Last week on this blog I posted a challenge for teachers called the Wandrous Whiteboard, where learners are invited at the start of the lesson (without any sort of specific prompting) to write whatever they like on the whiteboard, with these snippets basically then becoming the impetus for some simple classroom discussions and then follow up language development and expansion.
Then, a little later in the week, I presented some creative ideas for unplugged language teaching based on examples of layout and activity types from Lindsay Clandfield's new series Global. One of them was the idea of presenting wave or breeze-like lines on the whiteboard for students to write within.
Today I put those two ideas together, and Clandfield's "Global Wave" met my "Wandrous Whiteboard".
You can see how the whiteboard ended up looking in the image above. The first contribution was from a brave Russian lady who walked up to the whiteboard and wrote I don't understand what does it means (as in this weird whiteboard activity, of course!).
The close-up below might give you a better indication of some of the contributions from other students as the marker was passed around:
The basic approach?
Once everyone's contributions are on the board, we go through them in turn, ask the learners why they wrote them, what they mean, and have a short discussion involving the whole class (sometimes in pairs or small groups) based on what the statements allude to and what it could mean for them. Following each discussion, we explore some language corrections (if/when necessary) and look at ways to expand into new language and/or generate some simple rules and patterns. (In the picture at the top of this post, you can see some room left to the right of the waves, which is where follow up language for each initial contribution was explored, in turn.) There is also some focus on pronunciation at word and sentence level.
With seventeen students in the class today, that initial wavy wandrous whiteboard kept us engaged and busy for more than two hours!
And yes, this is most definitely one (of many, of course) ways to facilitate and apply unplugged language teaching.