It is sometimes challenging to get students to practice key structures and use their creativity in meaningful ways. This month Anna Musielak, a highly experienced Polish teacher and teacher trainer, shares her ideas with us on how to use alien ‘visitors’ in class to inspire students’ imagination and to provide meaningful language practice.
I love teaching kids – it’s tough but so rewarding. Children are not afraid to make fools of themselves. They love fun and they love goofing around, and if they can do it on an English lesson…they are more than happy to attend. What’s more, if our young learners treat English with pleasure, as if their hobby, the process of learning comes naturally and the new material is acquired quicker.
The friendly alien
Some time ago I did a lesson with my 10-12 year-olds that we called “Welcome to Earth“. The idea was very simple – every student got a finger puppet (I have various ones: animals, professions, fairy tale creatures) and had a couple of minutes (depending on the level) to think the story behind this character, all the time using really easy constructions (name, hobby, age, address, likes and dislikes, family, favourite food etc). I have to add here that I really LOVE my finger puppets, they are my trustworthy props not only when I teach kids but also adults. More importantly, they are light and don’t take up too much space. I have a whole collection – some are even handmade.
My daughter modeling some of our finger puppets
Students prepared their stories and I explained that I was the alien from out of space (a friendly and knowledge- thirsty one) and wanted to learn everything about the new planet and its inhabitants.
Students were supposed to say something about themselves (they were in their roles of course). I was very inquisitive and had no idea what a pen / table / window / elephant / ballerina etc. were. When I was finally satisfied with their answers, it was my turn to be interviewed. They asked about my planet, its inhabitants and their customs (all the time using simple English: What’s your name? Where do you live? What is your mum’s name? Do you like…? What’s your hobby? Can you fly? etc.). I tried to make up crazy and fun answers to surprise them and encourage them to keep asking questions. And of course, I was wearing antennae and alien’s mask (for those not willing to dress up – you can just put a tag/sticker saying that you are an alien).
Me in the role
Later on, as a follow up task, we made some (old school) posters using paper, glue, stickers, drawings, magazine cut outs, markers and lots of glitter (both girls and boys loved that – we had some girly pink stuff and some manly black glitter). Students were divided into groups – “the animals” made one poster, “the working people” another one, “the fairy tale creatures” a different one. The posters were supposed to encourage aliens to come and live on Earth.
We had various works – some posters were about hobbies, favourite food, important events, some about animals and their habitats, and some about “magic” creatures and fairy tales. My students really liked that idea, so a lot of the following lessons were centered around “the friendly alien” topic. We wrote emails, designed alien costumes, created the alien’s family, sent party invitations out and so on. It became the main theme of our English lessons.
Look closer – did you know that twist is not for old people?
This article first appeared on Reflections of a Teacher and Learner.