Let`s Jam the Lessons
Jelena Spasic holds an MA in English Language and Literature and works as an English language teacher in a private foreign languages school “Oxford School” in Leskovac. She deeply believes in continuing professional development and has taken part in numerous conferences, Erasmus+ projects, and seminars. She is a teacher trainer and an author/co-author of several workshops and accredited seminars. In 2020, she was one of the two teachers from Serbia that were chosen for the Fulbright Teachers in Excellence and Achievement Program.
Going online has been quite easy for some teachers and yet very difficult for others. While working online, I used the opportunity to explore and try out different apps that would help me facilitate the interaction among the students and make lessons more interesting. One of the apps which I grew very fond of was Google Jamboard – an app which is part of Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) and can be found there together with the other free apps that Google offers for educators. Jamboard is basically a digital interactive whiteboard which you can use in the actual classroom or when having online classes. It is quite easy to use and offers a wide variety of possibilities – you can use it to share ideas, start discussions, do collaborative tasks, play games, and most of all sparkle your students` creativity and enhance their engagement. All you have to do is create a Jamboard and share it with your students by sending them a link via email or by posting the link in Google classroom (I usually do it like this) or a group that you have with the students. Pay attention to one thing – in order for your students to be able to use a Jamboard, you need to give them the “editing” permission when you create it. From there on, it`s just pure fun for you and your students – you can draw, erase, highlight points, type texts, upload images, annotate, circle, vote, create digital posters and graphic organizers. Here is a list of the top 5 activities I like to do using Jamboard.
When there is a topic I want to discuss with my students, I usually send a link with a blank Jamboard and ask the students to either post sticky notes with the words/phrases that come to their mind or to upload pictures connected with the topic. Also, if we are going to work on a project, we use Jamboard to brainstorm ideas. I`ve used it to let the students introduce themselves by adding images and quotes they like or putting down some personality adjectives that describe them. The possibilities are numerous but one thing is sure – the discussions are quite interesting and fruitful because the students see that everybody is interacting and contributing.
This is an activity which I am quite fond of as it can be adapted and used with various age groups and proficiency levels and for various purposes. So far I have used the images of some possible holiday destinations, then different jobs, means of transport, housing estates, school subjects, and sightseeing places in order to introduce the topic, start the discussion or wrap up the lesson. I create a Jamboard with the above images and share the link with the students. Let`s say we are talking about a favourite holiday destination - the students need to look at the images, think about the question and tick the picture of their choice. Then they need to explain their choice or persuade the others that their choice is the best one and that everybody else should join them on a trip to that destination. The same goes for the sightseeing places or the housing estates, but here in the end they try to “sell” the house of their choice to the other students.
This one is quite easy to create and can be used for various purposes, for example, to put the words under the correct headings, to sort the words according to their function, for categories, matching activities, or for rearranging the points in order to come up with the right definition of the ideas discussed. In one of the classes, we talked about the characteristics of different media. Since we were working on Zoom, I created several Jamboards, put the students into breakout rooms, shared the appropriate link for the Jamboard, and let the students rearrange the sticky notes with the points as they see fit. As the students were working in groups, I was able to check the Jamboards and see what they were doing and how they were progressing with the activity without actually going into the breakout rooms. After 10 minutes, we were all back into the main room and I shared the Jamboards they had been working on allowing time for some discussion to take place since the students came up with different solutions and wanted to justify their opinions.
Don`t you just love “Pictionary”?! I do. And I often use the game with my students. With younger ones, I ask them to draw fruits, objects, jobs, or even the whole sentences and the other teams try to guess what they are drawing. With the older ones, we often draw movies, songs or books, and have a lot of laughs as we admire someone`s drawing and guessing skills. Associations work quite differently for different people, right?! When we are working online, I use Jamboards s in two different ways:
a) I divide students into teams and put them into breakout rooms. Each team gets their own Jamboard, they pick a topic/film/song/book and together draw on the shared Jamboard. When we all get back into the main room, I share the Jamboard the students have created and the other teams guess the film/song/book.
b) I divide students into teams and they have to agree upon one film (song or book) but we all stay in the main room and play on one Jamboard. The first team sends a message in the Zoom chat box with the name of a chosen film to only one member of the second team and that team member has to draw the film while the other members of his team have to guess the film as he is drawing Then the second team sends a message with a film to one member of the third team and so on the game continues.
Finish the story
As I am quite fond of story writing, I often do some activities to encourage students to write. Sometimes I divide students into teams and in breakout rooms they have to write a story about the picture I am sharing on a Jamboard and following the beginning of a story I supplied. They can all use text boxes on Jamboard to write simultaneously and then rearrange the boxes as they find fitting. Or they sometimes write the storylines in the chatbox and one of the students copies the sentences on the Jamboard with the picture. Once again, I don`t have to go into breakout rooms to see what the students are doing, I can just check the Jamboard swhich change as the students work on them. When we get back into the main room, I share the Jamboards and we look at the pictures and read/listen to the stories. Sometimes I put the pictures of different objects on a Jamboard and give the students a situation. Then I ask them to discuss the situation in breakout rooms and come up with the possible story scenarios on the Jamboard I have shared with them. This works particularly nice for crime stories and murder mysteries scenarios.
As I said, going online has been quite easy for some teachers and yet very difficult for the others. Whichever group you belong to I do hope you find these activities useful. And with the double meaning of the word “jam”, I do hope these activities help you spice up and change the pace of your classroom routine and not just make you feel stuck with loads of activities. So, are you ready to jam a bit?
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