By Delia Jones Siegenthaler
To start off a new class and to help people to get to know each other my favourites are:
Find someone you don¹t know very well, if possible someone you¹ve never met before. Sit opposite the person and take a good look at them. Now take a piece of paper and a pen and write down the answers to the following questions, without speaking to your partner.
1. What¹s your partner¹s favourite drink?
2. What would your partner like to give up?
3. What¹s she/he afraid of?
4. What nationality would your partner be if she/he had to change his/her nationality?
5. Is your partner a morning or an evening person?
6. What is the month of his/her birthday?
7. What kind of car does he/she drive?
8. What was your partner¹s favourite subject at school?
Now get together, share and discuss together what you have written.
Another activity is the circle of life: You draw a circle on the board and place in it a selection of dates, little pictures or symbols which represent important things in your life (eg, the day you got married, 3 little pinmen to represent your children, a candle to represent your interest in meditation and a flower for gardening, the Japanese flag for two years I spent in Japan etc.) The students have to ask questions and guess what the drawings, dates and symbols represent. I then give them white paper and a pack of coloured felt pens so they can draw their own circle of life and in groups of three the students interpret each other¹s circles and ask questions to find out more.
Another activity is called What¹s in a name? Each student prepares a 5 minute presentation on their name. Why did their parents give it to them? What does it mean? How do they feel about it? Do they have a nickname? If they marry, would they want to keep their name or take the name of their husband? How important is the choice of a name for a child? Would they ever consider changing their name? Etc etc. The students share their presentations in pairs or small groups.
Sometimes I ask students to bring an object into the classroom which they then use as a means of presenting themselves. Someone once brought a bike that they had used to travel round Indonesia on! Another good warm up activity is to bring an object of sentimental value to share with the class and answer the following questions: How did you come to own this object? Why is it of sentimental value? How important for you are objects that represent the past? Why do you think it is important for some people to keep all their letters, postcards, concert tickets and souvenirs?
You can also ask students to bring in a mystery object to class and give one object to each group, who must guess where the object comes from, what it is used for and what it is worth. Some students bring in specialist tools or pieces of equipment that they use for their particular hobby or job. One student brought in a bomb that had exploded during the war in a field where her grandmother was working in Italy and had killed several of her relatives. Her grandmother had found and picked up the shell much later. This kind of thing is a good source of discussion and brings the class closer together.
You can also ask students to bring in the best photo they have ever taken (according to their own criteria) A photo may have tremendous personal value or be of high technical merit. They must present the photo and then say why they think it is the best one they have ever taken. We then discuss the characteristics of a good photo etc.
In fact, I would describe a warm up activity as something which motivates, sparks interest and brings the class close together.
As for beginning study of a language structure, I think carefully about in which context a particular language structure is most used and then I try to use it intensively in a real communicative situation with the class.
Eg. Ann, you told me your sister was getting married in June. Has she bought her wedding dress yet? How about invitations, has she finished the guest list? Has she asked you to coordinate entertainment during the reception? Have you decided what you are going to wear? Have they chosen the menu? When you get married there are so many things you have to do!
This is to introduce (or revise the use of the present perfect with Œyet¹) You can do this before any event (birth of a baby, Christmas....Have you bought a pushchair yet? Have you made the birth announcement cards yet?
Have you chosen a name yet? Xmas: Have you done your Christmas shopping
yet? Have you decided how you are going to celebrate New Year yet? Etc.)
For the past perfect, I do something like this.
Œyou know, next week is my wedding anniversary. I will have been married 15 years.
Time really flies. I remember back in 1989 when my husband asked me to marry me.
I had travelled a lot. I had lived alone . I had had a certain number of boyfriends. I had finished my studies. I had lived abroad. I was ready to settle down.
Our first baby was born in 1984. We had partied a lot with friends. We had spent a year in America together. We had travelled round India on a motorbike. We were ready to become responsible parents.
The students are interested in the content and then once they are motivated, we analyse the use of the present perfect and its function in the context.
It would be interesting to take all the major language items on an intermediate course and think of interesting ways of contextualising them in this way, as a way of introducing them to the students. Perhaps people could contribute their ideas?!
I write a letter to students to illustrate the use of do and make and they read the letter with interest before they realise that it is a practice of when to use do and make in English. I then give them the letter with the words do and make missing.
Dear Class, ________ me a favour, and ________ an effort to be positive! When you _______ a test, don¹t worry if you ________ mistakes! ________ your homework regularly and ________ an appointment to see me if you don¹t understand something. Listen to English cassettes while you are _________ the ironing or _________ the washing-up. __________ labels in English to stick on all your furniture! ________ funny drawings to help you remember English words and expressions. __________ friends with English people on internet, _________ a cake using an English recipe. Always _______ your best and don¹t _________ a fuss when we ________ pronunciation exercises. I won¹t __________ fun of your English if you don¹t _________ fun of my French! Believe me, if you _________ all this, you will ________ progress.
I often use quotations as a warm up activity. I either split quotations, give them out and get students to find the other half of their quotation and discuss how much they agree with the quote, or I write an unfinished quote on the board and get students guessing the end: This warms them to a subject of discussion and captures their attention by exciting their curiosity.
Example: The most important thing in life is..... (knowing what¹s important) High fences make.... (good neighbours)
Hope these ideas are useful and that they haven¹t all been presented many times before. I can¹t remember where I picked them up but they are sometimes my own and sometimes adaptations of other people¹s ideas.