Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mixing It Up

Purpose: Learners tend to sit with others who speak the same first language, share the same race or ethnicity, or are the same age or gender. While there are certain advantages to allowing adult students to choose their places (open seating), less desirable results can be: students speak to each other in their native languages, disrupting class, students speak less English and pay less attention, relying on translations from neighbors, students don’t get to know each other well across cultures and language groups.

Why not allow students to dictate seating on certain days, but at other times, provide activities that determine placement and enhance learning and student interaction and integration? Here are some ways to group learners randomly, based on interactive review exercises.

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes (time needed to label tables, write index cards, and, if necessary, arrange tables and chairs)

Materials: index cards or slips of paper, post-it notes

Preparation: Select a specific skill to review in English: pronunciation (words that sound alike, words that have the same initial sound, etc.), vocabulary (seasons, rooms in a house), verb tenses, synonyms, antonyms, prepositions, etc. Determine how many groups you’ll need, which helps you decide on arrangement of tables and chairs.

1. Before students arrive, use post-it notes to indicate table categories. For lower level, consider using pictures instead of words. If you’ve decided on forms of speech and four groups, write one form on each post-it note and place one on each table.
2. Prepare individual student cards for distribution. In this case, you’d need about 20 cards.
3. Write table assignments on the board:

Nouns Table #1
Verbs Table #2
Adjectives Table #3
Adverbs Table #4

4. As students enter, ask them to pick a card from a container, read the table categories on the board, and seat themselves at the correct table.

5. Encourage students to help each other.

6. Check to see that everyone is seated correctly.

7. Direct students to introduce themselves to each other and share the words on their cards.

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