Keeping YLs on Task Part One

A guest piece by new(ish) blogger Leahn Stanhope

“Part of the battle of teaching YLs (young learners) is keeping them interested and on task. Here is the first part of a series of activities that I have tried and that have worked for me. Hopefully they will give you some new ideas! If Alex lets me, I would like to share six activities with you! (Six in honour of Lindsay Clandfield, who was not only my Dip tutor but is an inspiration!)

Last week I went to school armed with a brightly coloured photo frame decorated with plastic heart stickers and a plastic toy microphone. In the frame there was a picture of Lionel Messi, a football star here in Spain.

I call this activity simply “The Guest”. Make sure you find out at the beginning of each term who your students like. Ask them who their favourite sports personalities, film stars, TV stars and cartoon characters are. From there you will have a list of names that are very personal to your students. The next thing I do is download pictures of these people from Google images, and every week take in a new picture to class.

In class there are various options to develop the activity. You can either prepare the children by telling them who will be visiting or you can keep it a secret to create that element of surprise. I then nominate one of the children to play the part of “the guest”. The other children then think of at least ten questions to ask. The answers can be real or invented. It isn’t a test of their knowledge of the person, but an opportunity for them to ask and answer questions.

Now if you wanted the children to find out real information about “the guests” you could set them a pre-task where they were given questions to research before the visit e.g. “What’s Hannah Montana’s favourite colour? “ Or you could give the children a follow up reading activity that answers the questions that they asked. The great thing about the Net is that the information can be found relatively easily by using search engines or going to fan club pages.

I love this activity because it really excites the children. They love asking their favourite superstars questions and the element of role-play it involves. They are all awaiting eagerly the arrival of Hannah Montana next week and I have had requests for Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Jackson.

Now on to more serious stuff: I just started using this activity one day, so I was quite happily surprised when surfing the net I found out that there is sort of a theory behind the practice. I was surfing away happily when I stumbled on a copy of a conversation that Jamie Keddie (TEFL Clips) and Mario Rinvolucri (no explanation needed I think!) had some time ago about ‘doubling’ .From what I understood of the conversation, the term ‘doubling’ comes from psychodrama and refers to when one group member goes up behind the protagonist and speaks on the protagonist’s behalf.

OK, TEFL is not psychology but the theory is nice to know. I remembered after reading the conversation between Jamie and Mario that years ago I saw an activity where Mario suggested bringing a worm to class and asking it questions. As I am now working in a CLIL programme I just may give it a try!

Thanks Alex, Jamie and Mario.”

You are very welcome Leahn, and I will most certainly let you (beg you!) to fill my blog up with five more guest pieces. Giving new bloggers a boost is about the only way I stay slightly relevant in my blogging old age, so other guest pieces always gratefully received. Over 100,000 hits on TEFLtastic last month, so some of them could be coming your way…

This entry was posted in Classroom management, Discipline in the classroom, Teaching teenagers, Teaching young learners, TEFL blogs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Keeping YLs on Task Part One

  1. Lovely idea, Leahn. I like the photo frame idea, which I have never thought of. Simple but effective. I was thinking of taking advantage of the Hannah Montana craze myself so I might just copy your idea!
    Last week I had two real guests in my classroom – one of my colleague’s kids came in due to a childcare problem and so I had the children ask them questions as if they were famous celebrities on one of the so popular gossip programmes in Spain. It was very successful, and I think it can be very useful for learners to experience other native speakers, especially those who are not EFL teachers!
    Looking forward to your other five ideas.


  2. HI Leahn!

    Honoured by the name check there, and some really nice ideas. My days of teaching YL are behind me now but your suggestion sounds very original and I can see why your students like it.

    As for “old man blogger” Alex Case you are still as relevant as ever and remain a true pioneer. You’re okay until someone says “Alex Case? Gosh, I thought he was… dead.” (actually someone said this to me the other day about Henry Widdowson.

  3. Leahn says:

    Thanks Michelle and Lindsay,

    Go for it with Hannah Michelle they will love it I’m sure! I find that sometimes the ‘simple’ things turn out to be the best.

    Lindsay you’re very welcome and deserve the honour. I remember you encouraged me to write something a few years back! Took a while but I`m now on a roll.

  4. SandyM says:

    You know what really works with kids, Leahn? It’s fear. Fear of the teacher’s voice, his/her wicked look, even the damned shoes he/she wears. Fill their lives with FEAR and you’ll never have any problems controlling a class of snivelling midgets again!

  5. Leahn says:

    A man after my own heart I fear! I don’t like to use the FEAR FACTOR if I can help it Sandy, but I feel a good ‘look’ should be in all YL teacher’s bag of tricks!!! Have to keep those ‘snivelling midgets’ in place somehow right?

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