A recent article in English Teaching Professional suggested ideas for taking advantage of all four classroom walls using whiteboards. I would like to share some ideas on how I use walls in my classrooms without any additional whiteboards required.
All you need is paper (usually cut-up) and some Blu-tack
Taking strips of paper OFF the wallsThis is a “kinaesthetic” alternative to a vocabulary matching activity. Stick the words on the walls around the classroom and hand out to students (in groups) lists of different definitions. Students have to walk around and take off the walls the words that match their definitions. The activity can also go the other way around: students have a list of words and find definitions on the walls. Instead of definitions you can also supply example sentences - my definitions resemble example sentences, anyway, for example:
When you do not have a steady job you can still earn money by doing ________ jobs (odd)
Round the room clozes / Strips of paper stay ON the wallsSimilar ideas to the ones above can also work without taking things off the walls. Students can be given a page with collocations forks (see related post HERE), walk around the room and find missing key words. Here's just an example - normally you would have at least 10 forks.
The missing words scattered around the room are:
cope with pursue look up skip ruthless subtle
To make it more challenging provide more key words than the forks. In other words, add some "distracters”, for instance:
put forward conscious
For example, I put the adjectives on the walls in Activity C in this series of vocabulary review activities accompanying my annual News Quiz. The distracters added were severe and human.
Besides collocation forks, gap-fill exercises can be done with a word bank scattered around the classroom, like in the activity below:
See description of the whole activity with an online game preceding it HERE
Writing on the wallsIn the previous activities students had to look at the bits of paper on the walls or take them off the walls, but you can also get students to write things. The following activity is adapted from Ken Lackman's activity which he demonstrated at the IATEFL Conference in Harrogate in 2010 and which can be found in his resource book Classroom Games from Corpora.
Students are given a sheet with concordances for a word (usually a noun) taken from corpus - different groups get different concordances. Students scan through the concordances for collocations of the key word and put them into categories.
The categories are decided by the teacher in advance. For example, for the key word WEATHER you can have such categories as:
Write the name of each categories at the top of a large (preferably A3) sheet of paper. Stick the sheets around the room. Each group gets a different coloured marker. They walk around the room and add collocations - adjectives in this case - to appropriate categories:
|Playing categories on the walls|
Sky (clear, cloudy)
Precipitation (rainy, snowy, humid)
Quality (good, nasty, rapidly changing)
Misc. (weather permitting)
Two important rules: students cannot add two examples in a row (this makes them move all the time from one category to another) and they cannot write an example that has already been written. At the end the team with most examples wins.
Note that WEATHER is probably not the best choice of a noun for this kind of activity; it would work better with more abstract nouns, such as job, progress or business. Nevertheless, I've used this as a lead-in into the topic of weather and climate and it has always worked great (most of my students are familiar with corpus and concordances).
Reading on the wallsFinally, you can use the walls to stick various topics for discussion. Students move around the room in pairs and discuss or debate each statement. I usually give them about a minute for each statement / topic before I shout "Switch".
In my teacher training sessions I often post quotes on the walls to stimulate discussion or, simply, for bored audience's glazed eyes to gaze at :) I suppose it's very suggestopedic. Here are some quotes I use in my lexical workshops:
"A lexical mistake often causes misunderstanding, while a grammar mistake rarely does." John Sinclair
“When students travel, they don’t carry grammar books, but dictionaries.” Stephen Krashen
“Over-concentration on learning single words may hinder the development of the L2 phrasal lexicon.” Michael McCarthy
|"Ambient" quotes around the room at my IATEFL 2012 workshop|
Photo by Sandy Millin
Of course, walls are also great for exhibiting students work. For example, you want the whole class to look at what each pair/group has produced – a piece of writing, a letter or a mindmap – you can stick these on the walls and get students to move around and read or look at their classmates’ work. Background music normally helps.
Have you ever done similar activities? Do you use the walls in your classroom? What do you do? I would like to hear your ideas in the comments below.
Thank you to Amanda Caplan for giving me the idea for this post