“Are you seriously going to do that?”

I’ve been experimenting with board games in the classroom, sometimes in a bit of an impromptu way.

“Seriously, Marc? Aren’t you anti-game?

No, I’m not; I’m anti time wasting. I’m going to write a bit about things I’ve done with them below. Both, coincidentally, are by Oink Games. They are pocket sized, due to the boards being made up of chips. Both games require collaboration as well as competition, with shifts between both states. 

Troll

This is a game of guessing card values and ‘betting’ on the value in order to gain treasure. It’s simple and addictive. The game works by guessing the value of a Troll card only one player has seen and as a group being lower (or not being the individual or one of a couple of individuals that takes the total over the Troll card value) in order to win gems. 

I’ve played with children in small groups and in a big university class using teams, and this has tended to work well to encourage English use by penalising unnecessary Japanese use with a one-gem penalty. There’s a tendency to play risky but that’s the fun of the game. There’s negotiation among groups, as well as explanations of betting strategies. 

Deep Sea Adventure

This is Troll with movement and is difficult to win points from without a bit of restraint and cooperation. 

You go around the board as a diver collecting treasure but there’s an air ration, you only know the approximate value of the treasure and carrying it reduces your own movement and also reduces the air for everyone. Because of the game complexity, there is inbuilt need for communication, like “You can’t move five. You need to go back two because of your treasure.” or “you forgot to move the air meter.” My favourite utterances were a very ladylike “Oh, shit!” and “Are you seriously going to do that?” 

Never mind a deep sea adventure, it’s a deep adventure into stuff students never say to one another. 

Further reading

Rose Bard’s blog posts tagged with game-based learning.  

Japan Game Lab

The Line Between Hare-Brained and Useful

notebook picture

I’ve had this post going on in my head for a while and probably the catalyst for getting it out of my head and into pixels is Sandy Millin’s Incomplete Thoughts post.

I was having a chat with a colleague yesterday and he said, “I don’t know where you get the time for all your ideas.”

“It’s a massive pain in the arse,” I replied, “because I can’t concentrate on other things when something pops up.”

I don’t know if this leads to a condition of not following things through properly, or even just dilettantism but a few things that have got me going all over the internet are:

Open Badges for Accreditation of Some Kind

This blog being about development (ostensibly, though probably more my own), actually having evidence-based accreditation for continuing professional development (CPD) would be a good thing in a landscape of expensive qualifications, cheap qualifications that mean nothing (20-hour internet TEFL courses) and absolutely nothing at all. ITDi provides this, with certificates available and whatnot, too. However, something that can also contribute to teacher-centred, teacher-led teacher development has bugged me for too long. Open Badges seem to sort if fill a gap in that people sit in webinars for certificates but there’s no real proof that they didn’t just leave the laptop on and play games on their phone. How about an open-peer-reviewed bit of writing that helps contribute to the community? Keep your eyes open at #TBLTChat.

Modular Materials

Again, with my Task-Based hat on (which is a beautiful purple crushed-velvet and Kevlar deerstalker), and my ‘I hate coursebooks‘ T-shirt on, how better to address a gap in materials availability than to actually get cracking and make some through refining them. Think less of a Minimum Viable Product than a ‘actually see if students react positively’ approach.

A Co-Op (ad)Venture

I am still investigating the possibility of sorting out a Tokyo/Kawasaki/Yokohama-based co-op of language teachers. Yes, inspired by Serveis Linguistics Barcelona. Viability? Time, Marc? It’s more the client liason that’s a problem but still something I’m looking into. Sometime in 2047.

Some Twitter Hashtags for CPD

So, how-to-use-Twitter-for-CPD articles have been a bit done to death (with some good ones being Lizzie Pinard’s and Sandy Millin’s).

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Image: Wikimedia

Anyway, it’s really good to use Twitter for CPD blah blah blah, personal learning network blah blah blah, but you can focus it more by following some hashtags.

In the ELT Bubble Sphere

#ELTchat is a fine wine that only gets better.

#ELTChinwag is the rave your friend’s brother went to while you were asleep.

#KELTchat is a chige, hot, spicy and full of nutrition.

#LINCchat is the poutine you never knew you wanted.

#AusELT is the beach barbecue that your cool friend took you to.

#TBLTchat is that chocolate chip rum and raisin cronut and espresso with mojito aperitif (though I’m biased!)

