{November 12, 2008}   End-of-Year is Here!

Classes in Argentina are finishing in a month approximately.
Are you preparing something special for those last classes? Do you need to prepare an end-of-year presentation?

A great end of the year activity is to put on a little play on a topic chosen by the students. Last year, the institute where I work organized an end-of-year musical party. My 1st Children (1st level) students decided they wanted to recreate a choreography for “Do, Re, Mi”, the well known song from the Sound of Music.

This 2008 end-of-year situation is really special for me and I decided to prepare something special for my students. I don’t like very much to work on the language itself during the last classes, relying mostly on context based or game-like activities.

One great idea I got from this site is to create a class magazine or newspaper.
In this case, 8th grade students will choose a topic each and write a short text about it. They will create comics, riddles and crosswords too! Then, after checking students’ productions, we type everything up and we get a printed version of the newspaper. We generally charge a minimum of $ 0.25 for each copy of the newspaper (to account for paper and copy expenses)

For 9th grade students, as they are finishing a level of studies, I thought that they could write their autobiopgraphies.
Writing 5-8 sentences, they will have to leave a message for younger students at school. These autobiographies will be part of a Book of Class Record, made up with pictures and activities (For instance, when working on comparatives and superlatives I devised a nice activity where students had to choose the “most” student – “the one with the nicest smile, the fastest runner, the tallest, etc- and they had to draw a picture of each of the chosen classmates) collected throughout the year.
Students will design the cover of the book for one of their mates (chosen at random!) Each student will get one copy of this the day of their graduation.

The most difficult group to choose a final activity is 7th grade. They knew almost no English at the beginning of the year, and they had difficulties in most subjects.
So, what I think will be really funny, is to make them feel they are professional writers. I will take a bunch of binded sheets of legal size papers, with a cover reading “Yeah! I survived 7th Year! Read to see HOW“.
Each student will be asked to write a sentence on how the year went for them. When it’s finished, we’ll read each sentence and reflect on what we did this year.

Basing on what is proposed here I decided to prepare a last-class picnic for my 1st Children students, where they will receive a diploma and a beautiful card with a poem:

My 4th Grade students will work on a Teacher Report Card, where they will be the teachers for one hour, and I will be their student. I will tell them that I would like to see what they think about me, so children next year can have a teacher that improved her practices thanks to other students.  Then, I will provide my version of what a teacher’s report card would look like (I’m trying to upload it!) and I’ll tell them they have to grade me and that they can leave a message for me, either in English or in Spanish.

What do you think about my choice of activities? Would you work with them the same way? What would you change? Would you like to share your end-of-year classroom ideas? Comment down here.


This last month was terrible for my annual plannification. At the institute I work, there were parties, movie watching classes and now, today, there is a Nations Fair.

It’s not that I don’t like taking part in this kind of events, but just by looking at the calendar, I’m starting to go crazy. We have 5 weeks left and I still have to introduce one more topic, make the corresponding final exam practice and, if there’s nothing new to add, by December 17th my little chickens will learn to fly.

What is the problem? I asked if we could choose whether to participate or not, and I was told it was compulsory. Not only had I worked more hours at home than expected (preparing leaflets, some snacks for visitors) but I also had to make parents work at home preparing material with their children. In my opinion, it’s really nice to participate in such events, but, thinking about it twice, I would add:

*It’s not the time of the year for such an event – guys, I don’t work just there, I’ve got tons of work to do from everywhere (and the other teachers too).

*What’s the point of having students investigate about a NON English speaking country (not my case) when they go to an institute to learn English? Having such an amount of English Speaking countries in the world… why do we have to choose countries only from America?

*The idea of this fair was a copy of what other institute did last year. I know that people are not that original, but I’ve got to thank them not to tell us about the fair two weeks before the event, like they did last year with the end of the year rehearsal (Oh, yeah, I went crazy then).

*This kind of events should be organized from the very beginning of the year, by the headmistress/headmaster of the institution and they should be in charge of all extra work, to avoid overwhelming teachers with extra work they have not time to do. It’s just that I could hardly sleep 5 hours a day this last week to avoid leaving things unprepared. And being tired all day long is not what I want. I want to enjoy my classes.

So, now, as I have some more minutes to spare, I take a deep breath and think if I prepared everything:
-work for those children who were last week – ready
-thank you notes for visitors – ready
-snacks – ready
-big book (oh, my kids did such a nice work!!) – ready
-videos – ready

I guess I’m ready for the event of the day.

*”the pig and the twenty” refers to an Argentinian proverb (“la chancha, los veinte y la máquina de hacer chorizos”) where it’s stated that someone wants everything without effort or money.

{November 4, 2008}   The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I simply love this story! Today, I worked with my little kids group with this story. I had the opportunity of preparing a set of activities related to the story (picking some up from here and there, of course, not all are mine!) and the children were delighted with the story.

Why did I choose it? Just because I wanted to introduce the last two units of the year in a different way.

{October 14, 2008}   Working on Values Campaign

Longman launched a very nice campaign to work with kids and teens. Next 15th October winners will be published.

It was a very rewarding experience to work again with the materials provided and with the ideas the kids had. Project work, as said before in this blog, is really nice if you know what you want as a final product.

My little students worked really hard for this campaign, so after winners are published, I’m going to post here the pictures I took to my kids’ posters.

