I’ve been working on a project in Southern India which has loads of observations of classrooms and student-led clubs at schools. Particularly at the clubs, I’m often asked to address the students and perhaps even teach them, which is something I’m loathe to do. The children are lovely but I don’t want eat into their club time with speechifying when the focus ought to be on student-led activities. Their teachers, however, are relentless. To satisfy everyone (me included), I’ve come up with an activity that works with well with students whose proficiency in English might be at varying levels, instantly engages them, subtly promotes thinking, and doesn’t take up much time.
Encourage children to develop an awareness of words of how they perceive words in both L1 and L2.
- Ask the children if they like learning English (don’t worry, you’re not setting yourself up to fail. I’ve been to dozens of schools and I haven’t heard a no yet).
- Ask them to think of their favourite word in English.
- Get them to whisper it to their neighbour. Mime or give instructions in L1 to make sure they understand what to do.
- Nominate students to share their favourite words.
- Summarize by pointing out any patterns (a lot of you like adjectives or words about nature etc.).
- Ask students to work in pairs and guess what your favourite word in their mother tongue is.
- Nominate students to share guesses and reveal your favourite word.
- Explain to the students why you like the word.
- Ask the students to select their favourite word in their mother tongue and explain to their partner why it’s their favourite.
- Ask the students if they can guess what your favourite English word is (I usually say I have three – please, sorry & thanks) and then ask them why these might be your favourite.
- I ask the children to then run the same activity with their parents when they go home.
If you run this activity with your learners, let me know how it goes. I’d be particularly interested in how adult learners respond to it.