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Stories, Games and Articles for EL, Issue -- Experiential Learning 22
January 20, 2017

Experiential Learning 22, Create the Right Level of Concern in Class

This newsletter is the second in a row of five. Remember, the last one was about the first factor of how to motivate learning in a classroom with feeling tone.

This one is on the second factor - Level of Concern. It is characterized by two sub factors :-

- Expectations of task completion and

- Standard of performance

I decided to demonstrate it with a simple game called - Talkathon, which could also be used in the classroom.

As the name suggests, it is the talking version of a marathon. A non-stop talking marathon for a short duration. It's a game that is popular with ELT trainers - which is where I learnt it - who want to help students develop expertise in speaking English fluently.

In this workshop however, I used it to demonstrate setting up learning experiences at an appropriate level of difficulty, so as to provide the right kind of challenge to students. Something that is neither crippling nor dead-easy.

Talkathon for low level of concern - the first round

In the preparatory phase, I asked each of them to think of a favourite topic and as many aspects of it as they could. I demonstrated it with a so-called favourite of mine - the game of Cricket.

Then I paired the participants as As and Bs. I instructed the As to speak first for a minute on their favourite topic, with the condition that they could not stop talking if they run out of things to say. When they could not think of anything to say, they had to repeatedly say, 'I don't know', until they found something to say. Another stipulation was that they could not use the name of the topic, but could talk around it. At the end of a minute, the partner B was to guess A's topic.

There was quite a buzz as the game progressed and a few of them had to resort to using several 'I don't knows'. At the end of a minute only a couple of them were not able to guess the topics and only a couple of them had blurted out the names of their topics.

Next the Bs played the game with similar results.

Talkathon for medium level of concern - the second round

This round was a little different. In the preparatory phase, I asked the participants to suggest a topic that they would like to discuss in class and they came up with several suggestions. In one such workshop, I chose 'Shakespeare' from a list of them.

Then I developed a topic web on 'Shakespeare' on a green/white/black board. The participants called out all that they could think of about 'Shakespeare' and I recorded it on the board as a topic web.

Then we repeated the Talkathon, beginning with Bs this time and they had to speak on 'Shakespeare' for a minute, and use 'I don't know' to keep the talkathon going.

At the end of a minute, a debrief revealed that nobody had to come up with an 'I don't know' and the topic web had triggered more information on the topic.

'A's were not given an opportunity to speak on this topic just for demonstrative purposes. In the classroom, 'A's would take their turn to speak next on the topic of 'Shakespeare'

Talkathon for high level of concern - the third round

In this round, no preparatory phase was used, and the 'A's were given a topic by the facilitator - yours faithfully - which turned out to be 'The US Presidential Election'.

At the end of a minute, a debrief revealed that the number of 'I don't knows' were profuse.

An overall debrief after the rounds were over, helped the participants peg the various rounds at the three different difficulty levels and their corresponding Levels of Concern.

They were able to identify

- the sub-factor of 'expectations of task completion' as 'talking for a minute on a particular topic'

- the sub-factor of 'standard of performance' as 'talking non-stop for a minute'

The debrief concluded, when they were able to specify, the most useful of the three rounds - the second one, which had a medium level of difficulty, with a level of concern that was challenging as well as achievable. This was the round where the facilitator, took the trouble to prepare the learners with enough material to talk about using a topic web.

In other workshops I have had the opportunity to develop a topic web on: The Surgical Strike of India on POK, punctuation pauses, food and junk food

Similar exercises could be used to discuss and speak about current affairs, debating points, recalling the previous day's topic and so on.

In the next Edition

Watch out for the next edition of 'Stories, Games and Articles for EL' for an explanation on how the next factor - Interest - was demonstrated. Go to ELT page or Communication Games and check out some games and activities to teach grammar and/or communication.
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