Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Making it fun

There are plenty of ways to keep interest from flagging in the classroom, as Wayne Trotman discovers

101 EFL ACTIVITIES FOR TEACHING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

Hall Houston ITDI TESOL, 2022 ISBN: 9798419082793

Titles concerning resources for classroom practitioners are always welcomed by readers of this section. Who (apart from me) wants to learn more about those heavy tomes on methodology or teacher research, anyway? Actually, according to the feedback I get, quite a lot of people, which is very encouraging. Under review on this occasion, however, is Hall Houston’s latest which, according to one reviewer on the back cover is “a cornucopia of engaging and easy-to-implement activities”. On reflection, how can such reviews appear before the book is even published? Anyway, after looking up the meaning of cornucopia, I began to delve into this title. And in case you’re still wondering, ‘cornu copia’ is the Latin for ‘horn of plenty’. Hmm, let’s see.

At first glance, this is a slender, attractively laid-out title, one running to a modest but easily portable 135 pages. The three sections therein follow the wave tide of the academic year: Getting Off to a Good Start; Maintaining Motivation and Interest, and Ending the Semester Gracefully. Each of these finishes with a brief section on teaching tips. In fact, considering the author’s clearly immense classroom experience, I was surprised at the brevity of some of those tips, but take a look yourself and let me know, maybe. Much more helpful are his comments on recommended books, plus web resources and bibliography which appear at the end. It’s always interesting to read an author’s honest views on other authors’ works.

Hall Houston’s introduction is a refreshing and engaging read, in which he outlines who this book is for, along with its three themes that underpin the activities. The context of the university campus is clearly important, but of more importance, of course, are the dynamics of the group along with its stages of development. The third theme is active learning, defined as those tasks that seek to get students much more engaged during classes. Looking back on my 20 years of teaching university preparatory classes, I could have done with this book much earlier, it would seem.

“I’m not so sure I would adopt the snowball fight icebreaker task”

Part one, Getting off to a Good Start, begins with several motivating tasks to choose from, including learning each others’ names, which is always a good idea. It’s much better, of course, than constantly calling out, “Hey, you! Yes, you, the one with the glasses.” Students at all levels like to know a few interesting facts about their teacher and what better way to do this than via a true-false quiz that is outlined on page 10. I’m not so sure I would adopt the snowball fight icebreaker task that’s recommended on page 18, and which involves rolling up pieces of A4 paper with questions on them and then hurling them at their classmates on the other side of the room. But, hey, apart from those who could well suffer eye injuries, I bet the students would enjoy that one. The final section in this part suggests numerous activities that will enable students to better know their campus and the syllabus. Full marks thus far for this title.

The introduction to the second part, Maintaining Motivation and Interest, contains valuable advice from the author to actually talk to the students and ask their opinions on material the teacher might integrate into mid-semester lessons when energy levels tend to be low and absenteeism on the increase. Many of the activities in this part involve music and movement, which are key factors in the lives of late teenagers.

One that caught my eye was Video Rant on page 58, in which students are videoed while completing sentences such as, “I am sick and tired of …” and thus ranting. As suggested, playing the video back at a later stage will prove fun.

The final part, Ending the Semester Gracefully, involves further motivating tasks concerning reviewing, reflection and leaving final messages. I love the idea of a quiz that pits the teacher versus the class. For many teachers, fun is something that takes place after lessons have finished for the day. But using tasks carefully chosen from this cornucopia, because that’s what it really is, fun should soon be on the weekly menu throughout the academic year.

Wayne Trotman is a teacher educator at Izmir Katip Çelebi University, Izmir, Turkey.

Images courtesy of PHOTO BY PIXABAY and Ron
Wayne Trotman
Wayne Trotman
Wayne is a teacher educator at Izmir Katip Celebi University in Izmir, Turkey. Wayne has been involved in language teaching both in the UK and overseas since 1981. He holds an MSc in TESOL from Aston University and a PhD in ELT and Applied Linguistics from the University of Warwick.
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