is, being able to understand them), it will obviously help if you have a fair command of their L1 (i.e. this should be more a "test" of their listening and thinking than their spoken English), but if you don't speak/understand much Chinese, you can get around this "feedback" problem by giving them a range of answers (i.e. a multiple-choice thing) where the real answer isn't actually given as anything other than e.g. 'd) Other reason': (a) The doctor was drunk, or tired, or ill, b) The man and boy didn't have medical insurance c) They were sure to die or in fact already dead d) Other reason (Please describe if you can). (Here's a completely unrelated sample "quick" question that I've asked reasonably advanced or capable students in China rather than Japan***: So, what's your best friend like? a) McDonald's b) KFC c) Italian food d) None of the above. Answer here again should be d), but why?).

Then there are these sorts of "stories proper" (you may have seen this thread already):

An easier sort of listening would be my 'Guess the movie' game ( ; ... 0680#10680 ). Another movie-related activity that I found goes down well at J-SHS level is to find pictures of famous British actors in which they aren't too recognizable (i.e. are out of their "usual" well-known costume, or indeed, "in disguise"), give the students a jumble and ask the students if they recognize anybody. Some Google Image search examples are given in a block below (fantasy films was the idea I had in mind); important language, obviously '(This is name.) He/She was name of character in name of film'. More ambitiously, we near the realm of relative pronouns, and participles (see my 'English made (too) easy?' thread on the International/Job Discussion forums' Japan forum: , though it doesn't really get going until the second page, and is quite involved :o :? :lol: :wink: :) 8) ). ... Harris.jpg ... kellen.jpg ... x447,0.jpg ... E_LI-1.jpg (LOL)

Just thought of an activity that a Japanese Teacher of English came up with that students seemed to like (and this links back to finding similarities between cultures, like I mentioned for word games). Think of things Japanese (or "Japanese"), that the students take for granted, then ask them to decide if the same is as true in your country e.g. you give them a sheet of statements such as '1. You can get/buy/find onigiri in London', '2. Baseball is popular in England too', '3. There are bears in England', '4. A packet of cigarettes can cost over 1000 yen in the UK' (LOL, trick question, students shouldn't know how much ciggies are even in Japan!) etc, and see what they agree or disagree with. Some answers could be qualified a bit: 1. Yes - if you look hard enough; 2. Pretty much NO (although we do play a game called rounders at primary school, and sometimes softball at secondary - refer to Wikipedia); 3. Yes - but nowadays only in zoos; 4. YES, bascially! Or you can design a simple likes/preferences questionnaire along the lines of 1. Do you prefer rock, or enka? 2. Do you prefer meat, or fish? 3. Wrestling or sumo? etc, students pair up and ask and record the other's answers, tot up the marks, and only then are told that it is a test of Japaneseness (a person with more right-hand/B answers wa nihonjin ja nai yo!).

A thread about designing the beginning stages of an elementary school syllabus (worth scanning down through if only for the link to a worksheet or two that I made and posted online, though you could if you felt so inclined start adding some of the above activities to the end of it, beyond the fifth lesson detailed e.g. the 'Do you prefer A or B?' questionnaire gets the students in pairs rather than continuing with the lesson five mass/groups i.e. is easing them into pair work , potentially teaches them an alternative verb to 'like' (whilst avoiding 'Which...' at the start of the 'prefer' question), though one could continue to use 'like', and gives further examples of uncount/mass nouns to link back to lesson two/contrast with the "counting" in lessons three and especially four. Continuing with introducing the noun system, you could at some later point/in a later lesson get students asking about liking certain kinds of animals generally e.g. cats, dogs, hamsters etc (this would "knock off" the numbers of lesson four)): ... 217#646217

I don't know if that would be too ambitious for some classes of students, but in my experience, student response and interest is proportional to the amount of time we teachers spend trying to make interesting, genuine, useful and enjoyable lessons.

Another thread that I've just remembered:

I kind of went on a bit in that thread, but a lot of the points I make there are of potential general value.

Jeez, there are SO MANY activities that you can come up with, especially if you don't forget the LANGUAGE sitting there "behind it all" (just stick your nose in any decent learner dictionary and examples-contexts-functions-activities will soon start leaping off of the page; from grammar books too potentially, depends on what you like I suppose). The problem of course is just/simply (no scare quotes around the simply then, I'm afraid!) that you've got to think of them, dream them up, invent them slowly but surely one by one (whilst slotting them into a potentially sketchy syllabus of at least grammar structures, though it will also be helpful to think in terms of a "developing interpersonal discourse", from strangers to friends and all that. How is this achieved linguistically-behaviourally? Some thoughts on that question: ; ... 7239#37239 ). I mean, you do want to develop your own portfolio of stuff and not need to keep coming crying to internet teaching forums, right? :wink: 8) :) (Again, see previous paragraph and the linked thread it contains). Basically, you have to be resourceful in order to become resource-full! Just poaching stuff off the internet leaves out a lot of the thinking that I think is an essential step in achieving holistic, successful teaching that is personally satisfying. But you can of course pilfer from those textbooks and supplementary materilas that you've either used or come/stumbled across (sometimes we're all a bit pressed for time), and there is nothing wrong with slotting mass-published that works into your own syllabus - "why reinvent the wheel" (my answer to that might however be, the wheels that are invented are often square and clunky, don't provide me and my classes with that preferably smoother ride).

Maybe you don't have enough experience and/or are not yet confident enough in your own intuition and abilities to really take "responsibility" and GO FOR IT yourself (I'm not having a go at you, just telling you how I felt, that I decided it would be better if I "knuckled down" and helped myself, even if that would upset those who patently weren't helping me but thought they were or at least had the right to impose their "ideas". The start of my first post in that elementary thread will help you appreciate where I'm coming from here). But there might be some good stuff out their on the net if you really don't have the time (or just "don't have time") for all "this" (this attempt of mine to "whip" you into creative "hyperdrive"), and I seem to recall there being some posts where some kind souls have posted those sites they've found that apparently come with oodles of fantastic surefire free activities, worksheets etc (I'll have a looksie and see what I can (re)locate).

