I’ve recently joined #ELTchat on Twitter, and came across a post entitled Four Activities I wish I knew when I started teaching by Michael Griffin. He plans to present this topic at a seminar next weekend at CAMTESOL in Cambodia, and invited readers to submit an activity that matches his criteria:
“The activities are relatively light on materials and preparation while high on interaction, fun, and learning.”
This got me thinking about the most enjoyable activity I have set-up – a Dictation Relay Race:
One short text on a topic (grade the text to the level of the students if necessary)
Scissors and sellotape
Paper and pens for ss to make notes
Write the main stages of the task on the board
Prepare a copy of the text to show as a ppt or on the IWB
1. T selects a short text on a topic, prints one copy in large print and cuts up the text by sentence or group of sentences. In this example, let’s say it’s a short text on the History of the English Language.
2. T sticks these (cut-up) sentences on any wall or door inside and outside the classroom at st height. Let’s say there are about 9 sentences.
1. T tells ss something like, “Yesterday I read a story. Very interesting, very short. I want you to read it, too.” T holds out up the whole text in front of the class. “But…you’re looking a little tired after lunch. Maybe you don’t want to sit down and read? Maybe you prefer to move around in this lesson?” T gives a quizzical look, guaging responses. “So to make it more fun, I cut-up the story and placed the sentences around and outside the classroom. I want you to go and read the story and tell me what it’s about.” T points to some of the sentences on the wall.
2. T tells ss they are to work in teams (of 3, for example). T organises the ss to sit in groups of 3 and numbers each st from each group as Student 1, Student 2 and Student 3.
3. T explains the rules of the game, “First all ss must sit down. Then St 1 ONLY may leave and find a sentence, memorise the sentence and return to dictate it to St 2 and St 3.” PAUSE. “St 2 and St 3 listen and make notes on a piece of paper.” PAUSE. “Then St 2 will go and find another sentence. Meanwhile, St 1 and St 3 re-read the sentence and check the spelling and the meaning.” PAUSE. “St 2, having found a second sentence, will memorise the sentence and return to dictate it to St 1 and St 3.” PAUSE. “The team-mates listen and make notes. Then St 3 leaves to find a sentence, and so on.”
I suggest speaking slowly, with lots of gestures to signal who is doing what and when. For example, cupping of ears to signal listening, hand writing with an invisible pen to indicate dictation, and so on. T can ask some ICQ*’s to make sure the instructions have been understood.
4. T says, “Once all of the sentences have been dictacted, re-read them and decide which order the sentences go in. Finally, re-write the story on a new piece of paper. Tell me when you have finished”. T may consider giving a prize to the quickest team.
5. T can write up the main stages of the task on the board. For example,
– Dictate sentences
– Number sentences in correct order
– Re-write story in the correct order
– Tell T you have finished
6. T says, “Ready, Steady, Go!” T monitors and ensures no-one is cheating. T makes notes of any spoken or written errors.
7. If teams finish at different times, T can ask ss to underline difficult words, look up new words in a dictionary and practice reading and speaking within their group.
8. When all teams have finished, T asks the class what the topic of the story is. Then T asks each group to read aloud their story. Everyone listens and after hearing the story says if they agree or disagree on the order.
9. Teacher shows the complete story in the correct order on the IWB. T may review any common spoken or written errors she noticed while monitoring or during the presentations.
10. Now, the T may start a general discussion on the text – what new things did the students learn about the history of the English language? What surprised them? What else would they like to know?
Sample Extension Activity
11. T may also ask ss to make notes about the history of their own language in new teams of 3. They should brainstorm 9 ideas. Allocate three ideas to each st in the team. Each st develops their ideas by writing longer sentences with examples. Ss present their ideas to their own group. Ss organise a group presentation to give to the class.
Why This Activity is Good for Students
– It’s fun!
– Student’s get to run around
– Suitable for all ages
– Students practice, reading, speaking, listening for detail, writing, text comprehension, team-working and problem-solving, all at the same time
Why This Activity is Good for Teachers
– It’s fun!
– The set-up is simple
– At the end of the activity students are engaged and eager to learn
ICQs = Instruction Checking Questions