You’re a teacher. You’re in a classroom, and you’re teaching a class. But where do your students think they are? Do some of them feel like they’re in prison, while others are just hanging out with their mates and having fun? Is there anyone who feels like they’re in a courtroom, or that they’re being experimented upon? This is a great activity for helping your students reflect on their experiences of learning English, and also for you to find out what they really think of your classes. It should take around 30 mins. You can try it with high pre-int upwards, and as you’ll see it can easily be extended into all sorts of other activities.
Stage 1: Briefly tell your students about a classroom language learning experience you’ve had. It could be good or bad, but make sure you compare it with something, e.g.: being in the army, being back at primary school, being on trial…put them in pairs and tell them to compare similar experiences. After 3 minutes, gather a couple of experiences, encouraging them to think about what it was like, e.g.: “sounds like being at a party!” or “sounds like a disco!”.
2. Tell your class they’re going to look at some metaphors for learning English (make sure they understand what a metaphor is). Tell them you’re going to start with a memory game: you’re going to show them some photos and you want them to try to remember all the things they see, and then write down all those they can remember.
3. Silently show them this presentation once.
4. On their own, then in pairs, students write down all those they can remember.
5. Show them this and let them write down the ones they missed.
6. Clarify any vocab issues and make sure they’ve all got them written down.
7. Write up on the board:
‘A classroom can be like a ___________ because…’
‘A classroom should be like a ___________ because…’
‘A classroom shouldn’t be like a ___________ because…’
8. Make sure they understand the difference between the three phrases. Give them one example for each. Try to use places which were not in the presentation.
9. Students in pairs write sentences. It works well if they write each one on a post-it note, if you have any. (10 mins)
10. Student stick their sentences up on the wall, walk round reading the others and ticking the ones they like. If they don’t understand one of them, they can seek out the pair who wrote it and ask them what they meant.
HW: If you and they like, they could write a paragraph or short essay on ‘the ideal classroom’, using the ideas they’ve come up with in class.