Friday, October 21, 2011

Paper Airplanes

Today is one of those days when I woke up and just didn't feel like teaching. It could be that I was starting the day with my least favorite class or that I had been kept awake by the grumblings of an upset stomach, but whatever it was, I thought to myself, "I need to show a movie." Unfortunately, I have not yet found or used any of the technology that might be available to me so a movie also seemed like too big of a task. Therefore, I settled for the next best thing...paper airplanes. I drew a target on the board, told the students to make an airplane, and held a paper airplane throwing contest. The prize for the most points was a piece of candy.
Here are the neat things about this type of activity in an EFL classroom. First, the students don't remember what a piece of paper is so they gets lots of vocabulary instruction for that word. Second, in Turkey, many students don't have lose sheets of paper, so we learn words like "share" and "yes, you can recycle the old homework assignment with an F on it." (I hope that's true because we threw a few F's.) Third, the most difficult behaving boys can make great paper airplanes and the smartest, most academic girls have no idea how to make a plane, so we get in some cooperative learning activities. Fourth, this activity works really well because each student only gets to throw their plane if they answer a question correctly. As you can imagine, many of the boys couldn't answer even one question correctly so they seldom got to throw their super-dynamic, pin-point accurate planes. And the girls who answered almost every question correctly earned very few points because their planes didn't fly. Fifth, each student only gets to answer a question if they hear me call their name the first time. That left out a few non-listeners who, by the way, started perking up towards the end when they realized their friends had already had several turns. And finally, this activity was a great assessment activity. It quickly identified those students who know this week's vocabulary and grammar and those who don't.
For you teachers out there, you can see how the bolded words work well in a lesson plan. And, as for my self-evaluation of ways to improve this activity, I think next time I will make boy/girl teams. Maybe the boys can learn the English from the girls, because they are certainly not learning it from me. And maybe the girls will learn that they can be a pilot if they want when they grow up.

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