Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Asking for directions with Sock Puppets

It can be a bit of a struggle to get some older kids/younger teens to look up/at each other when they have a book to hide in!

From this rather static format
Book is safe, and flat on the table = ideal excuse not to establish eye contact...and a great way to continue muttering along in the least interesting tone as possible. How to break into that little comfort zone & get some meaningful production going? First of all, do use the audio available to you from CD or whatever classroom recording you have. It will present a dialogue more naturally than you can (unless you are a trained ventriloquist?) and at the same time expose learners to 'other Englishes'. Read along, figure out the context and get set. One way is to ask your students to do this as a pair. EFL 101, for sure. Nothing wrong with this as a starting point, but come the day when this dialogue might actually happen, chances are the book is not going to be to hand.

I like to change the dynamic of this kind of work and invite the students to self-inflict a challenge; I write up the dialogue on the board (large enough to be read from a distance), colour coding the speakers. Students stand up & pair up, looking at each other. Separation anxiety already from the book (leave open on desks if they need that security blanket!). Using the board, students are already being more natural with body language getting involved (pointing to each other when it's 'their go') & eye contact and moving (remembering which way is left & right!) this board script
Challenge? When groups have navigated though once, invite one to erase 5 words off the board (and replace with a line where the words were). Likely the student erased their partners words more than their own - so of course you ask students to now switch roles and try again. Repeat this process (change partners too) until you run out of words or time; students will not run out of enthusiasm! They realise they are building up a visual memory of the conversation and trying to 'see' it helps...and they also help each other (when usually they wouldn't dare).

Sock Puppets I came across a few years ago now, an iOS app which is great in class, via +Shelly Sanchez Terrell on twitter (@shellterrell). The 30 second limit works in your favour to speed things up even more & have students begging to retry/improve/beat the buzzer! Really recommend trying it out - here are my two 12/13 year olds giving it their best shot...what do you think?