The English Classroom

A GUIDE TO IMPROVING STUDENT LITERACY

The Situation

Your students are tired out after long periods of academic work.


The Solution

Research tells us that students need to move if they are going to find any hope of learning and retaining information. Think of your own context for a moment. When you are tired, what do you do?

Pick up the phone. Go to the fridge. Talk to others. Walk outside.

You create your own brain breaks. However in the classroom, we need effective brain breaks that students will engage with. It isn’t enough that we get them to stop talking for a few minutes. No. They need to energise their brain in a different way.There are a great number of brain break activities that you can run with students.

This teacher effectively shows that routines in the classroom are exceptionally important if brain breaks are to work. Students need to move quickly and instructions need to be quick.

Now the above video is for a lower grade. How about middle or senior school students?


Silent Ball

Find an area where you can safely toss a ball around. No one can talk or make a sound – being silent is the aim of the game.

Students throw the ball between each person, without talking. If the ball is dropped, someone talks, or a ‘dodgy throw’, that student is out of the game. The last two players must face off.

You might like to make the game more challenging by telling students to balance on one-leg, or catch with their left hand. Any number of challenges will make the game more interesting.


Would you Rather

Organise the class into a small group and pose a ‘would you rather’ question. Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or fly? Students need to move to choose an option and move to either side of the room. To put an English spin on the game, they need to provide a justification for their answer.

Here is a list of a few favourites:

  • Would you rather lose the ability to read or lose the ability to speak?
  • Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?
  • Would you rather be in jail for a year or lose a year off your life?
  • Would you rather give up all drinks except for water or give up eating anything that was cooked in an oven?

Try to be topical and controversial (within reason) to spark some great discussion!

There are some fantastic examples at Conversation Starter World .


5-4-3-2-1

  1. Students stand behind their chair.
  2. Teacher provides 5 different movements that students need to mimic. For example, “spin around 5 times, hope on your left leg 4 times, do three jumping jacks, walk around the classroom twice and high-five your best friend.”

Plates 

  1. Give each student a paper plate. Each plate has a number on it.
  2. Students need to organise themselves according to the number and your instructions. For example, “Join all the odd numbers together” or “Line up in descending order.”

Sketch a funny drawing

It is as simple as that.

  1. Give students some scrap paper.
  2. Describe to students what they need to draw. For example, “In the bottom left side of the page, draw a house that is the size of a 50 cent coin.” Continue…”To the top write side of the page, draw a seagull that is the size of a 5 cent coin.”
  3. Go into as much detail as possible, but be specific.

Remember to be specific with your instructions. Compare at the end with how accurate each of the drawing is from one another.


Watch a funny video

Sometimes, it is nice just to kick back and watch a video with kids. No curriculum. No learning. Just something fun or interesting that you saw.

“Guys I just want to show you a funny video.” Here are a couple that I love:

It is nice for students to see that you are human.


Logical Line Up

  1. Put a timer on a television screen.
  2. Tell students: “When I start the timer, without talking, not a word, you will stand up and form a line from tallest to shortest (Point to areas in the class). You will have 30 seconds to do it. Go!”
  3. As soon as someone talks or makes a noise, stop them and return them to their desks.
  4. Rally the students that they need to work as part of a team to communicate nonverbally to achieve the task. Offer a reward at the end.

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