Coming up with creative ideas away from the textbook can be a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience. Students tend to enjoy those moments when the textbook is removed, and their creativity can be unleashed. The many benefits of dedicating some time to this style of teaching include:
- A closer link between teacher and students, as it enables the teacher to understand better what the students themselves like to talk about and their styles of working
- A development of student engagement with, and ownership of, the subject material.
- Giving students the freedom to direct their learning also develops their ability to seek knowledge.
- A development of language knowledge into perhaps unexpected areas- which allows the teacher to delve into relevant language issues (or “shelve” them for later, if the language is too complex for this stage of learning).
- Platform 17: See the resource sheet above. This is an activity to produce a poem, based on authentic stimulae.
- Guess Who– See the resource sheet above.
- Battleships- See the resource sheet above.
- Monday New Words: One activity I have carried out with learners is asking them to bring in a new word every Monday (or the first lesson of the week). They then have to teach this word to the rest of the class. The only stipulation is that it cannot be from a textbook- so they have to have looked at a Chinese storybook, article online, listened to a song or video- anything other than their textbook. This activity does result in a very mixed range of new words, but they are a) ones that the students were interested in and b) can be sorted more logically as the year progresses. Also, the activity is focussed on developing student’s ability to seek knowledge for themselves, outside of the classroom.
- Magazine Cut Outs: There are multiple creative ways in which you can use magazines as a resource. You can ask students to cut out pictures of people and write descriptions of them (and other students have to identify which picture); you could ask them to cut out images, make a montage and then pass to the next group, and they have to make a story from the images given; you could get them to create puppets from lolly sticks and cut outs of people and they have to write a dialogue and perform to the class- the options are endless!
- Dicey Questions: Ask groups to come up with 6 questions by themselves and number them 1-6; they then swop these questions with another group. Members of the group roll the dice- and answer the question related to that number. if you play with a board- for example a snakes and ladders board- if the student says the answer without error, then they get to move forward on the board.
- Human Experience Bingo: ask students to compile a list of experiences they have had (had a pet; been to France; got an older brother; eaten Chinese food etc); Compile a list of at least 30-40. Give each student a blank BINGO card, they then write one experience per card square. They then have to mingle (or “speed date”) and ask students if they have had the experience- when they fill in a row, they yell “BINGO!”
- Independent Learning Centres: Setting aside 5 minutes in a lesson to allow students to work on something they want to work on can vastly increase student engagement- strange but true! You set up stations around the room, each with a specific focus on a different aspect of learning, and students choose where they want to go and learn. This also helps you as a teacher understand what they enjoy most, or are most concerned about.
- Design a “Passion Hour”: what are your students passionate about? Obviously, this is different for everyone, but the one thing that is common is; if they are passionate about the topic, they will be motivated to learn more about it. For example, my own Mandarin learning really took off when I became really obsessed with Mandarin pop music. Through wanting to speak to Chinese people about Wang Faye or Ritchie Ren, by learning the songs for karaoke nights, I was driven to pop culture websites, learnt how to look up words in a Chinese dictionary, learnt new vocabulary and developed a confidence in speaking and listening. So, allowing sometime each week for your students to report back on research into their passion (in Chinese of course) means they will be developing the same skills and more. You can give them tasks if you like such as watch a video, read an article, or write a blog post about the topic- because they care about the topic, this won’t be a homework chore to them.