(The pictures are not good, I’m telling you :P)

EDIT: At last winners were published, and so, I’m sharing with you the great work my children did!

Great job kids!

{April 5, 2008}   Project work with teenagers

Lynn Gallacher, British Council, Spain

Project work is becoming an increasingly popular feature within the ELT classroom. Common projects are class magazines, group wall displays about students’ countries and designs for cities of the future. A project involves students in deciding together what they want to do to complete a project whilst the teacher plays a more supporting role.

Some advantages of project work are:

  • Increased motivation – learners become personally involved in the project.
  • All four skills, reading, writing, listening and speaking, are integrated.
  • Autonomous learning is promoted as learners become more responsible for their own learning.
  • There are learning outcomes -learners have an end product.
  • Authentic tasks and therefore the language input are more authentic.
  • Interpersonal relations are developed through working as a group.
  • Content and methodology can be decided between the learners and the teacher and within the group themselves so it is more learner centred.
  • Learners often get help from parents for project work thus involving the parent more in the child’s learning. If the project is also displayed parents can see it at open days or when they pick the child up from the school.
  • A break from routine and the chance to do something different.
  • A context is established which balances the need for fluency and accuracy.
    Haines (1989)

Planning the project

  • Opening
    To give learners an idea of what projects are and what they should be aiming to produce, it is good to have examples of past projects: a photocopy of a previous group newspaper or a photograph of a wall display.
  • Proposing
    After explaining the idea behind the project I ask learners to propose a scheme of work:

    • What they want to include in the project
    • What form it will take
    • Who will be responsible for what
    • An idea of the time it will take to produce each part of the project
    • Any material or resources they might need

    I would then sit down with each group for 10 minutes to discuss their proposals (a copy of which both I and the learner would keep to refer to as the project develops). At this point the evaluation procedures would also be explained.

  • Time
    Allocate an agreed amount of time for the project. For a summer 60 hour course of 3 hours a day I would dedicate 5 hours to project work so approx. 6 sessions of 45 minutes each with a round up session at the end. I would also have the sessions on the same day each week – Wednesday, and Friday, for example, so learners know to bring materials to class on that day.
  • Space
    Show the learners the space they will have for the project, it could be wall space or a corner of the classroom, so they have some idea how much material they should produce and can plan the layout.
  • Materials and resources
    Provide the learners with materials they might need: card, scissors glue, paper etc. It is fairly common now for learners to want to use the Internet to find information for their projects. Encourage a keen student with Internet to do this at home! If there is time and Internet available in the school make sure the students have informed you of exactly what they’re looking for – photos- or that they have prepared a list of information they want to find. Simply giving the learners time on the computers can lead to them aimlessly surfing the net. If the facility is available learners often like to write finished drafts of their work on the computer.
  • Presentation
    Projects need to be seen, read and admired so schedule the last project session as a presentation. Ask the group to prepare a task for the others in the class to do connected to the project: it could be a quiz with questions for a wall display, a crossword using vocabulary for the project or comprehension questions for a video that learners have made.
  • Evaluation
    As with any piece of work a project needs to be acknowledged and evaluated. It’s not enough to just say ‘that’s great’ after all the work learners have put in. I use a simple project evaluation report, which comments on aspects of the project such as content, design, language work and also evaluates the oral presentation stage of the project.

Some possible drawbacks to project work

  • Learners using their own language
    If the class are monolingual they may use their L1 a lot (it often happens anyway in YL classes) so you should decide whether the benefits of doing project work outweigh this factor.
  • Some learners doing nothing
    By giving more freedom to the learners you may also be giving them the freedom to do nothing! If the project is planned carefully and roles decided at the proposal stage this is less likely to happen.
  • Groups working at different speeds
    One group may have ‘finished’ the project after a couple of hours and say they have nothing to do. Remind them it is their responsibility to fill the time allocated to project work and discuss ways they could extend the work they have already completed.

Examples of project work

  • A project based on readers
    At a summer school I worked in learners were encouraged to have a reader during the month course. This is not always a popular requirement so I decided to have the learners use the readers in a way they might find motivating.

    • First I chose 4 different readers that had also been made into films – The Full Monty, The Client, Dracula, Mosquito Coast. Each group were given copies of their reader.
    • The learners were then given free reign to do whatever they liked as long as it was somehow connected to the reader.
    • Examples of the work produced were:
      • Summaries of the story.
      • Crosswords / word searches of vocabulary from the story.
      • Reviews of the book.
      • Information found about the history of Dracula.
      • Filmed scene from the book.
      • Presentation of a clip from the film of the book compared to a scene in the book.
      • Biographies and photos of actors from the film.
  • Music Project
    If your class loves songs this could be a motivating project.

      • Make a CD Cover.
      • Invent the band and the names and biographies of the band members.
      • Video an interview with the band.
      • Record a song. (Students often borrowed the music and wrote their own lyrics)
      • Write gig reviews.
      • Photo shoot of the band.
      • Design a poster advertising gigs.

There are also many other ideas but I hope this shows the variety of work which can be produced.

Haines S (1989) Projects for the EFL classroom
London: Nelson
Further Reading
Phillips D, S Burwood & H Dunford (1999) Projects with Young Learners Oxford: OUP
Fried-Booth D (1986) Project Work Oxford: OUP
Wicks. M (2000) Imaginative Projects: CUP

et cetera