I posted earlier this week about the Wizard English Grid and portrayed it as being one of the most effective paper-based resources for teaching I have ever experienced. The fact I included a completely blank grid there seemed to provoke a lot of interest through emails to me and some comments on Twitter!
Well, as promised, here is an explanation about one of the many applications I use the Wizard English Grid for. This one is called "Finding Out". It's very simple to set up and use (using the general grid template I made available here), with the basic aim of it being a place to write down communicative prompts and then gather answer information from other classmates.
To set this up, all you need is a communicative theme (in my example above, the topical theme is "weekend" - which we write into the title box above the grid). You then ask students to rule or trace the left vertical line (with a pencil, marker, whatever) and top horizontal line to create a row of classmate names and a column of questions to ask.
Basically, students go around and ask the questions to three classmates, and jot down notes to help them recall the responses. Note you could also do this differently by turning the grid horizontally and having three questions for up to four classmates.
Of course, out of this basic application a lot of variations can arise, and then this really comes down to teaching methods and techniques.
Let's start with the topic and question generation:
- You could provide the topic and questions for the class and then have them go about gathering responses for them (good for lower levels or introductory classes where students may be too shy to get started well on their own);
- You could provide the general topic, and then brainstorm some appropriate questions to ask with the whole class;
- Students could select the topic as a class, then make their own questions to ask;
- Students select their own topic, and create questions in an ongoing fashion (that is, once one question is finished, they decide what new question to add, and whether to ask different follow up questions for different people);
- The questions column is left out entirely and replaced with a fourth classmate answer column (students then have to think of the questions on the spot - or else try to remember them in advance);
- The question and answer slots are not filled out until after all the actual communication has taken place (meaning questions and answers need to be recalled - may require follow up questions and reminders amongst students, which is great in itself for further communication and language application!).
You may notice that these variations proceed from heavily scaffolded and preset to freer, open, more communicative applications encouraging more variation and fluency!
You can also generate discussion questions from reading or listening texts (or audio visual material), or even focus specifically on questions designed to promote different kinds of grammar or vocabulary (though the latter is my least favourite application of something like this - the communicative discussion based applications are much more appropriate and enjoyable).
I've also used this with students through phone calls and in live chat rooms as a homework activity. Through either text or voice chatting, students complete their grids outside the parameters of the classroom and then bring them in for follow up reporting and discussion in class.
Potential follow up to the note-taking:
- Students use the notes to give a quick oral report to the rest of the class about one or more of the classmates they spoke to;
- Students re-write the notes as complete sentences, perhaps incorporating past tenses and/or reported speech devices (this could be done on a new blank Wizard English Grid - perhaps a duplicate version on the back so students have to continually flip back and forth as they re-write their notes);
- Students use the notes to write up a quick report about the communication that took place, with either different classmates or particular questions becoming good paragraph parameters, also facilitating transition and cohesive devices in their writing (from example above: I asked my friends about their weekend. Kylie said she had a good weekend Steve's weekend wasn't bad. Ruby, however, said she had a wonderful weekend! OR First of all, I spoke to Kylie about her weekend. She said she had a good weekend, but she didn't do anything special. She just relaxed. Her idea of a perfect weekend is to stay inside and sleep all day, without any phone calls! She said she doesn't know what's happening for her next weekend.);
- Students use the findings to write a response about how their classmates are like or unlike themselves in their actions or preferences;
- Students use the notes to present oral riddles to the rest of the class (for example: Who is this person? His weekend wasn't bad. He went out for dinner. His perfect weekend is to go to the beach and go snorkelling. He has a family get-together happening next weekend...)
And there are of course almost limitless more possibilities, in both question and answer application and follow up applications! And don't forget the opportunity to insert useful phrases into the actual communication process (e.g. Excuse me, can I ask you a question? I didn't hear that... could you repeat it? Sorry? Would you mind spelling that for me? Got a question for me?).
I've written previously about the "Finding Out" activity on my website, but this is the new and simplified explanation!
The great thing about it is that it can be really quickly and easily set up using the Wizard English Grid, and repeated application can get real results in classrooms that have problems getting going with interactive speaking.
And yes, many MANY more practical applications of the magical Wizard English Grid are coming!