#tleap is the geodesic dome in the refectory built from breadsticks and cheese. 

These are all scheduled chats based on a topic. They occur from time to time.

#tleap is the Michelin starred restaurant with an open dress code and realistic pricing.

This is for English for Academic Purposes teachers, which may not be exclusively for second/foreign language speakers but also native speakers, too.

#ELTwhiteboard is the ice cream you just cannot resist.

This happens often. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Over the fence next door

#edchat is mainstream education stuff. Often tech heavy.

#SEN Special Educational Needs. This is mainly about students with such needs in ‘mainstream’ education. We do not talk about this enough in ELT and we get freaked out when students with diverse needs are put in our classes (especially with little notice, and this happens in language schools as well as academia).

#MFLTwitterati is a hashtag where you can get ideas from people who teach French, German and Spanish (and possibly Chinese).

#langchat is something similar

Hopefully, this will be helpful in pointing out stuff that you didn’t know was there.

Who are you? Teacher Identity

This is a post that was meant as a sort of reply to Tyson’s brilliant one and equally brilliant ones by Matthew and Mark. You need to read those. Please. Now or later. 

So, who are you or what’s your professional identity

I’m the one with the chip on my shoulder about my background. Class-conscious but bleeding-hearted. The non-metropolitan. I was a freak at school and it made me feel self-conscious pretty much all the time and the only time I don’t feel like that is when I’m in the classroom.

I grew up the son of a coal miner in a Co. Durham town where ambition meant just living in a bigger house in the same town. My dad left mining after the miner’s strike and then tried a couple of other things before being an oil rigger. 

My dad is a man’s man and I am not. I don’t know when we both got to accept that but we didn’t always. Now we do. 

My mother would prefer me to live in England but accepts that Japan is home for me now. 

Other than this, I got over not being a famous experimental indie guitarist, poet, novelist or bon vivant. 

Wow. Sounds like Freud would have a field day.

Quite.

So, what’s your teaching philosophy?

Crikey. Students should learn. Sometimes people can’t be bothered to learn so try and coax them into it. Try not to be an arse about it. I sometimes fail at this last point, if I’m honest with myself.

They say that you teach how you were taught. In that case I think Mrs. Hobley had the biggest impact on me. Constantly demanding us to do our best, being overly strict about it sometimes but being unapologetic and explaining that she got results. I think I do this sometimes with “Your way is not working for you. Try my way because it has worked for me.”

You always sound so nice elsewhere on your blog. 

Hmmm. I’m not sure whether I like nice. It seems a bit airy fairy. Like I said, I try not to be an arse. 

What are the things that have made you? 

Probably not having support as a newly qualified primary teacher and then losing my job made me more tenacious to prove myself. Fatherhood led me to get higher paid work, then freelancing, then getting competitive led me to my DipTESOL which I think was beneficial because it made me question myself and the industry. 

Ooh! Hark! 

Really. How SLA theory barely gets a nod and a wink in classrooms here. How listening and pronunciation are hard to teach so loads of institutions don’t encourage teachers to actually teach them. How teachers are not provided with development opportunities but institutions are keen as hell to take advantage of a developing teacher. How nobody really gets paid for what they work.My MA I’m studying makes me even more idealistic. 


Are you this negative all the time? 

No. I love that I help people with their hobby and/or real communicative needs. That I help people do things that they didn’t think they could do. That I have letters in my drawer from students who say I made them realise that they could get better at English and that it wasn’t impossible. 

Are you taking the credit for that? 

No. I’m taking the credit for helping these people see what they are capable of by using my knowledge and experience to point them in directions they might never have explored otherwise. 

Oh, OK. 

Look, I know it’s not earth-shattering but it’s what I think.

At least you’re honest. Any advice for other teachers?

Read. Ask questions. Listen to people who seem credible and have evidence as well as opinions. 

New Post Elsewhere 

So, in spite of feeling sick as a bleeding parrot today, I have good news and good stuff for you to read. 

So, over at the ITDi blog, there is a new issue up on Error Correction 2.0, with posts by Chris Mares, John Pfordresher and me. Chris and John talk about meaningful things , making correction nice meaningful, setting  goals and such. I get on my high horse about the lack of focus on form regarding pronunciation, pragmatics and discourse awareness/analysis.