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All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today

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The Question Box: Recycle vocabulary and grammar

– “Teacher, we haven’t done this”

– “Yes we have, cast your mind back to last term, last month, last week…” (in some cases!)

Sound familiar?

Aware that we are covering a large amount of content (defined by the curriculum) and that a lot of my students cram for exams then promptly forget everything they studied until they cram for the next one,  I’ve been looking for ways to revisit and recycle vocabulary and grammar.  And thus The Question Box came into being…

question box

The Question Box lives in the classroom of its owners (the students) waiting to be called upon at any opportune moment… The Question Box belongs to the class, it is the students who determine what goes in and what comes out.

Similar to the Word Bag concept, students write a question on a slip of paper to ask their classmates using vocabulary and/or grammar structures we are studying or have studied. Questions are checked by peers and/or the teacher before posting in the box.  Questions can be formulated individually, in pairs or in groups.  

Revising and recycling vocabulary and grammar with The Question Box helps students develop oral and written accuracy and fluency.

These are some of the ways we’ve been using ours…

Activity 1

  • Warm up/cool down…

At the beginning of class to get in the “English” zone. A 5 minute question/answer session to warm up as a whole class/in pairs or in groups.

The question box can also be used at the end of a class if you have 5 minutes to fill.

Tip

Some of you will know I’m a fan of Wheel Decide for, amongst other things, choosing students at random to answer questions. I also have an envelope with all the students’ names in for the days when we have no internet.

This can also be done as a Think-Pair-Share activity.  Students are given time to think about their answer to the question, discuss it with their partner and then share with the group.  Alternatively it could be done as a Three-step interview.  Students form pairs and interview each other then from a new pair and report their findings from the original interview to their new partner.

Activity 2

  • Round Robin

Using the cooperative learning strategy Round Robin all team members answer the question from the box. When all team members have answered the question, they prepare a one sentence summary for their group

e.g:

Do you like going to the beach?

Summary:

We all like going to the beach / Three of us like going to the beach but one of us doesn’t / None of us like going to the beach

How often do you study?

Summary:

We all study everyday / Three of us study everyday but one of us only studies the day before an exam.

Variations:

Using the same strategy, students write a (10) word answer practising complex sentence structures and linkers to develop written fluency.  Teammates revise and edit each other’s answers.

This can be done in pairs within the team if some students need support.

This activity can even be extended to writing a short paragraph in response to the question.

Each team can choose a different question from the box to discuss.  When teams have finished discussing their question using the Round Robin technique, they can move to the other teams’ stations to answer their questions.  The recorded answers for each team can them be read out by the designated speaker for each team when all questions have been answered by all teams.

Activity 3

  • Speed interview

Pick (5) sentences from the box and prepare the answers for a speed interview. Students make 2 concentric circles and discuss their questions with the person facing them.  When time’s up one circle moves one space to the left or right and students repeat the activity with their new partner (instead of concentric circles you can put students in two lines and they move down the line)

Students can write up their findings depending on time and objectives.

Activity 4

  • Guess the questions.

Individually, in pairs or in groups students answer the questions (spoken or written) and their partner/team/classmates guess what the question was.

Activity 5

  • Who am I?

Students adopt the persona of a famous person or even a classmate and answer questions from the box as that person.  Their classmates guess who they are.

Activity 6

  • Truth or lie?  

Students choose a question for a classmate to answer.  They can tell the truth or tell a white lie. Their classmates try to determine if they are telling the truth.  They can ask more questions to help them decide.

Tip

Prepare “tell the truth” and “tell a white lie” cards so students can’t change their mind about whether they were telling the truth or lying!

Any of the above activities can be used with fast finishers who can pair up or work in groups.

The Question Box encourages students to take some ownership of their learning. The box belongs to them.  It is kept in their classroom.  They are responsible for the content. Students could even design their own activities to do which involve using the question box.

As we know, learning a language is not linear, students will learn, forget and relearn vocabulary and forms.  They need multiple opportunities to encounter and engage with the language to be able to retrieve it and use it effectively.  The Question Box provides endless opportunities for revisiting and recycling language 😉

 

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Flip writing


2 Comments

Flip writing in the EFL classroom

For too many years I’ve been complaining about the standard of my students’ writing, the lack of effort they put into it (some don’t even bother to do it such is their lack of effort!) and the disregard for the personalised comments I painstakingly write on each and every writing task (I teach 12-16 year olds by the way.) I have been known to make clear my resulting feelings of frustration and disappointment quite vociferously, none of which makes for a positive classroom atmosphere…

Enough was enough!   After speaking to my students I came to the conclusion that a lot of them don’t write well in English because:

  • They find it difficult
  • They find some of the topics uninspiring
  • They take shortcuts and don’t follow my “steps to success”
  • They don’t reflect on the writing process
  • They are only interested in knowing their mark

So, how to ensure they find it less difficult, more engaging, follow the
necessary steps, reflect on the task and my comments to get better at writing?  How to set them up for success?

Flip it!

Anyone who read my recent blog post Why flipped learning as got me excited will know that I am as much a newbie to flipped learning as I am an enthusiast.  Since participating in the EVO sessions back in February, I have been trying to incorporate (little by little) flipped learning into my teaching practice and the “writing dilemma” seemed to be a perfect opportunity to try out some flipping… Continue reading