Humanising Language Teaching
by Debbie Smith, The British Council, Colombo
Whatever the lesson you have prepared a warmer is a great idea to get your class into the swing of speaking English again after a few day's break. Warmers are particularly important if your students do not speak English in their home or work environment. They are a relaxing, fun way to slip easily back into using the language. It can be hard for learners to snap back into speaking English again just because they have entered a classroom where you are in charge and you say it is time to speak in English. A good warmer can enliven the participants and remind them that it is fun to speak English and that, in fact, they are good at it.
More importantly if you plan your warmers then you can cater for the many different learners in your classroom. Try each week to stimulate one of the intelligences. Go on give it a try!
What do you think you know about me?
Write a list of ten things about yourself on the board some of which are true and some false. You need to ensure that the true ones are as unusual as possible. The students discuss the possible answers in groups and once they have come to a group decision about which are true and which are false the voting begins. In order to stop cheating they need to write their answer on a piece of paper and hold it up when everyone is ready, rather than shout it out.
Start each group on two points. If the team gets one right they get two points. If they get it wrong they get a point deducted. If a team goes below zero points then they are out.
To extend this activity and give it a further language focus and student focus you can get the groups to come up with their own lists. The game is played again but this time the rest of the class guess which member of the group each statement applies to.
What don't you know about me?
Give out two strips of paper to each person in the room. Each person must write one unusual thing about themselves on each piece of paper. Give them a few examples such as: I have flown a jumbo jet or I have a collection of 35 pairs of shoes. When they have finished take back the pieces of paper, mix them up and then give them out again to different people. Students must not take a piece of paper back that has their own statement on. Next they mingle to find out who the statements belong to. Be careful here as students like to just show the pieces of paper to each other asking 'Yours?'. Make them leave the slips of paper on their chair so they have to ask questions in order to find out who they belong to. When everyone has found the owners of the statements they return to their places.
To extend this activity students can then report back the findings to the rest of the group. Did you know that Joe has…? Usually this activity will throw up problems in the use of the Present Perfect for life experience and can be used as an introduction or revision for this tense. More importantly it will get the students interested in each other and usually want to know more.
What would you like to know about me?
A similar activity as the last can be done just changing the tense focus. Give out strips of paper and tell the students it is their chance to find out things about each other and ask questions anonymously.
Each student writes a question on their strip of paper starting 'I would like to know…'. They then fold the paper up and write the recipient's name on the front. Next they shout postman, postman. Yes you guessed it: that's you! You collect the piece of paper and give it to the recipient . They answer the question fold the paper in half and write the originator's name on the front shouting postman, postman. You collect it and deliver it. With a large class it will be difficult to keep up with the delivery and you may want to allot the task to a couple of students instead. It is a good idea to give this job to students who are strongly intrapersonal who may not want to answer questions.
If you collect the pieces of paper at the end, from those who agree, you can analyse the writing mistakes. This can form the basis of a grammar revision lesson or can be the basis of a needs analysis. You can even put together a mistakes page where students try to correct the errors themselves as a class.
Have fun finding out who, in your group, is highly interpersonal!