Thursday, June 14, 2012

Draw the English Language - Task Based Learning Activity and Technology

  One of the skills that can save an ESL/EFL teacher is the ability to draw. Sometimes teachers want to explain a new vocabulary without resorting to translation or perhaps they simply play games with their students who try to guess what teachers drew in order to revise vocabulary and, consequently, make it more memorable.
  The newest sensation in the Tablets' and smartphone's world is and app called Draw Something. Available for iOs devices and Android, this highly addictive game allows you to send drawings for your Facebook friends to guess what you drew. The game is 100% in English, thus not only gamers can exercise their criativity but they can also have their vocabulary tested and increased. And every ESL/EFL teacher knows the importance of building a large and consistent vocabulary repertoire. 
  Being a technology freak, I could not be left behind and joined the Draw Something addiction a couple of weeks ago. But I always thought that there would be a way to include that app into my lessons. I guess I found it:
    Having watched a video promoted by Cambridge in which authors at Iatefl Glasgow were invited to draw the English language and explain why - it crossed my mind that it would be a unique opportunity for students to express how they feel about the learning of the English language and what it actually represented in their lives. Not to mention a nice opportunity to get them to speak!
   Inspired by Dave Dogson's activity on his blog about logos, I created this slideshow with some of the most famous apps our students have certainly been playing and we might not even know. I checked if students were familiar with logos and then played a memory game with the logos. This was importan to get them engaged in the activity and to arise their curiosity on the topic.

   After that we had a little chat about their favorite apps, their objectives, how to play, what was the objective, how much time they usually spend playing them and if they could possibly help them learn/improve their command of the Language in any way. The discussion was a hot one and everyone wanted to share about the apps they use.
   In the sequence, I showed them the Cambridge YouTube video (above-mentioned) and using the principles in Task Based-Learning (TBL) I asked them to get together in small groups and brainstorm what the English Language represented to them, how they would draw it and why.

* I like the principles in TBL since they allow students to practice speaking skills in collaborative tasks. Students have to use language in every step: planning, executing, and presenting. Task Based Learning activities not only strengthens speaking skills but practice specific language points (phrases, verb tenses, etc) for example, teachers can give students a mistery murder case to solve in which they have to use the past tense in order to solve the mistery. It is important, however, to provide students with a solid base of guidelines so there is a structure to be followed and an objective to be achieved.

   Then, they used my iPad to draw the English language and present it to the whole group.

Check what they have produced.

as Giselle Santos (, pointed out on Facebook, this activity can serve as a needs analysis reflection for teachers since it provides them with substantial material for teacher to get to know their students. Great tip!

* Point to consider: an aparent simple app/activity can turn into a powerful practice in the English language. Just give it a try and let you creativity fly!

Question: How would you draw the English Language? 


Giselle Santos said...

Great post, Bruno. I happen to think that Draw Something resembles our daily routine as teachers. As in the game, when preparing our lessons,we have a target which we have to aim at. We cannot take for granted that what we "draw", in the classroom that would be translated as the aim of the lesson, is perceived by everyone the same way. Then comes the moment when more colours can be added, lines can be refined and adjustments can be made. Does that ring a bell? I am sure you find this pretty familiar, right ;)?. Let´s not forget that if you play Draw something, you get better with time and you will be rewarded with new colours or "weapons",let´s call this 'experience' in real life?
Now I ask, what happens if you want to get the extra colours in order to make better drawings? Well, that would work as professional development. We can all get better, it only depends on our own will and efforts.
Having said that, I can imagine how great that experience was for your students. They were able to put into words, and colours all the reasons that might have led them to start studying English. Congrats! Thank you for sharing your post with us =) and for the mention, of course.

Cosmopolitan Soul said...

Just loved the tree and bushes metaphor... fab activity to foster critical thinking skills > well done, Bruno! Raquel de Oliveira (Raquel_EFL)

Bruno Andrade said...

Wise words, Giselle.
I rather enjoyed the analogy you made. I'd go a little further add the erase aspect. I believe that not every class you have to be amazing. You may screw things up from time to time. However, you can always resort to the ereaser tool and create a new drawing/lesson. There's always room for improvement too. Teachers should aim at being the best "drawers" they can - and that search is what builds up our knowledge and consequent development.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

dablog said...

This is superb because it is a case of technology taking us back to the basics: drawing. Before we humans had invented a code of symbols to represent our thoughts and express our ideas, our ancestors used drawings to share their story with others. It is individual and collective at the same time and in the end does not even seem at all "techie".

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