Friday, March 29, 2013

Teaching Tip 3- Instagram Missions

Instagram is one of the most active social networks these days. People from all over the world, including celebrities and popular companies, share pictures that get loads of "likes" and  comments every day. So, why not take advantage of its potential to engage students in meaningful communicative activities using a tool in which many of them are already familiar with?
"Instagram Missions" are tasks or challenges in which participants have to post a photo and write a sentence related to a certain topic or theme previously determined by the teacher. When you give your students a mission, you should also provide them with a hashtag (#). When a hashtag is used in the posts, all pictures are grouped together and can be easily found and viewed by anyone who has an account on Instagram. However, it is important to think of a unique hashtag for the post, otherwise lots of other pictures from people who are  not part of the project will appear on screen.
Using Instagram in class is a decision that requires a good deal of pondering because of many issues  that come to the surface when linking social networks to the learning process.  The golden rule is: Is this suitable to my group and is this kind of activity allowed in the school and community where I teach? If the answer is "yes", then there are other things that should be addressed so as to turn it into a successful and effective experience:
1. Do not make it an obligation
At first, some students may feel uncomfortable to participate in the missions because many of them might not even enjoy being in social networks. Let them understand the dynamics of the project and after a while they might choose to participate in them.
2. Let them work in pairs/groups
Some might not have a device and some might not want to be in a social network. Let them work with a partner and explain that they can help their partners with the creative aspects of the posts.
3. Relate missions to lessons in the book
Even though they are using a social network in class it should be clear that the purpose is to complement their learning process with more interesting activities. Never use it only for entertainment.
4. Always model it before
Show students what is expected from their posts. When you model, they know exactly what kind of sentence and image is appropriate for the mission.
5. Remind them that they are in control of the images being used
Sometimes students don`t like to show their faces or reveal much of their private life online. Remind them that they can choose what image will be used, they never need to post pictures of themselves.
6. Do not focus on accuracy only
The purpose of the Instagram Missions is to let students use the target language is a more meaningful way and increase rapport among everyone. It is O.K if students make grammar mistakes in their posts. Never make corrections on Instagram, students might feel intimidated if they are drawn the attention to every little mistake they make. In another opportunity, talk to the students personally and let understand the mistake they made. 
7. Inform parents 
Many parents don`t like to have their children exposed online, so it is always a good idea to inform them on the project and get their authorization. If they understand the nature and dynamics of the missions, it is very likely that they will let their kids engage in the project. Inform them that the account can be private, avoiding other people from viewing the pictures and that they can always have a username that is not connected to their real names.

Here are two examples of ideas I have already tried with my own groups when they were learning the use of Present Continuous for future plans and the relationship between Simple Past and Past Continuous. I asked them to post a picture and  write a sentence using the grammar structured being studied and, in the other situation, I asked them to write the beginning of the sentence and instructed others to finish it.

Once students get fully engaged in the project, the missions can be assigned as homework. This way, students will start practicing the target language and interacting with their classmates outside the classroom. 
Give it a try and discover different ways your students can take advantage of Instagram to practice English in a meaningful and fun way! 

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Activity 22- His and Her Favorites

This activity is aimed at teen basic level students who are learning the use of possessive adjectives. It has been designed  for 1- iPad- only classes!

Level: beginning
Language skills: writing, reading and speaking
Grammar Topic: possessive adjectives

Device needed: a tablet
Number of devices needed:  only one 
Internet connection: off
App: Popplet Lite
Price: free/ $4,99 (Full Version)
Operating System: iOS


Show students the pictures and popples with pre-established topics. Each picture can only have 4 popples, so use different topics for different photos. Suggestions of topics: actor, color, actress, tv show, movie, writer, book, sport, day of the week, month, animal, song, etc.

 Invite volunteers to add information to the popples. When all popples have been filled, show them the finished product and elicit complete sentences using the appropriate possessive adjective. 

HIS favorite tv show is X-Factor.
HIS favorite color is yellow.
HIS favorite actress is Emma Watson.
HIS favorite writer is J.K Rowling. 

1- Project the poppet on the board if the classroom is equipped with a projector and necessary cables.
2- If there is internet connection, let them decide and find which pictures to be used.
3- If there are more iPads in class, students can work on this activity in pairs or small groups.
4- Students can use their own pictures making the activity even more meaningful.

Source: Vinicius Lemos