Thursday, August 13, 2015

TEACHING TEENAGERS: Project - Raising Awareness

A couple of months ago, I enjoyed working with a very enthusiastic group of teenagers. They were just lovely! The last week we were together, we talked about the natural world, specifically, endangered animals. That was not the first time I was teaching that course and conducting such an activity. Motivated by the good group of young students I had, I decided to do something different that time.

The first task in the textbook was a vocabulary activity. It included two paragraphs - one about koalas (and a picture of a koala next to it) and the other about gorillas (and a picture of a gorilla). Each paragraph had bold-faced words to be taught and learned in context. What were those words? Here is the vocabulary:
  • mascot, endangered, extinct, suffering, misty, dense, raise awareness, set up, remaining, install, illegal

The book also had a matching activity to relate the bold-faced words with their definitions. What would I do next? Would I have students talk about the animals they liked? Would they have enough information about such animals?

Without Internet connection at that time or students’ previous research as homework, I asked them to “create” a new animal using their imagination and being funny at the same time. Of course, first, I had to model the activity. So, I made a drawing of “my animal” on the board and wrote its profile next to it. Then, I made sure it looked like a flyer to raise awareness and encourage people to make a donation to protect “my animal.” What did the whiteboard look like? Just like the following image:

It was a lot of fun to show students what to do. One of the funny parts of my modeling was when I named the animal after myself. My name is Antonio. So, I named it “snailis antonious.” Everybody laughed! The other funny part was when I wrote the animal’s profile saying that he ate Sublime, a popular brand of chocolate in Peru, and drank Cifrut, a drink students are familiar with. Right then, I could see in the students’ faces that they felt it was a task they wanted to work on.

It took each student ten minutes to make a flyer with a drawing of an animal, the animal's profile, and a couple of statements to raise awareness and encourage people to make a donation. After that, I asked the students to write a brief paragraph in their notebooks to use it as a reference in order to express their ideas more confidently when talking about the animal. Such writing took ten minutes. The following slideshow presents the work my students did that day.

As soon as everybody was ready, I set up the seating arrangement as follows:

I asked them to pretend that they were at a fair at Jockey Plaza, which is a huge mall in Lima. I added that each seat was a booth in which visitors could get information about endangered animals, the kind of help that was needed, and how to make a donation. The ones that sat against the walls started the activity talking about their animals for two minutes. Since we had studied the use of wish statements and if clauses,  students were asked to say things like these when giving their presentations:
  • “We wish we had money to start a project to protect this animal.”
  • “We wish this animal were not endangered.”
  • “We wish its habitat were protected.”
  • “If you make a donation, we will install cameras in the forest.”
  • “If you make a donation, we will have enough resources to stop illegal hunting.”

Then, the ones listening asked questions to make sure contributing to the cause was worth it. After five minutes of student-to-student interaction, the ones listening visited another “booth” and repeated the activity not only one more time but with a third classmate. Finally, students switched roles. 

Did students like the activity? Definitely! Did they practice the vocabulary meaningfully? Absolutely! Furthermore, they were instructed to edit their paragraphs and include the final product as part of a presentation at the end of the month. Personally speaking, I had a lot of fun and a sense of achievement we teachers love. For those reasons, I am sharing this activity on this blog, especially for the benefit of my MET6 students.

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