If you’d like to skip the angsty self-analysis please jump to the second section where I talk about something interesting and new.
The present author as an activity snob
I don’t usually think of myself as a snob. It is quite hard to do so with this wardrobe. There are, however, a few instances where a bit of snobbishness can creep up on me. In terms of whole ELT world one thing I have snobbish tendencies about is activities. I am simply not interested in going to presentations about activities. I generally don’t read blog posts focused entirely on activities. I am not really interested in presenting about activities either. I once toyed with the idea of a blog post (or even a presentation?) entitled “I don’t want your stinkin’ activities.” The gentler version was something like “Insights not activities, please.” I think at this point a sympathetic reader could say, “That is fine, it’s a matter of personal choice, Mike. You are not such a bad guy or snob.” I would appreciate the support of this reader but I think they’d be wrong. My distaste for activity spreading occasionally goes further than simply articulating a personal choice. I have been known to judge activity dealers and collectors, saying in my mind and even to trusted listeners that such teachers who collect activities are misguided and think they want activities but what they likely need is a sense of perspective or a deeper understanding of their teaching. Or somesuch shyte. Sorry everyone. Really.
Now that I have revealed myself as a snob, and a self-loathing one at that, I would like to say I think there are actually some compelling reasons behind my stance. In my experience, many teachers tend to hunt for mythical Perfect Monday Morning Activity but when Monday rolls around there is a the pull to carry on with the same old same old. I might be wrong on this, and I sort of hope I am (and I am sure there are plenty of exceptions to this) but it is a story I have heard numerous times. I think in such cases the teachers are missing the necessary nudge or push to try something different and then the push for activity collection ends up not changing their practice.
Another potential problem I see with activity collection alone is that many activities are not generalizable to other contexts and thus don’t get easily adopted. Maybe this is where “it wouldn’t really work for me syndrome” rears its ugly head. What works from someone is not likely to simply be imported to another context. I think it this is often another part of the lack of implementation touched on above.
My potentially extreme view regarding activities is that teachers often overrate the importance of them. I sometimes sense the idea that one good activity will save the day, make teaching easier and more efficient and wipe away any and all problems. Fine, that is a generalization but I do often get the sense teachers overestimate the impact of an activity or two on their teaching. This is when I truly feel the powerful pangs of snobbery, as I feel reasonably satisfied with my toolkit but I realize there are teachers who don’t share the same confidence.
I guess the other thing that puts me off activity collections and collecting is how there are so many activities around already from books, blogs, and buddies in the staffroom. Again speaking just for myself (and trying to limit the snob factor) while not begrudging activity suppliers in the slightest way, I think there are more than enough places to acquire activities and not enough to acquire insights.
Something interesting and new
Considering the above, it might sound odd for me to participate in or be enthusiastic about anything overtly focused on activity collection and sharing. Yet, I think #FlashmobELT is something different. It is not “just” (there we go with the scare quotes and associated snobbishness, Mike) another collection of activities. It is a place to share. It is a place to pick up and idea with the added nudge of actually trying it out and reporting it to the group.
What is #FlashmobELT? You can read about the inception of the group here. It has been very exciting to be a part of this movement.
I loved Anna’s whole post, which is linked above, not to mention the ego boost associated with her mentioning my activity idea. I also liked the comments from Tyson who said, “I love the idea of crowdsourcing activities that are general enough to use across contexts in a pinch.” It was like he was reading my mind. This was like the articulate version of what had been swimming around in my head for a few days. Maybe now I could support, like and even love a collection of activities? Tyson also added the idea #flashmobELT having some built-in accountability for actually following through and trying the activities suggested. He also mentioned the difference between “simply sharing our activities” and implementing them and I think this is a key point and one that attracts my interest.
In one of my discussions with Anna about “The Movement” I wondered if we needed some rules for the type of activities suggested for the #flashmobELT Lino Wall. Yes, regular reader, I was as surprised as anyone to find myself in the role of suggesting rules. It happens, I guess.
One of the points has already been addressed.
Activities are ideally generalized enough to various contexts and teaching situations.
Some other (interrelated) points that came to mind:
Activities ideally don’t involve much in the way of prep.
Activities ideally don’t involve much in the way of tech.
Activities are ideally easily modeled/explained/used with students.
Activities ideally can be completed in a short amount of time.
Activities are ideally not focused around a certain text
Activities ideally can be easily changed/adapted.
(This means, for example, they are not tied to specific lexical/grammatical points)
These are just my own personal ideas and this is just the beginning of the movement. What other ideal qualities of activities would you suggest? Any other thoughts, suggestions, confusions ideas? Random ideas and movements you’d like feedback, publicity for and incubation are also accepted.
Thanks for reading and for maybe even participating!
Links and More:
a. Kevin Stein, hat wearer, post-it note lover, team player, and all around good guy blogged about using a #flashmobELT activity here.
c. Coming Soon: My reflections on using a #flashmobELT activity on the
morning of Wednesday November 27th, 2013
evening of Wednesday December 4th 2013 (or muchhhhh later).
d. This genre busting work of genius came to me via email and I was allowed to repost it here.