The Minimalist ALT
was inspired by a group of Japanese elementary school teachers I was training who told me they wanted to learn activities that require 'no preparation, no materials, and are time-flexible.' Don't we all!!
The result not only changed my own teaching style, it made my life at school a LOT easier! But more importantly, the students enjoy the classes and use English in real and meaningful ways.
Scroll down to learn how to teach... with less.

March 3, 2009

Hot Potato

Small Group Creative Substitution Drills for Sentences or Questions.
materials: prepared sentences or questions, timer
time: 10-15 minutes

For each of 3-6 rounds, write a sentence, a question or a short 2 person dialog on the blackboard, and underline one word or phrase for students to change with their own word or phrase (I always use the same colored chalk for this). Make successive sentences/questions/dialogs varied, and/or a little more difficult. Two parts to change for the last pattern give the students a fun challenge.
In groups of 3 or 4 (small groups give each student more chances to speak), the beginning student says the target pattern on the blackboard, then passes a pen case, or other hot potato, to the next student. If the pattern is a question, the next student must first answer the question before making a new question and passing the hot potato. If the target pattern is a sentence, the next student makes a new sentence before passing the hot potato. Students continue like this in a circle until the time limit is reached (1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds for short patterns, up to 2 minutes 15 seconds for dialogs). Use a count-down timer that beeps loudly when the time has finished.
If you use points in the classroom for motivation, all the students can start with 5 points, and the losing student (those holding the hot potato when the time has finished) lose one point.

Example rounds for one activity:

  • Have you ever been to Kyoto?
  • I have never seen an alien. How about you? Me, either./ I have seen an alien before.
  • Kenta has played gate ball many times.
  • How many times have you climbed Mt. Fuji?I have climbed Mt. Fuji once.