Many EFL teachers, particularly those of struggling learners, reject using first rate online materials mainly because they feel their students can’t deal with the vocabulary or the sentence structures. Sometimes this may be a wise decision but in many cases wonderful opportunities are missed.
Identifying these opportunities all depends on employing “the art of SOME”. The activity called Wacky Web Tales is a great example of this.
To create a Wacky Web Tale, student first see a series of prompts, asking them to fill in a noun, an adjective, a large number, the name of a song, etc. All they know about the story they are going to get is the title. I chose, for our example, an absolute all time favorite called Simply Delicious .
This is the part that is so incredible from the teacher’s point of view, particularly so when the students realize how these stories work. Suddenly these struggling learners ask to be reminded what a noun/verb is. These distinctions very important for such students. One of the reading comprehension strategies they need to acquire is how to decide which words to look up in the dictionary (verbs often give the most meaningful information in a sentence, for example) and then how to choose the definition/translation suitable for their context when they do turn to the dictionary. English is a language full of words that have a different meaning as different parts of speech!
It gets better.
Students are motivated to dream up what they deem to be interesting answers, so that their story will be funny. Since they usually don’t know many of the words they want to use, they look them up! These aren’t words I, the teacher, asked them to use – they are self-motivated to look up these words. That’s what I call meaningful learning!
Even spelling comes up! Two 16 year old girls in my class (it’s a great activity for pairwork) today argued about the correct spelling of “beautiful” and “Italy” . Without my intervention they corrected their own spelling!
Now we get to the second part. When the students have filled in all the missing words they click to see their completed story. Here’s the “Simpy Delicious” story I created:
There are many difficult and unknown words in the completed text, which in this case is a recipe. But that doesn’t matter at this stage. I have no problem supplying any unfamiliar word (and they can read the words they inserted themselves!) as this is the stage to share a good laugh with the silly story they created. Remember “the art of the some”! We’ve done plenty of meaningful learning!
While the site is geared at 3rd grade American children, I find it suitable for use with struggling students with poor vocabularies in junior high-school and high-school as well. I haven’t tried it with adults.
It’s great to be wacky sometimes – enjoy!