Sunday, March 17, 2013


One of my favorite speaking class activities is making a life events timeline.

"Make a timeline of your life," I tell my students, "that includes the five most interesting, important events in your life. You have fifteen minutes: don't write your name on it until later!"

Fifteen minutes later I collect the timelines, number them, and tape them on the wall, sans names. Students have to read each other's timelines, ask questions, and figure out whose is whose. Then, when everyone's figured it out, names are written and I can give the kiddos credit for in-class participation.

It's a great activity for the first day or so of a conversation class. It's fun, low-pressure, and gives the students a chance to write and read before speaking. When they do speak, they have someone else's grammar from which to construct questions. It requires all sorts of students to speak to each other and it's a get-to-know you. On the teacher side of things,  I find out who can use the past tense reliably and who can't. Moreover, I learn about important events in my students' lives, helping me connect students to their English names.

It's also helpful with giving me perspective into the interesting, important events of my students' lives:

I worry about sex education in this country, but I'm happy at least that her
brother made the same list as her smart phone.

I enter the Kosin University: COURAGE.

I don't know what sick (or sike) tongue is, but I think the squiggles underneath are supposed to signify something pretty traumatic. 

This girl talks about her puppy in every class. And I have her four times a week. What's the Korean expression for "Please expand your vocabulary"?

Pictures are always appreciated, students. Always.

Sometimes I think my students don't realize English is a real language and that people will understand them when they speak it. 

Jason is okay now! Don't worry!

Ah yes. And there I am - right up there with new puppies, smart phones, and playing table tennis. YES.

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