Sorry if this is or has ended up a bit of a jumble (and there's bound to be a few typos, bad punctuation, dodgy phrasing etc), was just thinking off the top of my head and wanted to get something posted to you sooner rather than later (this has taken a fair while to type, come to think of it! I missed Strictly Come Dancing, and the X-Factor! But actually, missing the latter especially isn't any great loss really, and it's repeated later umpteen times). Anyway, at least there are a few activities here that I myself have developed and/or tried and have found worked at least reasonably well, if not very well, so if you decide to try one or two, they hopefully shouldn't completely bomb, and I think it is more informative to sometimes reveal exactly how we each individually teach in a connected series of ideas (rather than just recommending things we didn't design and may not have really used or wanted to use, or used with only slight success), even if in the process it may appear as though we are saying 'There is only one way to teach, and that is my way'. But that is not what I am implying: I may be a real Frank Sinatra in the classroom, but I am sure that you can hold a note and create a reasonable tune of your own, and you will probably have ideas and want to start writing your own soon enough eh (if only for the sake of variety, or to respond to your own students' specific needs etc etc etc). My stuff here is but one introduction to the theory of music, or rather, one theory.

*I had to dig up that you're in Taiwan, might be an idea to enter that fact and/or all the countries that you've taught in into your profile's location field (like Sally has always done, and now I have).

**Another example, based on a short news item that I saw years ago in Time: Girl travelling in South American country gets a room in a cheap hotel. Goes to bed. Wakes up screaming, rushed to hospital, DOA. Why? (Answer: there were several pit vipers residing in her mattress). Hmm, a bit morbid, those two stories, but certainly attention-grabbing.
EDIT: Some fun Halloween activities, that I posted a month or so after my reply here/above:

***Like I said on your 'How long does it take to...' thread, IMHO Chinese students are generally better/attain a higher level on average than Japanese.

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 6:25 am
by Brian

Pardon my frankness, but I think you are being a bit lazy by posting on here and asking everyone to plan your lessons for you.

This site has an 'ideas cookbook' with literally hundreds of ideas neatly categorized for you. Why not show some iniative and search through those first?


COMICS for students ...

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 6:41 am
by jesl

I did not ask for people to plan the lessons, I asked for help for ideas for this particular type of class.

Yes, I am familar with the cookbook, and BEFORE I posted here I went through it. I did find some things there that I may be able to use after spending some time to alter them to adapt them to the type of class I have.

This post was sort of urgent because I had to start last week and only had a few ideas to throw at them due to the lack of time to prepare.

I am not looking for a handout, and I highly dislike your assumptions!

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:31 pm
by fluffyhamster
Well, it's certainly easier to just to dump a load of activities, some reasonable-sounding, some less so (and there are a fair number of unappealing ones, or plain hoary old chestnuts in whatever variety of guises, in the Ideas Cookbook), in front of people and not bother to explain the rationale behind any one of them (beyond the obvious 'This will "cover" this or that "grammar" and/or fill time), let alone how to connect several into a logical sequence other than "This is yet another game you shall play". But I for one don't mind letting people in to a greater degree into my teaching methods and materials, because a) I believe it will be interesting if not of at least some potential use and value for others to read b) I can vouch that this stuff really worked for at least me (mainly because I developed it and therefore believed in it - I am basically hoping to inspire other teachers to become more self-trusting and sufficient themselves) and c) I think my overall approach is very sound, especially compared to some of the so-called "communicative" methods and materials I've seen or read about. 8)

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 1:36 pm
by jesl
Thanks Fluffy, I apprecaite that. And indeed the idea cookbook does have some good and some bad ideas. And until you actually test them in the classroom yourself you don't know whether they will work for your situation or not.

You are very thoughtful and have some good ideas, some of them I may be able to use others maybe not. Everything I have done in the classroom so far for this particular class is from me. The first one I have done before and as usual it went pretty well, and today I did something different for the first time, and had mixed results with it. Different students, different situation, a little more difficult.

I don't believe teachers are lazy just because they do not come up with everything themselves, heck, people have borrowed ideas from me before, I don't care. I think if it can help them, and so long as we are not teaching the same students, then go ahead. My friends have given me some ideas for use in the classroom before and I have found other ways to use them than how they were intended, that is how teaching works.

Most of the materials I see in the bookstore are useless to me, they are good only for a certain level of students or a certain kind of student, if that. And after reading 100's of them they all seem to run together and teach nothing or very little at best. And of course it depends on how that material is applied to the class, it all depends.

I am currently in the process of writing my own book using my own techniques, however, it is geared towards a different type of students than this particular class I am teaching now.

I think these forums are good for teachers! Even if they are asking for more help, that is what makes it work. You learn by doing and you learn by asking and you learn by trying things. Gosh I have failed a lot, and then I figured out how to teach, and what the students wanted, and what is different between this country and that country and what is different about the education system, and why people can't learn well, etc etc etc etc. That is what makes a good teacher, is by figuring out what is wrong and fixing the in between spots that the students don't already get or should be getting in their normal classes.

I started posting to this forum only recently as I haven't really needed help doing what I do, but I think it is here and I need something that I cannot get other places. And now that I am posting I will also start sharing in some other forums, it goes in cycles and what comes around goes around.

Thank you again Fluffy, still have not had a chance to read your entire post, that is something I will be doing this weekend and tyring to understaand your suggestions and see if I can put them into practice.