Sunday, January 6, 2019

Holiday Memories & Language Lessons: Part 1 (Landmarks & Historical Places)

Hello teachers! How's 2019 been treating you so far? I'm sure things are starting to get busy, and memories from our December holidays are gradually sinking into oblivion and fading away. But they needn't be! Have you ever thought about sharing your holiday fun experiences with your students?

I know many of my friends have been visiting some exciting places during the holidays. And I'm very sure that many of them have taken lots of pictures, maybe even some videos. I have some ideas on how we can use our holiday pictures and videos to make interesting language lesson activities. Instead of assigning the usual 'write what you did during the holidays essay' to your students, why not do something different by first sharing with the students what we did during the holidays?

The reason why I believe this would work is because I always find that students are more interested in a stimulus if they know that it comes from something personal, from 'real-life' experiences. My students love personal stories more than something that I grab from the textbook. More than that, I find that students are more excited and motivated to share their own experiences if I'm the one who start the ball rolling.

I'm sharing here some examples from my previous posts on how I 'spiced up' otherwise 'ordinary' lessons simply by using stimuli from the students' lives or my own life and surroundings:

A Trip to the Beach: Using Story Mountain to Teach Narrative Writing
Guitar versus Ukulele: Teaching Students to Express Opinions

Okay, now let's get back to this post. I've decided to make this a series of posts, that I'll divide into three parts:

Part 1: Landmarks & Historical Places
Part 2: People & Culture
Part 3: Landscapes & Sceneries

Maybe you've visited some famous landmarks or historical places during the holidays. If you've taken  some snapshots or videos of the places, you can use them to make your language lessons more interesting. In this post (Part 1), I'll share a sample lesson using a video clip and a picture of a famous landmark.

The Corpus Clock

The Corpus Clock is a famous landmark in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Here's a video that I've taken:

Here's a link to a slightly better-quality version on YouTube: Corpus Clock on YouTube

And here's a snapshot:

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on the Corpus Clock: The Corpus Clock

Suggested lesson activities

Listening & speaking
1. Show the video and the picture and talk about it. Ask the students what they see. Ask them what they think it is. Talk about the shape, colour, appearance (e.g. old, shiny, strange etc.).
2. Introduce the word 'landmark'. Talk about the meaning of the word. Give some examples. E.g. local landmarks that students are familiar with
3. Dictation: read the Wikipedia article aloud and ask students to write what they hear (the text can be simplified for less advanced students). Variation: Dictation + gap-filling activity. Students listen to teacher reading the text and fill in the missing words. This can be followed by some vocabulary work.
4. Ask questions about the Corpus Clock based on the article.

1. Read the Wikipedia article and ask questions based on it. For less advanced students, the text can be simplified.
2. Ask students to read the article and create questions based on it. This can be done as a group work. Each group posts the questions on the board / writes them on a piece of mahjong paper. Do gallery walk. Each group provides the answers to other groups' questions - they can write their answers on post-its and paste them on the board / mahjong paper. The answers can then be compared and discussed with the whole class.
3. Jigsaw reading: provide sections of the articles to different groups. Each group explains what they have read to other groups.
4. Get students to find information about other famous landmarks (overseas or local) from the library or the Internet. This can be done either as an individual task or a group work. Ask the students to share what they find with the class.

1. Students write a description of the Corpus Clock, based on what they see and read.
2. Students write a comparison between the Corpus Clock with another landmark, e.g. the location, the appearance, which one they prefer to visit and why etc.
3. Students create an imaginary landmark - make a drawing of the landmark, write an imaginary description and history of the landmark they have created.

Extended activity (enrichment)

When I visited Harrogate a few years ago, I had the chance to join a coach tour to Castle Howard at York, Yorkshire. My group was accompanied by a fantastic tour guide providing explanations as we walked around the different parts of the castle. I asked for permission to record the tour on my video-cam, and the guide permitted as long as her face wasn't in the video. What resulted was a very nice documentary-like video where I captured the different sections of the castle with the voice of the tour guide on the background.

I brought the video to my classroom upon my return and my students were delighted. I used the video in one of the listening tasks that I gave the students. I played the video and asked the students to write what they heard. I have unfortunately lost the video :( But if you have taken a video like that during your holidays, you can do the same activity if you like.

Another enrichment activity that can be done for more advanced students is an activity that I would call the Tour Guide Project:

1. Get students into small groups of four or five. Ask the group to choose a place / room / building in the school as their 'landmark.'
2. The group work together to create a tour guide script for their 'landmark'.
3. Groups take turn to bring the rest of the class (who play the role as 'tourists') to their 'landmarks', and describe the 'landmarks' as a tour guide would. The 'tourists' can ask the 'tour guides' questions about the 'landmarks'.

If you have recorded a tour guide video during your travel, you can show it to your students to give them an example and inspiration. If you don't have any, there are some videos on YouTube that you can use. I have found some that I quite like, and I'm sharing them here with you:

You can find a lot others on YouTube. Just type 'tour guide' in the search box and browse away! :)

Till the next post!

Okay, I think that's all for now. If you like, you can share your feedback, or your own lesson ideas in the comment box below.

See you in the next post, and happy teaching! -ccj

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