May Digital Teaching Idea Picnic Recap
And we have come to the final event in this series! It's May and the academic year is soon over, so it's time to look at some final lesson ideas that you can use in public education as well as in language schools. These ideas were brought to you by Eszti Szenttornyai.
To tell you the truth, I'm pretty bad at final lessons... It's not because I get super emotional and, consequently, I can't focus on what should be done but because I often forget that it's the end of the course! I usually just concentrate on what's coming next and when I get to the final lesson I realise that this was it, there's no more! I should've done something, we should've done something!
Now, when I'm not this overworked, I usually realise the final lesson is coming but I cannot really think of anything to do. Most of the time we play some games and then everybody leaves. This version is already better, I think, than the previous one because at least students can wind down a little.
But what is actually the purpose of final lessons? It's not just any other lesson after all, or it shouldn't be. Teaching a class is a journey, and we usually spend quite a lot of time and energy on making the beginning of this journey smooth and enjoyable. We bring in get-to-know-you games and play revision games from time to time, but as the year or course is coming to an end, we forget about the importance of preparing to say farewell at the end of the whole journey - saying goodbye is just as important as saying hello. Our students expect it too even if they cannot always put it into words.
So, what can we do then in final lessons? One part is looking back and another is looking forward - what have we achieved and what are we planning to do in the future? Playing games is a very important part of a final lesson but if there's no structure in these games, we don't create a closure and a new opening for our students. In that case, we just played for fun's sake. Let's take a look at Eszti's ideas for looking back and looking ahead.
Using GIFS, emojis, hashtags to revise: This might be for the new generation only, but if adult learners are not so keen on the idea, you can make them use images instead. The idea is that you give a unit or subunit to a group of students, who need to come up with the best visual (GIF, emoji, image) or textual (hashtag) summary of that part. You then collect all the summaries, present them, and ask students to guess which unit/subunit the other groups had in mind and why.
Reflective questions: Students usually like this activity very much because they can reflect on what went well during the course, what they liked and didn't like so much. You can also ask them to reflect on their own performance, like what they did very well or what they could have done differently in preparation, for example.
Alphabet of the year: This is an amazingly low-prep but high return activity. You just create an editable document with the alphabet and let your students find the best words that can summarise their year, starting with each letter of the alphabet. You can, of course, restrict the words they can come up with, but it can be totally up to them as well.
Six-word memoir: This is a highly creative activity, which can result in interesting and funny products. The task is to describe the year with the help of a sentence that's exactly six words long. Because the task is so restricted, students are bound to think a lot and will probably come up with quite enigmatic sentences. Then they can find out what each other's sentences might mean.
Term tic tac toe: It's basically a regular tic tac toe game, but the grid can contain anything from words you've covered during the term, or grammar points, or events that have happened. Students can also put these grids together for each other. In order to win a square, you can think of many options, but the easiest would be to say a correct sentence with that particular word or grammar structure.
Virtual backgrounds: Using virtual backgrounds can be good to get to know each other better but students can also display pictures of what they would like to do in the summer or where they'd like to travel. Once everybody has their backgrounds up, have students ask each other some questions in open class, or if they work better in smaller groups, put them in breakout rooms. Don't forget to make them listen to each other, so ask them to report back to you on who's going to go the farthest or who's going to have the most exciting summer, for example.
Reflective questions: Just as these questions can be used for revision, they can also be good for planning next steps. It's important for students to see that learning is (hopefully) an endless journey and there's always a next step even if the course has come to an end. Also, if they can set new goals and targets, they can continue to improve. Such questions can be: "What would I like to learn next year?", "What do I want to be able to do with this language next?"