I popped in at another Teaching Tip session last Saturday at the TESOL convention. Again, I felt the presenters did a good job sharing useful information within the terribly short period of 20 minutes. Rus Wilson and Jenia Ivanova of the University of Utah presented Five Energizing Activities to Boost Vocabulary Production and Retention.
In some cases, what I appreciated most was not the idea for an activity but rather the manner in which it was executed. For example, I’ve heard and read many variations on how to use fill-in-the-blank sentences in the classroom. Rus and Jenia gave simple and practical advice: Place students in small groups. Show one statement to the class and ask them to write the answer on a slip of paper. One member from each group must place the paper on a central desk. This competitive yet orderly process of submission ensures that the teacher won’t have to play referee and make a call about whose answer was given first, as is often the case when students raise their hands and/ or shout out the answer. (The writing also reinforces the spelling, I must add.)
I also liked the recommendation for using popular songs. Kudos to Jenia and Rus for finding a practical and effective way to conduct a very fun activity. They placed students in small groups and gave sufficient prompts and support for each group to write lyrics to a popular tune, from Happy Birthday to Yankee Doodle. The small groups then performed their songs for the class. The key was to provide topics with small sets of vocabulary words along with a choice of music. For example, under the heading Natural Disasters were the recommended words imminent, ominous, perish, and jeopardize. Allowing some freedom but limiting choices meant that students had room to be creative without getting lost in decision-making. The video clips of actual student performances proved how collaborative the project was and how meaningful and memorable the songs were.
Jenia and Rus are sharing their presentation on Slideshare.