One concept – many ways…
I recently attended IHTOC3. The International House Teachers’ Online Conference. A biannual event and the third of its kind since it’s inception – organised by IHWO superstars Neil McMahon and Shaun Wilden. This time around it was available and free for all (not just IH staff) and we were treated to two full days of fantastic sessions including a closing plenary from the fabulous Jeremy Harmer.
As well as thoroughly enjoying being a participant, on the Saturday I moderated one of the sessions, and on the Friday I gave my own session on Social Media and YL.
Something interesting happened during a number of sessions. Something almost as interesting as the (very exciting) launch of ‘MY Words’, the new IHWO App for students (check it out, seriously, check it out, it’s very cool). Participants picked up on certain words, got quite excited about them, and just ran with it. For example, during Shaun Wilden‘s (great) session, we all loved and got carried away over the word chimping (who doesn’t love a word that is new and sounds silly?) and during my session many commented on my use of the word ubiquitous when describing social media. At first I was taken aback as I thought the word itself was ubiquitous and didn’t get why it was singled out. After all, it’s not new or funny like ‘chimping’? But then I remembered the concept of ‘favourite words’.
We all have favourite words don’t we? Words that sound funny, sound nice, mean something nice, or just look good on paper. I’ve always like the words ‘fabulous’ and ‘splendid’, as to me, the word fabulous sounds fabulous when you say it and the word splendid sounds splendid when you say it. I also have words I hate. Crisps. Eww! I hate saying it. I hate hearing it. I hate the way it looks on paper. I much prefer the Aussie ‘chips’.
Every year I do a Vocabulary workshop for new teachers at IH Prague. At the beginning of the workshop I ask the teachers to write down their favourite word on a slip of paper (an idea I got from Shaun Wilden many years ago). I then use those words to demonstrate a whole range of vocabulary activities and games to use in class. Every year it’s fun. But 2 years ago was the best. 2 years ago the favourite word belonging to one of the teachers was new to many of us. It sounded funny, it had an explanation that made many of us blush, and it was promptly followed by an array of interesting uses, conjugations and jokes etc. Participants couldn’t get enough of using this ‘funny & new’ word. In fact, many of the teachers still joke and laugh about it. (The word was clunge – thank you, your awesomess, aka Perran).
Since words are so ubiquitous and so much fun, I’ve decided to write a post for you to chimp around, with some basic ideas for every age group to help us take advantage of our fascination with words.
Favourite word (4-8)
Get each learner to choose their favourite English word.
Choose a simple nursery Rhyme e.g. Baa Baa Black Sheep or London Bridge
Children sing the song repeating the ‘favourite word’ throughout. I once had a 7 yr old who loved the word ‘hat’ he loved saying it over and over and loved drawing hats on everything. Any team games he wanted the team name ‘hat’ or ‘Mr hat’.
So his song would be…
(To the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep)
Hat Hat Hat Hat hat-hat-hat-hat HAT! Hat-Hat Hat-Hat Hat Hat HAT!
Mine might be…
Fabulous Fabulous Fabu fabu fabulous, fabulous fabulous fab fab fabulous!
The whole class sings each song, then the next child’s song and the next until each child’s word song has been sung.
WHY? The children will like the repetition, they’ll like to hear their own song, it’s a nice way to experiment with the sounds of English, it’s fun and most of all it’s silly! and who doesn’t love silly?
Favourite word (6-10)
This age group is more likely to understand the concept of having a favourite word, but might be lacking the linguistic knowledge and skills to use it. This age group generally love drawing and being creative, so why not utilize that.
Get the students to ‘draw’ their favourite word. They can make big posters using decorative lettering or pictures (e.g. use drawings of snakes to letter the word snakes) or they can draw pictures around the word. They could even write their favourite word over and over again to make a picture.
Students can give presentations about their favourite word. They can ‘teach’ the class their word – pronunciation, spelling etc. You could have a spelling bee with all the favourite words?
Encourage other students to use the ‘favourite words’ when giving examples of language in other lessons. e.g. ‘I like snakes’ ‘I saw a snake’ ‘Snakes can’t run’ etc
Why not use a program like wordle and put all the students favourite words into a poster.
‘Favourite words can be updated each week, month, unit of the class book, semester… Whatever suits.
WHY? It gets the learners interested in words. The shape of words, the way they look and sound and that they can be fun.
Favourite word (8-12)
8 to 12 yr olds are more likely to be able to use favourite words and have some fun with them, but why not use their ‘favourite word’ to teach other words?
Students write (their own) sentences using new vocabulary learnt in a lesson.
They then replace the new vocabulary with their ‘favourte word’.
Students read out their sentences (or write them on the board) for the rest of the class to get the ‘hidden word’. e.g. if my favourite word is ‘monkey’, can you guess the ‘hidden words’ below?
A tiger can monkey fast, but it can’t monkey
Yesterday I went monkeying at the beach.
I like to monkey TV
She monkeys a book every night.
You can chose not to conjugate the favourite word as it often doesn’t make sense – see above. But I find the students like it more when it doesn’t make sense and like to play around with the endings.
WHY? It’s a fun way to practice using words.
Favourite word (12-18 and beyond)
Get the students to write their favourite word down on a small square of paper and there you have it. A million and one potential vocabulary activities. The ideas are only limited to your imagination.
1. Get the students to write 3 words they associate with that word and play taboo
2. Get students to mingle and describe their word and other students must guess it.
3. Get students to tell each other why it’s their favourite word.
4. Students write description for a class crossword to exchange with another class.
5. Students are given a topic to talk about for one minute (randomly) then either their own favourite word or another students. While they speak they must include the ‘favourite word’ (which should be unknown at this point). The rest of the class tries to guess what the word is.
6. Get students to teach the class their word including all aspects of it e.g. meaning, use, pronunciation, spelling, part of speech, C vs U word families, synonyms,antonyms, idioms using the word…the list goes on
7. Pexeso (Pelmanism). My favourite. All cards (words on paper) are face down and shuffled around. Students choose two pieces and turn them over. To win the pair students must use both words in a sentence.
If you have teen favourite words (or new teachers’) you’re likely to get some funny and interesting ones and this activity can be challenging and good for a laugh. During my ‘clunge’ workshop, one poor teacher turned over ‘scarlet’ (the colour of my face at this point) and ‘sphincter’ (and the new teachers seemed like such a nice lot). The poor teacher who’d turned these words over was Czech and had never heard either of these words.I don’t think she’ll forget them in a hurry.
WHY? Personalising a lesson with favourite words creates interest, prompts discussions, and paves the way for memorable moments. It facilitates learning and it’s fun.
There is (almost) nothing better than having students interested in words. Learning new words. Remembering new words. Using new words. Right?
So why not start using favourite words in class? and don’t forget to get your students to download the new IHWO My Words APP to record all these new words.
Until next time….