Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An integrated skills activity for telling the time

just wanted to share a practice teaching activity with you, which I got from one of my former TEFL students, Burcu Abbas. The topic was telling the time and her students were in the 6th grade. This focus of the activity was communicative practice, involving speaking, listening and writing. 

Everyone wore paper watches, walked around the class and asked each other for the time. Then, the students recorded the times that they heard from their friends on their handouts. The handouts had two columns; one column is for names and the other column is for time. Each student completed the activity communicatively.   Burcu took a picture to document the materials she developed for this activity.



This got me to thinking about applying a similar approach but using the smart phone as the prompt.  
I don't like to spend time cutting up paper and preparing such activities, but I like the idea of having a genuine information gap activity in which students have to share information.  The ones that come ready to use at the back of course books aren't usually that interesting or realistic for students.

This made me think of Mystery Skype, which is a 15 minute critical thinking challenge in which one class Skypes with another class somewhere else in the world. The students' goal in each class is to guess the other school's location (country, state, city, school name) before they guess yours. They do this by asking yes and no questions.  Here is a more thorough explanation of Mystery Skype from Skype in the Classroom: https://education.skype.com/mysteryskype/how-it-works 

However, it can take time to find another class and initiate a SKYPE conference. So I thought one could combine Burcu's approach and the idea of the "Mystery Skype" to yield a communicative activity between students in the same class.  It could be as simple as having students use their smart phones to look up the weather in a different city and the time zone. Then, they could circulate and have dialogues to try to determine the county in which their peer's city is located.  They could get the details of their weather and time as a starting point: "What's the weather like there?" and "What time is it now?"  And from that point, they could ask some Yes/No questions to identify the country in which the city is located.

Probably lots of other prompts could be found, e.g., comparing cars, computers, etc. with an appropriate and meaningful task requiring genuine information exchange?

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